Wells Fargo’s Community Bank took the next step forward in efforts to rebuild trust with customers and team members July 31-Aug. 4 in Orlando, Florida, during the first two of three planned leadership conferences. The next will be Aug. 9-11 in Phoenix, Arizona.
During the first two conferences, more than 450 district managers, region bank presidents, and lead region presidents from 32 states were briefed on changes that they, along with their branch teams, will roll out nationwide on Sept. 22, with additional changes slated through mid-2018 — improvements that many helped brainstorm and design and that will ultimately build a better bank for customers and team members.
“We’re moving from a culture that was overly focused on sales to a culture of coaching and support,” said Mary Mack, head of Community Banking.
Brandon Meredith, a district manager for 14 Wells Fargo branches in Salt Lake City, Utah, was pleased with what he heard in Orlando, and said it showed him just how much change Mack has enacted in her first year as head of the Community Bank.
He talked about how it’s now easier to better serve customers. “It’s not about a number (goal), but about building relationships with customers, and me building the skills of the people on my team and putting them first and helping them shine,”Meredith said.
‘Simplicity rebuilds trust’
One significant change previewed was an overhaul of the problem-resolution process within the Community Bank. It will be simplified, said Mack, to empower team members to quickly refund fees and resolve other customer issues in person. In addition, she said, unnecessary processes will be eliminated, freeing bankers to focus more time on their customers and helping them succeed financially.
One example shared was the reduction of the guide district managers use to lead and coach their teams from 18 to three pages — simplifying the overall process and empowering team members.
Throughout the conference, Meredith and other district managers said they were struck by how Mack and the other presenters — Customer and Branch Experience Leader Laurey Cosentino, Western Region Bank executive Lisa Stevens, Eastern Region Bank executive Michelle Lee, and head of Human Resources for the Community Bank Tracy Kidd — talked about the importance of people and relationships.
“When I first took this job, one of the things I was struck by was how complicated we had made a lot of things,” Mack told conference attendees. “We’re pursuing a customer experience based on simplicity, ease of use, and convenience. Our customers want simple. Simplicity rebuilds trust.”
Mack added that the Community Bank is moving from an organization where the mantra was ‘run it like you own it’ to an organization with standardized and consistent processes across the U.S. The goal is for every team member and customer to know what to expect.
“What do we want them to take away from their experience with us?” Mack asked. “For them to say, ‘You helped me achieve my financial goals. You made me feel in control, and you earned my trust.’”
“I worked for a large communications company, and I joined Wells Fargo because I wanted to be in a relationship bank,” Meredith said. He noted one clear message he heard repeated throughout the event by CEO Tim Sloan, video greetings from other leaders, and from the presenters in Orlando: “… They all said the same thing and all committed to us their complete support. We have the OK now to do things the relationship way,” he said.
An important outcome of all these changes is healthy and sustainable growth. “I know it’s in your hearts and minds to deliver this kind of environment for your teams and our customers,” Mack said to conference attendees. “If we do that, growth will follow. This is a new chapter for Wells Fargo, and I can’t thank you enough for being part of it.”
Customers get a sneak peek of changes
Wells Fargo has tested the various changes in select branches across the country. One change in particular, the enhanced financial conversation between a banker and a customer, was tested in five states — California, Colorado, Florida, North Carolina, and Texas — using Gallup telephone surveys and on-site interviews with customers after branch visits in late May and early June. Customer feedback confirmed the impact and wisdom of the change effort coming, Cosentino said.
One survey participant spoke highly of a branch visit that included ordering a new debit card. “The branch manager called me back and asked if I received my new card,” the customer told Gallup. “So they actually followed up to see if I received my card, which was mind-blowing … I was honestly taken back by how awesome that visit was. By far the best I’ve ever had in any, actually, I would say almost the top ten customer service experiences I’ve ever had.”
Another customer shared appreciation for a team member who “was actually listening and she wasn’t trying to sell something I didn’t need … She helped me solve my problem.”
Team members are ready for change
Customer comments such as these were shared on-screen in Orlando, eliciting applause from conference attendees.
Based on the results she saw with her customers in Orlando during the test phase, personal banker Valerie Idarraga-Ceballos, whose district manager Brian Ciccotelli attended the conference, said her fellow team members and customers will welcome the upcoming changes.
“My customers have noticed the emphasis on a more personalized approach in the way we address them and their needs,” said Idarraga-Ceballos. “In the past we focused a lot of our energy on the processes we had to follow versus what they came into the branch for that day. Now we’re focusing on the customer engagement, and building rapport through the art of conversation, to truly understand who our clients are and what they expect of us.”
She also commented on simpler problem-resolution that occurs with the new model. “Through the new streamlined tools and process the Community Bank has provided us with, we can enter information and listen and customize much more easily based on where the conversation takes us — instead of worrying if we checked this or that box or mentioned this or that product. Customers love this enhanced, relationship-banking approach.”
A ‘rebirth’ in the community bank
Throughout the conference, Wells Fargo team members “role played” — taking turns as both banker and customer — and discussed the future of Wells Fargo’s Community Bank as a “relationship bank.”
“I do think this is a rebirth for people,” Stevens said of the upcoming changes. “This is a pivotal point for us in our organization to move forward and complete engagement with our team members and customers — putting our customers at the center of everything we do and recognizing that we’re in the business of making people’s lives better,” she said. “That is our success measure.”
Added Lee, “After months of work, I think our team is ready to rally around having something tangible that they can take back to their teams — knowing that what we do going forward will have an amazing outcome for customers and an amazing outcome for team members and move us as a Community Bank to an organization that knocks down geographical lines, and operates consistently as one team going forward.”
Chad Gregory, recently named region bank president of the 84 branches in south Atlanta and western Georgia, said that the conference, as well as the upcoming changes, represents another defining moment in the journey to build a better bank.
“It brings clarity to our vision of the future,” he said, “and underscores a renewed commitment to making sure everything we do positively impacts customers, which gives our team members confidence in what they do every day.”