Synovus Bank is a multi-product financial services company, meeting the banking needs of families, individuals and businesses across the Southeast. Their family of companies span commercial and retail banking, mortgage, and investments, and offer a full range of banking products from deposits, loans, credit cards, treasury and merchant services.
With almost 300 branches across Florida, Georgia, Alabama, Tennessee, and South Carolina, Synovus Bank is home to ~5,500 employees, approximately 800 of which are branch bankers utilizing Cooleaf.
Bankers serve customers and work to identify, establish, and expand their banking services to meet customers’ needs.
Engaging Bankers Manually was a Big Undertaking
Cayce Williams-West, Director of Small Business Products, and Landon Walker, Senior Manager Strategy and Data Analytics, at Synovus were looking for ways to motivate bankers that was easy and engaging.
Before Cooleaf, the Synovus credit card product team ran their own fun challenges for bankers throughout their footprint, awarding winners with gift baskets or treats for the branches. The goal was to incentivize learning and meeting a customer’s specific product needs.
"It was fun to go out and meet all our bankers but it clearly was not very efficient,” Cayce said. “It limited how much we could do because you could only manage a limited amount of that while running the business. We really needed a way to automate the contest part of it, but also get a deeper engagement with our bankers.”
Cayce and Landon did everything manually, from pulling data across different tools to sending out prizes. Sometimes, even organizing branch-to-branch car trips to drop off prizes.
"It was fun to go out and meet all our bankers, but it clearly was not very efficient,” Cayce said.
“It limited how much we could do because you could only manage a limited amount of that while running the business. We really needed a way to automate the contest part of it, but also get a deeper engagement with our bankers.”
With hundreds of branches spread across five states, this was a huge undertaking. And understandably, bankers’ attention turned toward current promoted products, while credit card fulfillment would ebb and flow.
Plus, Synovus’ Credit Card team completed an overhaul of their entire product set and wanted to shift the bankers’ historical impression of their product.
So, Synovus partnered with Cooleaf. They launched their Cooleaf platform as Credit Card Connections, the bankers’ go-to tool for performance rewards, training and development, quizzes, and peer connections all surrounding Synovus’ credit card product offerings.
Cooleaf engagement experts developed a strategy to build culture and credit card knowledge, while incentivizing behaviors needed to identify and meet a customer’s credit card needs.
Automating and Incentivizing Sales Behaviors
Because Synovus utilized several systems and a variety of banking platforms, data was spread out, and performance metrics were cumbersome to track and award for different behaviors. Argo tracked completions, Salesforce housed lead information, and Campus hosted training.
Cooleaf automated weekly performance rewards, so that Cayce and Landon’s manually organized contests were now streamlined, quick to reward, and off their plate.
Bankers automatically earned base points twice a week for meeting certain activities along the customers’ journey with credit cards. Points could be redeemed on the Cooleaf reward page: everything from gift cards at major retailers, merchandise, or branded items from Synovus’ team store.
More importantly, they could award for different behaviors, rather than awarding and incentivizing on only fulfilling credit card needs, Cooleaf could target bankers with the most cross-sells or award training completion.
“To eventually meet a customer’s product needs, you need bankers to have the right conversations,” Cayce said.
“Bankers need to be informed about our products and work their leads. We’re not just awarding bankers when they meet a customer’s needs, we award them for doing the right activities that lead to it.”
Building Credit Card Knowledge for Bankers
Working with Cooleaf engagement experts, Synovus hosted online activities and events, connecting their efforts to Synovus’ learning and development message.
Synovus started 2021 with a multi-faceted intensive geared towards bankers needing extra training on the credit card product set, value proposition, and benefits and features.
The goal was to refresh basic knowledge and reinforce differentiators, so all bankers were armed with what they needed to effectively meet their customers’ credit card needs.
Synovus hosted live trainings on general product knowledge and underwriting, awarding points for attendance. And hosted 10-day Cooleaf challenges, encouraging bankers to watch short training videos or take mini-courses.
In the challenge, each step or to-do item linked out to training on Campus, Synovus’ education resource. Once bankers completed each item, they responded to relevant critical thinking questions to deepen their understanding and earn points.
To encourage bankers to complete the entire training, bonus points were awarded.
Synovus finished the month with quizzes on credit card products and analyzed responses to determine what information needed revisiting.
Synovus brought ideas and timeliness to the Cooleaf challenges and events calendar. Everything aligned with current marketing campaigns, mailers, and promotion cycles, making the challenges or trainings even more powerful.
“We can actually focus on training, engagement, and behavioral aspects rather than just focusing on providing a product,” Landon added.
“The Cooleaf tool helps our bankers enrich their techniques or approaches to increase the quality and consistency of those leading behaviors. And if you do the right behaviors you can meet your customers’ needs better and more consistently.”
Meeting Bankers Where They Are
Cooleaf utilized the tiered system to customize programming according to different bankers’ needs or skill-level. For example, the 2021 kick-off program was geared towards bankers in lower tiers, needing extra help reaching performance goals.
And like any retail business, Synovus has a fair amount of attrition so there’s always a flow of beginning bankers.
“Meet your bankers where they are,” Cayce said. “Brand new bankers are learning all of the products, from loans, deposits, merchant services, and treasury services, and it’s a lot. So, we tier our bankers based on product performance. We’re constantly in a teaching and engaging mode.”
New bankers might see online challenges to train with their Sales Performance Partner (SPP), while more successful or tenured bankers surpassing their goals might be asked to record videos to share advice.
“You can issue challenges where people are performing to help them with their goals,” Cayce said. “And Cooleaf jumps in and helps us with our data which is awesome.”
Synovus provided relevant performance data to their Cooleaf engagement expert who helped tier out different groups to target activities.
Synovus had three tiers of bankers from high performing, average, and low-performing individuals, and Cooleaf identified a third subgroup within the underperforming tier. This group wasn’t meeting credit card goals but met customer needs with other Synovus products.
Synovus and Cooleaf speculated that this group (Tier 3P) needed more training to move into higher tiers, so programming became more tailored.
Cooleaf's Impact: Bankers Surpassing Sales Goals 2x
“At the end of the day you just can’t get around the results. You can tell that bankers are engaging and are getting better,” said Cayce.
Synovus started to see a trend flip from most under-performers to over-performers after two quarters of programming.
In Q2 of 2020, 57.8% of bankers reached 24% or less of their sales goal. Whereas in Q2 of 2021, that number became less than half with 23.56% bankers still in this range.
In Q2 of 2020, 1.9% of bankers achieved 200% or more than their sales goal. And in Q2 of 2021, Synovus saw the number boost to 21.78% doubling or more than projected goals.
The pandemic might have affected Synovus’ numbers for 2020, but the addition of programming does have an associated trend especially with the targeted tiers.
Over-performing bankers (Tier 1) increased by 26% and underperforming bankers (Tier 3) decreased by 21%.
The subgroup of underperforming bankers (Tier 3P), those meeting or surpassing sales goals in other products but not credit cards, made up 23% of the Tier 3 group, showing that the programming was positively impacting needs met elsewhere.
“We’re absolutely moving those lower tiered performers up the ladder which is amazing,” Cayce said. “And branches as a whole are moving up the spectrum.”
“We’ll always have this interesting push and pull between your goal and your performance, but clearly reaching out and doing the work in the first half of this year is showing in the third quarter.”
Employee Engagement and Beyond
Synovus’ Credit Card Connections platform, aka Cooleaf, had really positive engagement from the bankers since they launched.
With this success, Synovus is looking to expand the Cooleaf program in their retail products in 2022. The platform will likely be available for a broader range of products and team members across Synovus’ branch footprint.
"We’re really hopeful and excited,” said Landon. “It’s aligning with what makes sense and is a tool to really get the team more engaged and up to speed while ensuring it aligns with their performance goals as well.”
Synovus provided the data needed, kept activities timely, and worked closely with Cooleaf experts to bring everything together to engage bankers.
“The Cooleaf team are really experts in engagement and marketing,” Cayce said.
“We’ve formed this relationship with our Cooleaf experts who’ve gotten to know our business and are always there to help us shape our challenges. They're awesome partners. Their knowledge, and expertise is amazing.”