TD Bank taps virtual reality to help tellers learn to navigate tense scenarios

Virtual reality gives employees a more hands-on training experience

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You’re a bank teller standing behind the counter at a local branch. You can tell it’s Toronto-Dominion Bank from the green branding in your surroundings. A customer, who you can already tell is stressed, walks up to your counter to cash a cheque, but the cheque has been put on hold. The customer raises their voice: they’re in a rush and have been waiting in line.

It’s the kind of tense scenario that plays out at banks and other customer-facing jobs all the time, except this time the customer and environment are not real. What you’re seeing is fed through a virtual reality headset, part of an immersive simulation designed to mimic possible real-world scenarios.

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During the simulation, you have the chance to respond to a customer with the help of tips and steps shown. The interaction, including your voice and facial expressions, are recorded and can be played back.

The simulations are one tool TD Bank is hoping will change the way its new and existing employees are trained to deal with customers in challenging scenarios.

A TD simulation used to train staff.
A TD simulation used to train staff. Photo by TD Bank

TD product manager Kerry Narduzzi said the use of virtual reality, as opposed to more commonly used mediums such as printed handouts or training videos or digital modules on a computer screen, gives employees a more hands-on experience.

The technology provides a “free to fail” environment and can generate specific situations, such as the check-hold scenario, said Narduzzi, who created the program.

“It’s hard to learn how to handle these interactions without experience and now, our branch employees can build it up and make mistakes and learn from them in VR so they’re ready when they encounter the real thing,” she said.

Ten branches in Etobicoke, Ont., and 10 branches in Alberta are currently participating in a pilot project that began in November 2023 and is running until May.

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At the moment, TD is testing out the first module but will be deploying more based on the program’s success, Narduzzi said.

“So far, the feedback’s been really great,” she said. “They’re excited to be part of a new technology, a new way to learn because in the past, it’s been the same way for so long.”

She said the majority of TD staff who have tried the module, both new hires and employees who have been with the company for a long time, say it’s made it easier to retain information and they feel confident using what they’ve learned in real life.

The program can also save the company resources by reducing the need for managers to role-play certain scenarios during training.

“This is going to save managers’ time,” she said.

This isn’t the first time TD has used virtual reality to launch immersive experiences for employees and customers.

Last year, the bank launched a pilot for its co-op and intern program where students received virtual reality headsets to participate in several 3D immersive programs.

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That pilot received positive feedback from participants and the program is being offered again this year, Narduzzi said.

As for whether TD will introduce virtual reality to enhance customer experience, she said the bank isn’t ruling it out.

“It’s got a long way to go in terms of it being an everyday thing that customers use,” she said. “We need to be testing and understanding before something comes to every household.”

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