Training and Competence excellence – what does it take?


The Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) recently published its best practice guidance for the treatment of vulnerable customers, highlighting again the importance of staff having the right skills and capabilities. This increasing focus on culture, conduct, capability, and competence, by the regulator is nothing new and firms really do have to take the role of Training and Competence (T&C) seriously in this new reality.

I read the vulnerable consumer case studies, and this caused me to reflect on my own experience after being diagnosed with cancer a couple of years ago. As with the FCA findings, my interactions with firms were a mixed bag.

I phoned my insurer about the critical illness cover I’d sold myself 15 years ago. The individual was extremely knowledgeable, they answered all my questions and explained all the technical bits in a way I could understand. They were sympathetic, clearly articulated the next steps and at every junction kept their promises regarding contact. I have to say my expectations were exceptionally low before ringing however, the whole process was surprisingly hassle free and extremely quick.

Firms that do not invest in T&C and L&D will not achieve that leading customer experience.

Next, I rang the provider of my annual travel insurance policy to understand the impact of my diagnosis on the policy. The individual was abrupt and showed no concern or empathy whatsoever. At the end of the short call, they informed me they could not continue to insure me, and I would need to go elsewhere.

These two experiences were at opposite ends of the spectrum. There were key themes which really resonated on the importance scale for me as a vulnerable customer. And to be fair, they are equally prominent in my expectations for all my customer interactions.

Staff knowledge of the relevant products, services, and support tools  

I want to interact with staff who know what they are talking about. I want to be talked to in a way I can understand and if they don’t know the answer, they find someone who does.

 Staff skills of listening, empathy, and accountability

I want the member of staff to listen to me, let me talk, and not make assumptions. I want them to really engage and show sympathy and understanding, not false condolences. I want to be treated as an individual. Is it wrong to want someone to go out of their way to help you?

So, how do you achieve this panacea of consistent customer experience? You need competent and capable staff. Dare I say, you need to put your employees first in your endeavours towards T&C excellence? Firms that do not invest in T&C and L&D will not achieve that leading customer experience.

You need to ensure your T&C approach encapsulates the following:

  1. The desired staff competencies. Drill down to identify the essential knowledge and skills, not just for current roles, but roles of the future.
  2. The relevant competence standards and the tools to measure. What does good look like and how will you know an individual demonstrates it consistently?
  3. A recruitment practice which identifies whether the competencies and capabilities are held.
  4. Training that builds the appropriate knowledge base and skill set for new starters. As well as strengthens the cognitive capabilities, social and emotional skills, and the adaptability and resilience skills of existing staff.
  5. Managers with the skills to coach, assess, and support their teams individual learning needs. This means individuals who can identify and tailor solutions which reflect learning styles and competence gaps.
  6. A learning and development culture that strives for continuous improvement. An organisation where all individuals are motivated and engaged to drive their own development.

I would love to hear your insights on T&C excellence, so please do comment and feel free to like, share and follow me for future articles (I am challenging myself to write an article every couple of months!).

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About Author

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Lynne Hargreaves is Director at ClearStep Consulting. ClearStep specialises in the interpretation of FCA regulations and the impacts on people. This includes the design and development of TC frameworks, competence training and assessment and consultancy support for the Certification Regime and Code of Conduct.

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