In a previous Newsletter we reported that the newly appointed Customer Channels, Managing Director, Mark Steel, was using old style sales language in his meetings with managers. On a call to branch managers he talked about “product sales”, “product holdings”, “product needs”, “savings sales”. Those on the call told us that it felt like the kind of presentation they would have had in the bad old days of high pressure and often inappropriate sales. We have no concern with a commercial organisation that we want to succeed trying hard to boost the sales of its products: our concern with the use of such language is that branch managers and frontline staff will now come under increasing pressure to increase products holdings using sales practices that had previously been disowned by the Group.
Well, it would have been naïve not to expect it at some stage but it’s happening a lot sooner than we expected.
‘New’ Sales Management
Branch managers are being told to ‘free-up’ staff diaries to see only those customers with ‘complex’ needs such as lending, insurance and mortgages. Branch managers have been told locally that no new saving or account opening appointments should be put in branch diaries. Those customers are being directed to use the digital channels.
Over the last few weeks we’ve spoken to a number of branch managers in Lloyds and Halifax branches about what’s going on and whilst there are slight differences in approach, their experiences are broadly the same. Those branch managers highlighted several areas of concern including:
- Each morning being told to submit spreadsheets detailing the branch opportunities for the day. Branch managers must also submit ‘Fly-By’ forms which, ostensibly, are used to test whether the branch is ready for opening i.e. all staff are in the correct uniform, all desks are clear of papers, tills are open and ready etc. The branch managers we spoke to are being asked to add to the form details of appointments: lending, mortgage and home insurance opportunities. The form must also include the type of appointments in staff diaries and the number of customer insight calls (CINS) that will be made. That’s despite the fact that almost laughingly the form itself makes it clear that it should not be used to “tally product performance or set targets of any kind”. That’s being ignored.
- Then each afternoon branch managers must submit branch closing ‘Fly-By’ forms. These forms should be used to confirm that the branch has closed and that all processes and procedures have been completed. However, branch managers are being told to detail the day’s sales successes including the number of loans sold, home insurance quotes and sales, mortgages referrals and CINS calls made. Branch managers must then phone their line managers to discuss this and where, for example, the branch may have sold 2 loans and 2 home insurance products they are being told: “that does not feel right”. Those branch managers who question what does “feel right” mean, are encouraged to answer that question themselves.
- Branch managers say that they have regular contact with their senior bank managers but the conversations are very prescriptive: “surely you would like to achieve this”, “I know that you can deliver that”, “I know that I can speak honestly to you”. Branch managers feel they are being asked to manage staff in a target driven way but unsurprisingly nothing is being put in writing.
- Branch Managers are also reporting an increase in weekly visits to branches from senior bank managers and other staff where they spend time talking to individual members of staff. Those conversations are being used to product push and to encourage staff members to book only appointments which are ‘meaningful’ in that they will lead to sales.
It’s a more sophisticated form of sales management than we saw in the past but the results are still the same: staff being pressurised to justify why they haven’t sold more. And once it’s been normalised for branch managers, individual members of staff will have to go through the same process. It’s this kind of trickle-down sales management that got the bank into problems in the past.
What’s ironic about this ‘new’ approach to sales management is that it’s openly at odds with the bank’s training on the new FCA Consumer Duty. All staff had to complete that training which made reference to the part incentives and sales targets played in the mis-selling of payment protection insurance. Whilst branch sales incentives have gone forever, we hope, it seems that the bank is ignoring the lessons of the past with targets making a comeback in Lloyds and Halifax. That’s completely unacceptable and we won’t allow it to happen.
Mr Steel needs to come out publicly and make his position clear on the use of targets and sales forms. If he doesn’t, then it’s safe to assume he’s driving such practices.
This is going to be an ongoing theme over the next few months as the pressure to achieve demanding growth objectives and improper pressures on staff intensify. We would like to hear from more branch managers in Lloyds and Halifax about their experiences. We will also be issuing a survey to members in both Lloyds and Halifax branch networks over the next few weeks. In the meantime, members with any questions on this Newsletter should contact the Union’s Advice Team on 01234 262868 (choose Option 1).
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