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Becoming a Customer Service Representative: Abby's training diary

I began my training in July 2018, excited to start a completely new branch of my professional journey. I walked into the two-storey, glass-walled atrium bright-eyed and bushy-tailed, hoping to be greeted by an ancient Dick Van Dyke instructing me to prudently, fruitfully, frugally invest my time here in the “Royal Bank of Scotland Group”. Apologies if the Mary Poppins references are lost on some of you. Instead I was met with wonderful smiley colleagues who took a lot of care with me over the next month, and really motivated me to want to become part of such a trusted team.

This piece will take you through the first four weeks of my training to be a Customer Service Representative in Personal & Business Banking, outlining my expectations, experiences and advice.

In this role I’m the First Point Of Contact, or FPOC (get used to the acronyms, you’ll see a lot of them) for the bank’s customers over the telephone. We listen, get to the root of the action or issue, get them the right information (which could mean connecting them to a specialist) and then follow-up any loose ends to make sure they’re completely satisfied.

I’m an actress outside of work, so talking to customers and other people in person has never been a problem for me. But speaking on the phone is a whole different ball game and can be very technical, so you should prepare to be challenged to a healthy degree.

WEEK ONE

The Induction: a 9 to 5 cascade of acronyms, pyramid diagrams and business jargon. That was the most challenging aspect, letting yourself be open to so much information and trusting that, if you pay enough attention, you will remember it all. You also learn when it’s appropriate to use all the new-fangled language and technical terminology. Remember that if all these abbreviations are unfamiliar to you, they probably will be to your customers.

The most rewarding part of five days in that initial training room was becoming a proper team with my fellow starters. I was encouraged to find that such a large company creates an inspiring, trustworthy family very quickly.

The week also highlighted the importance placed on common sense. A lot of the presentations and PowerPoints seemed so logical it was hard to believe we were sat in a room studying them. But it was reassuring that the training was thorough, with a ‘no man left behind’ attitude that made it hard to get lost or confused for long.

WEEK TWO

In week two we started the nitty gritty of banking, with reassuringly large workbooks for notes. While the first week focused on the 'why' of our mission, this week really focussed on how we were going to achieve it.

“Don’t be afraid to ask questions – you’re training for a serious role”

Being introduced to the technical systems without being able to try them out for ourselves yet was a challenge. The modern world is increasingly tech-based, and the bank trains you exhaustively on all things digital. After all, how can we expect to help customers through the cyber whirlwind if we can’t negotiate it ourselves?

Active call listening was really rewarding, and you began to understand how you would apply what you’d learnt to help each customer. It was also encouraging to see so many people around you in action, and know that if you ever did feel out of your depth they’d be ready to support you.

My advice at this stage is to never be without pen and paper, especially when call-listening. Every call is different and you can learn from everyone in that building. Don’t be afraid to ask questions – you’re training for a serious role, and if you’re ever uncertain it’s important to address it as soon as possible.

WEEK THREE

Time to put everything we’ve learnt into practice. Not yet on the live systems with real customers, but through comprehensive demo versions. You couldn’t help but be aware it wasn’t real, like training in the P.E. hall before going to play a real match, but you knew you needed to put in the effort or you’d let your team down.

The teaching is thorough, but to be the best at your job you have to be proactive. Always double check that your actions are correct, take the initiative in your training and use that time to your advantage … because it’s about to get very real.

“I need to focus on the determination to really listen to what a customer needs”

The most important skills so far have been curiosity (probing to find out as much as you can about this new sector), a ‘can do’ attitude (if you’re going to take on the responsibility of caring for people and their money, you need to believe that you can be good at it from the get go) and finally, empathy. Being the FPOC – can you remember what that one means yet? – we need to be able to step into our customers’ shoes to serve them fairly and to the best of our ability.

All that being said, I know I have a lot to improve on going into week four. Swift navigation and confidence using the systems being one, but I know that will come with time and effort. There’s a lot to remember when you’re on a call. Talking and typing has never been harder, but I need to focus on the determination to really listen to what a customer needs.

WEEK FOUR

A week of transition, and the first of four in the ‘Graduation Bay’ – a completely new training environment where we begin answering live calls. Short bursts of exposure to the phones are layered between in-depth sessions reworking everything we learnt over the past three weeks, solidifying it in real practice. To say we were nervous would be an understatement, but being in such a supportive working environment dampened any fears we had, and you were never on your own. Help was only a hand-raise away.

I was originally drawn to the role because it drew on two key skills, one where I was very experienced and confident, and another where I wanted to improve: customer service and communication, and technical administration. I’ve discovered that it’s not easy to bring these together in a financial environment. Security is such an important priority that it can be hard to keep a customer jovial through the rigorous checks that keep their money and their livelihoods safe. This job takes dedication, hard work and care for your customers to another level.

To be perfectly blunt, I also needed a full-time job to save money. But I didn’t want to work just anywhere, I wanted to be somewhere that focussed on helping people. If I was going to be on the gravy train I wanted to get on a train that was going to make me feel useful and needed. I wanted to work somewhere that wanted to make a difference to people’s lives.

And here, I think I can. I know I can. I am.

Want to make a difference too? Follow in Abby’s footsteps and apply today.

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