A Banking dichotomy

A recent experience with UBank has got me wondering whether the intention to create a good customer experience has led to a bad experience?

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I first want to say that I am not expressing a view in this post, merely an observation. This is in the light of a very good recent experience with UBank who are an Australian Internet bank (part of NAB- National Australia Bank) and an incident with them that may cause me to churn. Hence the dichotomy.

The Internet site is supported by an excellent 24/7 Contact Centre which appears to be very customer centric and well organised. I recently set up my Internet Banking from home using my home broadband connection which uses the only phone line coming into the house. We live in a rural location so have no mobile phone signal at home. When I went to update my personal details online, UBank sent a SMS code for me to enter onto the website to verify the change. Of course, I could not receive the SMS as I had no mobile signal. The SMS was only valid for 10 minutes.

I soon realised that UBank had set up this “security measure” for every single transaction that I would make online. Payments, Transfers, Changes in details all receive SMS verification. With most of the Australian population living in areas with decent mobile coverage, I’m sure this isn’t a common issue to the banking giants but it is to me.

I rang UBank to ask whether there was another option. I was told it is the banks policy to provide this “more secure” method to protect their customers. This is very noble but why couldn’t I receive an email notification instead? Apparently UBank and NAB do not believe this option is as secure so they have adopted the SMS as the standard verification method.

This renders the site useless to me for “home” banking and I am now about to churn. It raises an interesting point though. This initiative has been taken to attempt to protect the customer. It is done with the customer in mind. However, because I have no other options of validation, the approach means that anyone in remote areas of the country will struggle with this issue.

I therefore wonder whether this is an example of good or bad customer centricity? It is good in wanting to make my banking experience safer but bad in that it does not give me the choice in how I want to receive that experience.

I would be interested to know what others think?

The real “X Factor”

What is the X Factor in building a profitable brand? This post argues that it is the Customer eXperience and demonstrates why organisations have to deliver a consistent and compelling customer experience across each and every touchpoint.

Forget your TV. The real X Factor will allow you to perform better than your competitors and achieve long term results to delight your shareholders and stakeholders.

The X Factor is on most CEO’s agenda’s yet it often alludes many organisations.

The X factor is widely known, yet rarely understood.

So what is this corporate X Factor?

The X factor is eXperience. The Customer Experience or Cx as it is often abbreviated to.

It includes the User eXperience (or Ux), whoever the “user” might be, as a user could be a customer, a partner, an employee, a Supplier. It all adds up to a perception gained by an individual or collectively by an organisation which will affect the relationship between both parties.

Every interaction between an organisation and its Stakeholders is a “moment of truth” where these perceptions, either positive or negative, are gained. The sum of these “moments of truth” lead to an overall “customer experience” that can affect the economic relationship. Let me use an example of how this might apply to Financial Services.

It used to be that upon getting your first job, you set up a Bank account (often with your parents bank) and you banked with this organisation for life. When you came to buy your first house, you might visit your local Manager who would interview you and then arrange a loan. How times have changed. These days, Banking is highly competitive and has moved to touch every point of our lives. It is easy to change banks, or have many banks. Some specialise in certain types of products but they all want our hard earned cash. The transactional cost of changing banks has lowered so that customer loyalty is far less than it was in previous generations. Therefore the retention of customers has become more important than acquiring customers to most banking organisations. So how does a bank retain your business? It can make its products more attractive and tailored, but this comes at a high price to the bank and has not always been a unique differentiator. Therefore banks have gradually come to realise that by improving every touchpoint with their customer, it not only makes the bank easier and convenient to do business with but also improves our perception of their brand.

The Customer Experience must be considered across every single touchpoint, across every single channel and needs to be consistent for every single customer. Therefore if a Bank has great, customer centric staff in every branch, this is clearly advantageous but a Telephone Banking service which uses a poorly designed Interactive Voice Recognition (IVR) menu, long wait times or is not 24/7 might negate all the good work done in the branches. Similarly, a great Mobile App which allows you to do your general banking might be negated by a difficult to use Online Banking web site.

It is true that different customer segments are likely to use different channels, depending upon their needs but few Banking customers will stick to one channel. Therefore every single touchpoint must be looked at and tested from a customers perspective to ensure that they receive a positive and consistent experience. The loyalty generated will drive longer term financial reward, especially in a Social world where good and bad experiences can be shared and communicated globally in seconds.

I have used Banking as an example but the laws of Customer Experience are universal. Create great and lasting Customer Experiences and the rewards will repay the effort over and over.

Becoming Customer Centric…5 Top Tips

The difference between experience and wisdom is a subtle one. To learn from an experience, one will make a mistake and learn not to do that again. That is learning by experience.

To learn from wisdom is to learn from the experience of others so not to have to make that mistake in the first place. That is learning by wisdom.

Therefore I find it puzzling that many organisations still prefer to learn by experience when attempting to fulfil their promise to become a truly customer centric organisation. Therefore, here are five quick tips that uses the wisdom gained from other organisations (who shall remain nameless but all of whom I have worked with) that can help on that journey towards customer centricity.

Tip #1: To change behaviour, change the comp and hire appropriately.

If you want your Managers accountable for delighting the customer and improving retention, then change the comp plan to focus them on that objective. If it is important, make it something that becomes an economic necessity! In a similar vein, ensure that your hiring policy is aligned to ensure that only applicants who can demonstrate a passion for customer centricity are hired. Gradually, the culture of the company will change.

Tip #2: Give the Customer a voice in the Boardroom

Invite the voice of the customer into the boardroom by appointing a Chief Customer Officer. If you cannot afford one, get a cardboard lifesize cut-out and sit it on a chair in the boardroom. At all relevant moments during a board meeting, turn to the cardboard cutout and ask “What does the customer think about this?”. Believe me…it works!!!!

Welcoming the CCO to the Boardroom

I had been preparing a blog post on this subject but I would rather defer to someone who has the experience of being a Chief Customer Officer. You can learn more from her excellent blog here.

Tip#3: Interview your churning, loyal and indifferent customers

Do you provide Employee Satisfaction surveys, exit interviews and other such HR charm offensives? Well, why not extend similar concepts to former customers, current customers (noth advocates and the silent majority). Hold focus groups, use Social Media, surveys, bribes whatever it takes to gain the insight you need to gain a true customer perspective on what you do well, what you do not do well and what they would like to see you do. It is very powerful. I heard a stat recently that said in a survey of clients, 95% said their customers “loved them”, a perception that was only supported by 6% of their customers.

Tip#4: Educate, Empower and Enable everyone

Everybody within your organisation must feel empowered and able to provide an outstanding customer experience. To do this, everyone needs educating. Who are THEIR customers? What benefits will this approach bring? What behaviours and values need to be developed? This education should not be a Webex or DVD to watch. It must be participative, ongoing and cross functional, involving every staff member from Chairman to Janitor. One organisation invited all of its directors to spend a day answering phones to “real” customers. Only half took their turn. Those who did found the experience “career changing”. Those who didn’t turn up, in my opinion, should have been given an ultimatum to do their stint or leave. Customer Centricity needs to be fully inclusive.

Tip#5: Consistency across customer touchpoints

Finally, the great experience being delivered by Sam in Sales could be completely undermined by a poor after sales experience by Paul in Service. Not only is it important for everyone interacting with the customer to behave in a customer centric fashion, but it is also vital to offer a consistent LEVEL of Customer Service. I believe it is better for everyone to be very good than have one excellent and another mediocre. That alignment can be measured by surveying each different department at each customer touchpoint. The internal initiative should then focus upon improving the “lagging” departments to provide greater overall consistency.

Oh, there is a sixth tip: “Do not let I.T drive the initiative”, but that deserves a blog post of its own!

Of course, this list is not inclusive or exhaustive. Success could be achieved without these tips but I believe that they will increase your chances of success.

What is a Customer?

Confusion about CRM terminology is exacerbated by confusion over what constitutes a “customer”. Why?

It appears that many businesses are getting confused about the meaning of the word “customer”.

Recently, I travelled on a train and was a “guest” whilst in a hospital I was referred to as a Customer, not a patient.

Interesting.

Surely a Customer is one of these two definitions (from the Oxford Dictionary):

  • a person who buys goods or services from a shop or business:
  • [with adjective] a person of a specified kind with whom one has to deal:

I have observed government departments struggle with this. One example was at a UK Farming Payment Agency paying Agricultural grants and rebates to farmers.
Farmer Giles may be a client with whom the Agency are dealing but he is an applicant (a customer?) yet if Farmer Giles wife called the Agency regarding his affairs, she cannot be a client but an agent of the client? She wasn’t the client but she is not the customer either? And what of those buying something? Neither- both are applying for something and receiving something in return. However, the Agency decided to call them all “customers”. Clear cut?
Not exactly, see my original discussion on the complexities of the Pharmaceutical Industry. CRM software is often based on the premise that a customer has a financial relationship with you. In fact, the customer database tables often were those from financial applications. The trouble now is that customer databases are full of other non trading entities. It is therefore becoming an important “up front” question for organisations to ask “Who and what is a Customer to US?”

The variety of answers across the world explains why CRM means so many different things to different people. I explained my point of view in a previous post.

For those who may be sceptical about this argument, here is a question for you:

Who are the customers for organisations such as:

1. Political Parties

2. Tourism Agencies

3. Car Manufacturers

OK, now ask yourself whether the definition of a customer holds true across all of those examples. This is why each organisation must form its own view of what a customer is.

Wanted: Customer Centric Recruitment

I am currently searching for a new career opportunity and have been shocked at the way a number of organisations handle the recruitment process from a “Customer Centric” perspective. Some organisations seem to forget that even applicants for opportunities within their organisation should be treated as valuable customers. Maybe this is why they are seeking a CRM Thought Leader in the first place?

An applicant, such as myself, may have been attracted by the hiring companies brand. If that organisation then fails to acknowledge your application or keep you informed, the brand is devalued in the mind of the applicant, who could also be an influencer, customer or shareholder. What does it say about the core values of the company the applicant is hoping to join. Does it not say “you are not important”? In fairness, the majority of companies do appear to acknowledge receipt of the application. It is after that the process seems to break down.

Some organisations recruit through Recruitment Agencies who often regard applicants as little more than a commodity, not an individual with hard earned skills that can add value. This is not just my personal experience. I have spoken to others who have experienced the same. These recruitment agencies act as a filter. They do not often understand the components that might add value to their client. Instead, they look for certain key words to reach a shortlist as quickly as possible. In one example, I heard nothing for two weeks and when I rang them, I found that I had not been shortlisted and they were conducting final interviews that day. That is fine, but wouldn’t it have been a courtesy to let all the non shortlisted applicants know? Agencies often appear unwilling to share information. When I recently asked one supposedly “leading” agency for information about the role or the client, I was sent a generic job description that was clearly drafted on the back of a betting slip.

Luckily, through my career, I have not always used agencies as I have found the majority to be lacking in insight, knowledge and integrity. Harsh? Maybe, but that has been my experience. I have tended to use my network to find new roles and have been lucky to have been approached directly by clients in the past.

However, that is where the lack of a Customer Centric culture breaks through the cracks. The onboarding process often appears to be designed to benefit the hiring company rather than the potential candidate.  I was lucky enough to have been approached last week by a company where I knew some of their key executives. All seemed to be going well until I was put in touch with the recruitment centre who refused to send me any details until I had sent them a formal application, despite the fact that their executives had approached me! Since then, I have left messages for them to acknowledge receipt of the application and to send me the role details. Even allowing for leave, surely there is a process to ensure continuity.

This blog may appear to be a whinge (I am a Pom after all!) but it does amaze me how a supposed Customer Centric culture does not extend to the whole organisation in many places, without any realisation or appreciation for the potential detrimental impact on brand, public image and customer behaviour. Becoming a Customer Centric organisation needs cultural change across the entire organisation. Everyone counts. Everybody can make a difference. I hope that my next role can impress this for my new client or employer.

Influencing Sales- the role of CRM tools (Part One).

I was reading recently an article that argued that “Salespeople have always hated CRM tools”. Having been involved in Sales prior to joining the wonderful world of CRM Consulting, I pondered this point of view and thought it would make an interesting topic for debate because IF it is true, then what can help influence the sale? Is it all about the interaction, the product/service being sold and/or other factors that a Salesperson cannot influence? If so, what role can a CRM tool play?

This is the first in a series of three blogs on this subject. The first will focus on the factors of influence in the Digital World. The Second will investigate whether CRM tools can help drive Sales and the final blog will look at why, if CRM tools help drive Sales, are Salespeople traditionally wary of them.

I was reading recently an article that argued that “Salespeople have always hated CRM tools”. Having been involved in Sales prior to joining the wonderful world of CRM Consulting, I pondered this point of view and thought it would make an interesting topic for debate because IF it is true, then what can help influence the sale? Is it all about the interaction, the product/service being sold and/or other factors that a Salesperson cannot influence? If so, what role can a CRM tool play?

This is the first in a series of three blogs on this subject. The first will focus on the factors of influence in the Digital World. The Second will investigate whether CRM tools can help drive Sales and the final blog will look at why, if CRM tools help drive Sales, are Salespeople traditionally wary of them?

Years ago, I worked in the Pharmaceutical Industry in England. I hasten to add that this was before Viagra but after Prozac! I worked for three different Pharmaceutical companies in that period but I will relate my experience directly to one particular major international organisation who are still a global leader today.

My division sold prescription medicines. We sold to Doctors (G.P’s) because Doctors prescribed medicine. We had a different team selling the same products to Hospital Doctors. Doctors were not the “buyers” though. Buyers were Pharmacists who dispensed the drugs that the Doctors prescribed. The pharmacists dispensed drugs to patients who were regarded by Pharmacists as their customers. It was illegal to advertise ethical prescription medicines to these “end users”. Pharmacists could only buy from Wholesalers who bought directly from my company. So, who influenced the sale in this complex purchasing matrix? At the time, all the focus was on G.P’s as they wrote the prescriptions which created demand.

Most Pharma companies spent an awful lot of $$$ targetting Doctors. Whilst the industry is heavily regulated, Pharma companies became well known for interpreting these regulations in creative ways. For example, I was able to organise a “medical conference” on “Sport Injury” that took place in the Corporate Hospitality box before and during a major local sporting event. The G.P’s attending had to attend the 30 minutes of discussion on Sports Injuries before enjoying 4 more hours of sport and corporate hospitality!!

However, despite the money thrown at them, Doctors regarded the Pharma Industry with a high degree of wariness (in most cases) and were (in most cases) difficult to influence. So where did their influence come from?

Of course it is different for every individual G.P but a lot of the time it came from:
1. Local policy dictated to them by an authority (or even within their own practice), who offered cash incentives to help cut prescribing costs
2. Independant research carried out by the National Institute for Clininal Effectiveness (NICE)
3. “Thought Leaders”. National subject authorities in their therapeutic field or Local Specialist Hospital Consultants who gave advice in written and verbal contact to G.P’s.
4. Financial incentives offered by some companies where Doctors could sell Drugs directly (Dispensing Doctors).
In terms of the power of influence, certain new and traditional channels made little impact: TV- irrelevant. Radio- irrelevant. Newspapers- irrelevant. Journals- some were very influential (e.g The Lancet), but WHICH journal was very critical in terms of influencing power.

Today, we have a powerful new tool: The Internet. CRM tools have existed for some time preceding the Internet boom but the Internet has enabled development in CRM tools, for example, “in the cloud”. The impact of Social Media and the increase in information being available more widely from a greater variety of sources helps decision makers research and validate decisions. Has the Internet changed the power balance in terms of influencing decision makers?

In the Pharma Industry, I don’t believe things have changed greatly, despite the Internet. The power of the written word still holds true in this industry and whilst I believe Social Media may enable greater potential for information (and disinformation), Doctors are still likely to keep on being influenced by the same channels as before. Practice or Authority based decisions, Government initiatives or discounted “deals” to Dispensing practices demonstrate that money talks!!! The difference in 2010 is just that Doctors are able to access that influential knowledge more easily. If anything, the poor old G.P is overwhelmed by information. Old traits still hold true though. People buy, primarily, from People. Relationship selling still has a role to play in the Pharma Industry but it is up to Pharma companies to use CRM tools and processes to better target the right decision makers, with the right message at the right time. In the next blog I will investigate how CRM tools can help drive Sales beyond the rhetoric of CRM Vendors. This perspective is from a Sales and CRM practicioner.

What is a CRM Strategist?

I have been involved in an ongoing debate within a LinkedIn group regarding the roles of consultants with “CRM” in their titles. Traditionally, consulting organisations have treated CRM as being within or even a dedicated Strategy practice. However, they will also employ CRM Consultants within a Technology practice (maybe aligned with a software vendor e.g Oracle, SAP, Salesforce).

The debate has raged on whether there are two distictly different roles (CRM Strategy and CRM Technology) or whether there is crossover. I argue that there is certainly crossover but it is not a skillset I come across routinely. This was confirmed to me when I had a recent meeting with Johann Jacobs, a Gartner eCRM Analyst, who admitted that he had not met too many CRM Strategists but felt that most CRM initiatives badly needed one!

I am currently consulting in a role titled “CRM Strategist and Archtect”. I am working with my client to help articulate their vision for Customer Service and subsequently develop and define a Strategy and Roadmap. We will then select and implement a CRM product to deliver the processes that are bound by that strategy and hence meet the strategic and tactical objectives.  I expect to be involved in all of those activities. If a Management Consultancy were to replace me, my client would be likely to get one person for the strategy and another for the product. The lack of continuity means that the Implementer needs to interpret the intent of the Strategist in designing the solution. This can introduce unnecessary risk. I therefore believe that, as a Business Strategist, it is important to have a strong understanding of the technological footprints and offerings that can help enable the strategy that has been designed. The Strategist should be able to help architect and assure the chosen solution to meet the objectives of the organisation.

However, there is a further complication: Software companies often subdivide their Software Consultants into Functional and Technical. The Functional Consultant tends to be understanding of the business environment and able to turn business requirements into a solution through basic configuration of the system. The Technology Consultant works with the IT Department to embed the new software into the IT Infrastructure. There is crossover with the Functional Consultant but this can be limited depending on the type of software and the skill levels of each.

In my experience, a functional consultant may understand the needs of the Sales, Marketing and/or Customer Service division but may not necessarily have the skills to help develop strategy, work on business cases or articulate future roadmaps. In my opinion, the CRM Strategist is capable of fulfilling the Functional Consultant role as well as being a Strategy Consultant. This really adds value to clients.

Without knowledge of the capabilities of a CRM Product, Unified Communications or other such enabling technology, how can a feasible vision or roadmap be developed? One has to know what is possible to be able to define it. Functional Consultants can implement a process that leads to improvements. The strategist will set the entire context within which the process sits. Furthermore, the functional consultant really should understand the strategic direction and long term objectives of an organisation in order to create the optimal, future-proof design. With the market changing at a rapid pace, increasingly innovative solutions are able to be developed. However, these “To Be” solutions should be within a context of where that organisation wishes to be. A CRM Strategist can bridge these worlds saving organisations the cost of employing two discreet skillsets and bringing the continuity of taking the conceived into the delivered. As more and more organisations appreciate and recognise the need for appropriate skillsets, there is likely to be a polarisation between Strategists and Technical CRM Consultants. This may seem like I am contradicting myself as this is how I described the structure of many Consultancies. However, I believe that Technical will mean Technical. Functional will merge into Strategy (and vice versa) meaning that the Strategists will be involved on Programs both before, during and, possibly, after an implementation. They will carry a broader set of skills and need to communicate with different audiences. However, the value to be added will be significant and the CRM Strategist should become he norm, not the exception!