TD uses VR to train its customer service employees

TD Bank is a familiar brand in the Canadian banking world. For some, the institution may be synonymous with long lines of people waiting to speak with a cashier. This job sucks everyone in from time to time – including the tech-savvy customer who prefers online banking.

Across the counter, separating customers from the inner workings of the bank, is a teller. They may be a newbie or a seasoned veteran who has dealt with all types of people. In any case, assisting customers, some nice and some not, with their tasks on a daily basis is the traditional way they, like many other customer-facing professionals, gain experience in their role.

But TD is working to change that experience to help tellers train for all types of customers—before they even meet them—through an immersive learning program that implements virtual reality (VR).

At the moment, the program has one module (with two more on the way) that guides employees through challenges with various types of customers looking to complete different tasks, providing pointers on how to deal with each situation. The VR experience adds to TD’s learning method and does not replace any other training elements.

TD started the pilot program in November 2023. It is currently available in 10 Toronto-area branches and 10 branches in southern Alberta.

Slipping on the Pico Neo 3 headset takes trainees into a virtual TD Bank branch, complete with the traditional green accents seen at each of the bank’s locations.

TD’s virtual banking location. Image credit: TD

The program has different situations for employees to choose from. For example, one of these situations involves an angry customer who is stressed about a check stop. The program takes employees through this interaction, complete with an agitated customer who yells, and points out ways to deal with the situation. The module also lets users listen back to their answers that require a verbal response so they can review and learn from them.

Kerry Narduzzi, a product manager at TD, led the team that created the program. “The idea was to create training where we can simulate the customer interactions that might be more difficult or challenging so (employees) can experience them and learn because that’s the best way to learn,” she said in an interview.

Employees are allowed to use the technology when they want and do not need the help of a manager. The program is available for all employees to use, Narduzzi said, and is not reserved for new hires.

Michelle David, a branch manager at one of the locations that runs the immersive learning program, attests to this. David leads a team of 21, which includes some who have been with the bank for decades and others who have only been there for a handful of months.

David said one of the things her employees like about the program is that it shows TD’s attempts to keep up with current trends. Another factor: it creates a safe learning space. “By using the virtual reality headset, it increases (employee) confidence (when they) can learn in a safe environment,” David said.

This was one of the goals of the program. The product was a solution for trying to give employees more confidence in their jobs in a “free-to-leave environment,” Narduzzi said.

These tasks include various types of customers looking for help. Image credit: TD

The learning experience also includes several accessibility features, such as closed captioning. Although the list of features is not exhaustive, Narduzzi said that the team is thinking about implementing other features, such as 2D experiences for users who are visually impaired. Right now, they are looking for feedback on how to address accessibility needs.

“All this information is really important for us to make sure that if we make the next version, we have accessibility for everyone,” Narduzzi noted.

This isn’t the first time TD has implemented a VR-based program. In 2023, it launched a pilot that saw interns and co-op students across Canada use the technology. It was a hit, leading TD to expand it to a larger program in 2024. It also led the company to explore using something similar for its employees, leading to the birth of the immersive learning pilot.

Both VR projects were developed under “TD Invent,” the organization’s approach to innovating banking.

Although it has not been in use for a long time, the program has received positive feedback so far. Nearly 80 percent of employees who used the system said that training with VR was more effective than traditional training. Another 96 percent said they felt confident applying their learning to real-world situations.

At this time, there is no date to expand the immersive learning experience from a pilot to a full program. That depends on the feedback they get from the pilot, which is set to wrap in May.

Image credit: TD

Read Also