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Video teller machines and digital literacy workshops: How S'pore's oldest bank is making banking accessible to all

Over at the POSB branch at Tiong Bahru Plaza, cheery service ambassadors converse fluently with elderly customers in a range of Chinese dialects. At other branches, you may also find staff who speak Malay or Tamil, depending on the profile of residents living in those areas. 

Those with simple queries are attended to right away, while others are given a queue number and directed to different counters. Staff can also use their iPad or the queue ticketing issuance machine to help trigger an SMS alert for customers when their turn is approaching.

Even as POSB increases the number of services that can be performed online via a mobile phone app or personal computer, the bank continues to maintain branches across Singapore to cater to the elderly who may not be familiar with online banking, and to provide physical touch points for customers who prefer to communicate in person. Outreach activities are also held at hawker centres to help educate the elderly on digital banking transactions.

“POSB remains committed to inclusivity and empowering all its customers, regardless of their digital proficiency,” says Mr Nelson Neo, head of POSB. 

“While we focus on leveraging innovation to improve customer service, we also recognise that some customers still prefer face-to-face interactions. Our branches continue to serve hundreds and thousands of customers daily, providing the human touch and personalised support they value,” he adds.

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Engaging customers in a digital world

As its customers become more digitally savvy, POSB says its call volumes have fallen by 24 per cent over the past five years, thanks to its increase in digital services. There has also been a 36 per cent increase in chatbot engagement over the past year.

Callers to helplines can also expect faster resolution of their problems since the customer service agent will be alerted to events such as unsuccessful card transactions even before the conversation begins.

At physical branches, state-of-the-art equipment such as self-service video teller machines (VTM) can perform multiple functions ranging from recording a change of address to issuing replacement ATM or debit cards. As with its expanded digital channels, the goal is to improve customer satisfaction by reducing waiting and transaction times.

POSB currently has 47 VTMs deployed across Singapore, supporting thousands of self-service transactions a day. Fewer than 10 per cent of these transactions require intervention from customer service agents, who can be contacted via these terminals during office hours.

Training, customer feedback and empathy

POSB invests heavily in training to equip employees with digital skills and to ensure that they are familiar with the bank’s large suite of services.

Recognising the importance of going beyond the ordinary to provide exceptional service, POSB encourages employees to show empathy when dealing with customers. The bank’s RED Service Standard (which stands for be Respectful, Easy to deal with, and Dependable) is instilled in all employees from day one, while compliments from customers and other success stories are shared regularly to inspire and motivate staff.

In fact, customer feedback is one of the key performance indicators used when evaluating branch managers and other front-facing staff, and POSB reviews both online and offline comments from customers daily to identify gaps in service delivery and areas for improvement.

“POSB continues to nurture a workforce equipped with both digital proficiency and a deep sense of empathy, enabling them to deliver exceptional service and build lasting connections with their customers,” Mr Neo says.

These efforts have led to POSB being recognised in the Singapore’s Best Customer Service survey 2023/24 by The Straits Times and research firm Statista, in the consumer banks sub-category, under Real Estate and Banking.

The bank is not resting on its laurels, however, and is exploring the use of artificial intelligence to further enhance customer service capabilities as well as to combat growing threats such as online scams, while ensuring the human touch is ever present through training and regular feedback.

“As we continue to evolve and adapt to changing needs, our dedication to exceptional customer service remains at the core of everything we do,” Mr Neo adds.

Helping migrant workers with their banking needs

Founded in 1877,  Singapore’s oldest bank takes pride in serving people from all walks of life. It sees itself as part of the community, which explains its slogan “Neighbours first, Bankers second”. 

Among its customers are the hundreds of thousands of migrant workers who form a significant proportion of Singapore’s workforce. It is currently the only financial institution working with the Ministry of Manpower (MOM) to help newly arrived work permit holders open accounts so that they can receive their salaries and remit money back home. 

To help migrant workers bank digitally, POSB provides online guides in six different languages, including Bengali, Tagalog, Burmese and Bahasa Indonesia. Work permit holders can also visit a dedicated POSB Account Services Centre for non-cash transactional support.

In addition, POSB works with MOM, the Singapore Police Force and different non-governmental organisations such as the Migrant Workers’ Centre to provide workshops on financial literacy, as well as teach migrant workers to use digibank to make online payments.

Through POSB’s anti-scam programme taught at the digital literacy workshops, they are also taught how to avoid being scammed.

With the easing of Covid-19 restrictions last year, POSB staff, along with volunteers from partner organisations, have ramped up their outreach initiatives to foreign workers. Staff and volunteers would share the basics of contactless and digital payments and teach attendees how to guard against online scams.

More than 10,000 migrant workers and migrant domestic workers have attended these events since they restarted in April 2022 after the easing of Covid-19 restrictions.

“Work permit holders are among the most vulnerable residents in Singapore. POSB prides itself on being the People’s Bank, so it is our mission to ensure the benefits of financial inclusion are enjoyed by all,” says Mr Nelson Neo, head of POSB.

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