We can't rely on anecdotal views to understand the voice of the customer
In the digital era where one can tap a range of channels to reach customers, Ian Jackman knows full well how these opportunities also require a fine balancing act for businesses.
“We need to be selective and careful about how we deliver better experiences in the interest of the customer, and not just be a sales engine,” says Jackman, who is head of customer voice at Bendigo & Adelaide Bank.
Customers are already utilising a range of interaction channels to fulfill their needs. Customer expectations have changed, he states.
"A customer sees a promotion on social media or on the web. They call us up or to go the branch. They expect that we know what they have done before with us.
"We need to go to from isolated, disconnected experiences, to seamless and connected experiences of interactions across channels," he states.
In the past, he says the bank chose the connection channel and the process dictates the journey. Today, the customer chooses the connection channel and is enabled to transition through their own journey.
“Test and learn is critical,” Jackman says, who spoke about. “We learn from what we are doing, refine and have the customer in the centre.
“We have good customer voice coming through us in a number of ways,” he says.
“We have customers who are motivated to call us and tell us what they think. They put in a complaint, or a customer suggestion and we get a lot of content that is rich. We do a lot of work understanding and analysing it.”
Or, Jackman says, the bank proactively asks for it. “We go out to customers, to help us measure what we are doing well or not.”
In the case of Bendigo & Adelaide Bank, customer feedback is secured through miVoice. This is an online collaborative panel of 1500 customers, who have volunteered to share their views, opinions and ideas on the services offered by the bank.
“We ask the panel questions, which may not always be about banking,” he says. “It could be about the biggest issue in their community.
“We are trying to understand what is important to them. We want to test our ideas and to generate their ideas as well.”
For instance, they will be asked what they think should be the next priorities for the features the bank is building for e-banking.
“We use that response to drive change,” he says. “It is almost like putting our customer at the seat of the table.”
From IT to CX
Jackman took on the newly created role of head of customer voice in December, 2015, following nearly two years as head of customer insights. Before that his roles at the bank included programme director and programme manager.
His academic background, however, was in electrical engineering and computer science. He has previously worked as a network engineer, application developer, project manager and IT consultant, before joining the bank in 2009.
The company was formed with the merger of Bendigo Bank and Adelaide Bank in 2007, and has 527 branches with 1659 ATMs across Australia. The bank has around 7200 staff serving 1.8 million customers.
He describes the bank’s “interesting and unique model”.
Bendigo Bank is the key brand and in that set-up the bank has a community bank model, where 300 branches of the 500 branches are community bank branches and managed by the community bank company.
The revenue and profits are shared with the community bank and invested back into the community. This money funded a range of projects including scholarships for children and sports facilities.
He says the bank also leads in financial services in Australia, in terms of customer advocacy and customer satisfaction.
The bank has a Net Promoter Score of +24, the highest among Australian banks, and was named by analyst firm Forrester as the number-one customer experience brand in Australia.
“Bendigo continues to do an exceptional job of making its customers feel valued, driving the highest number of positive emotional responses from customers surveyed,” says Forrester. “With a gap of 6 points or more over other brands in the CX Index, the level of CX delivered by Bendigo Bank and ING Direct clearly should serve as the benchmark for other firms aspiring to be a CX leader in Australia.”
“We have structured ourselves around the customer,” says Jackman.
In his current role, he reports to the chief customer officer. That role was created when the bank reworked its structure two years ago around customer centricity.
“Anyone who has an engagement with the customer, or supporting any engagement with the customer, is underneath the CCO," he explains.
“I have accountability across customer feedback, complaints and suggestions.”
Jackman is also involved on surveys around customer metrics market research, as well as customer insights and analytics.
“Anything about how we listen, understand, interpret and derive opportunity and actions around the voice of the customer, is my remit.”
He works alongside solutions, which is the bank’s technology and marketing functions, but is not part of these.
“We deliberately created that,” he says. “It meant we really wanted to emphasise the importance of the customer that flows throughout the organisation."
"Our activities are around CX [customer experience] design, he says. “Customer journey mapping is part of my portfolio as well. If we are going to be customer centred, we have to understand how customers think. Hence, it has its own area. We want to emphasise the importance of the voice of the customer.
“We are well known in the market for customer centricity," he says "and we need to make sure we structure ourselves to enable that to the best we can.”
Asked whether he thinks there would be more people being appointed to head of customer voice positions, he says they are already seeing this in other organisations but with different titles.
We are well known in the market for customer centricity,...and we need to make sure we structure ourselves to enable that to the best we can.
“There are roles created around customer experience,” he says. “
“We have got a strong customer-centric culture, so it helps to reinforce the stuff that we feel is important,” he says.
“I have never worked fully in engineering,” he says. Before joining the bank, he worked in network and progressed into building workflow based software systems.
He says as a consultant he also did a lot of project and programme management, then IT and business strategy.
“From my perspective, I really love data,” he says. “I love the complexity of data, the patterns of what is there, and the opportunities it can create."
Asked for insights on how to move to a role similar to his, he says, “you need to have passion for customer experience. Data is a big aspect of it.”
“We can't rely on anecdotal views to understand the voice of the customer and drive action from it,” he says. “You have got to tap into it and collate the information.”
Secondly, you have to understand the information. “It is a different skill set to take all that information and derive insight from it.”
Thirdly, the information is worthless “unless you forward it into action”.
“You have to work out what opportunity comes out of that, to deliver a better experience and respond to it.”
Having a diverse team with different skills around data, research and customer experience is critical to the success of the role.
He says using the Net Promoter Score is all good and well. But the more important question is following up with the customer, 'why did you give us that rating'? The number itself does not give insight, unless you combine it with other things like behavioral patterns.
“You need qualitative and quantitative aspects of that data to get that understanding,” he says.
“We never get to the end of the journey,” he says.
“It is about continually listening, adapting and understanding the customers as we go,” he says. “We recognise we have a long way to go, but what we do have [are] core foundational assets and capabilities in place.”
The bank aggregated its customer data into a master customer database, he says. "That is really an important asset.”
“We now have got a really good view of our core customer attributes and their relationships with us.”
The bank has implemented IBM Watson Marketing to meet heightened customer expectations in mobile and digital banking, and to deliver new customer-focused services with efficiency and speed.
The bank can now personalise its marketing programmes and tailor interactions to best meet the needs of the customer and match to their preferred channels he says.
These could be digital, mobile, or in one of their branches across Australia.
“That investment is key to where we are, because that investment has led us to this great understanding of our customers.”
He says the bank is partnering with IBM on a lot of these projects, being one of the first to leverage IBM’s Bluemix cloud platform.
“Rather than dictating how customers should engage with us, we enable that customer choice to allow them across channels and make that seamless and connected.”
“We continue to refine, iterate and learn from that and make those better and better,” he says.
“Which means that we need to be more responsive, we need to be faster and we need to be more agile.”
Closing the feedback loop
How the company responds to customer feedback is critical, he states.
In working with the miVoice panel, for instance,“We thank them for their feedback.”
“They feel they are having an influence, they feel they are engaging with you, and the reward is having a seat at the table.
“A lot of companies who did not get as much traction as they thought, [from similar panels] probably haven't necessarily closed the loop well enough,” he says.
He points out not all of the panel members are advocates for the bank.“We get a mixture of people.”
"We have some prize draws for them. We don’t want them submitting a response purely for the fact they might get an incentive. I think that can bias the response that you get back.”
"The traditional way of approaching customers would be we would have an opportunity, which may be around a particular product and go through traditional thinking process on why we should put that out in 12 branches. The branch will make a call to the customer," he says.
"But now, through the collective understanding of the audience, we understand which channel we will engage with and what is relevant for customers," he adds.
“We have moved from just one way of doing things that is quite manual, into the capability to do that across multiple channels.
“We engage with customers at different times and presenting and responding to customers, rather than doing sequence batch processes.
“That is a significant shift.
“It is not about technology,” Jackman says. “At the end of the day, the technology platform just becomes the foundation and a commodity. It really comes down to our people and how we position ourselves.”
Sidebar: Reflections on the role
At the recent Watson Summit in Auckland, Ian Jackman spoke about ‘what it means to be customer connected - listening and responding to customers’. He shares some lessons learned over the past two years:
Remain customer-led and insight driven
Customer experience is the sum of all parts
A single view of the customer relationships and interactions is critical
Choose modular and scalable platforms
It is not about the technology, it is about the way you leverage it
Build a test and learn culture and capability
Demonstrate tangible outcomes of voice into action
Leverage partners who are flexible and committed to a shared outcome.
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