If you have worked in customer service roles for more than two decades, you may think you know all there is to know about serving customers. United Overseas Bank's (UOB), Ms Hoong Souk Har, Assistant Branch Manager the Bank's Jalan Sultan Branch, believes that there is always opportunity to learn new skills and by doing so remain in touch with the changing needs of customers. 

Ms Hoong was one of 769 UOB customer-facing employees who have undertaken a Professional Conversion Programme (PCP) in the last year and she is thankful for the opportunity to continue developing her skills and career. 

"Having been in customer-facing roles for more than 26 years, I always put myself in the shoes of the customer to understand not just the issue at hand but also the emotions such as anxiety that they may be experiencing. When I undertook UOB's PCP, I learnt new techniques and considerations, such as customer journey mapping, to enhance the way I engage and empathise with customers," Ms Hoong said.  

"UOB commitment to reskilling and upskilling of its people has helped me in my career progression and has equipped me with the right skills sets to be future-ready."

"I feel more confident now that I am able to resolve issues more quickly." Ms Hoong said.

The UOB PCP modules are designed to help staff deepen their skills in areas such as design thinking, customer journey design, channel management, and scenario analysis and planning.

In particular, Ms Hoong cited and Customer Journey Design and Managing persity as the two courses that made the most difference to her ability to handle better both customers. UOB's PCP is developed in collaboration with The Institute of Banking and Finance (IBF) and Workforce Singapore (WSG) AND aims to help mid-career Professionals, Managers, Executives and Technicians (PMETs) in the banking and finance sector upskill and be future-ready. The modules' emphasis customer experience management has helped her find more effective and creative solutions for her customers' needs and to be emphatic to their problems. 


Stepping into new responsibilities

At UOB, Ms Hoong has always worked in customer-facing roles, helping customers with their day-to-day banking requests and executing basic branch operations. 

She took on her current role as assistant branch manager in August 2019 – after attending UOB's PCP – at UOB's Jalan Sultan branch where she is in charge of ensuring the quality of customer service and supporting the needs of customers who visit the branch. In addition to helping customers, Ms Hoong is responsible for the development and progression of 16 people in her team. Ms Hoong also helps to drive the digital transformation of the branch as part of UOB's branch network transformation.  Through the skills she learned as part of completing the PCP, Ms Hoong has become more adaptable and innovative in handling the changing demands of customer service such as how technology-based solutions can help to meet the needs of the customer. Thanks to her PCP training in digital literacy, Ms Hoong is able to help UOB customers who adopt digital solutions in simple and relevant ways that are easily understood by them. 

"Older customers prefer a more hands-on approach when it comes to learning about digital banking solutions such as our mobile banking app UOB Mighty. I have found that they are more willing to adopt digital solutions if these solutions are being demonstrated to them by someone who understands the challenges and inertia that they may be facing."



Building a team culture of support and collaboration


A PCP module on Managing persity has also helped Ms Hoong better understand the varied needs and unique challenges of her cross-generational team, whose ages range from 20 to 60. 

To her younger colleagues, she is a source of experience and advice on both customer and career-related issues, and to her older colleagues, she plays the role of advocate for digitalisation and change. Together with her Branch Manager and Deputy Branch Manager, Ms Hoong is nurturing a culture of support and collaboration amongst her team. 

"We have weekly team meetings where everyone shares their experiences and what they learnt during the week. We also have ad-hoc meetings when there is an issue or a problem that someone is facing so that we can crowd-source a solution together," she said. 

Ms Hoong leverages the persity of her team by getting the younger, more tech-savvy team members to help older co-workers with tech-related issues, while the older, more experienced team members help younger team members with service- or account-related queries. The mindset of "everyone has something of value to contribute" has helped every team member perform to their best of their abilities and built on an ecosystem of mutual support, respect and camaraderie. 

This article is a part of series of stories on PMETs who have gone through an upskilling or reskilling transformation journey within the banking and finance industry. 

Information is correct as at time of publication (September 2020)