CHARLES BENNETT is President and CEO at the Customer Experience and Service Association (CXSA). He is a well known authority in the field of customer experience and has worked across 37+ countries in the world.
In an interview, Charles explains importance of customer experience and how its impact on businesses. This is a topic that will be discussed at the CX panel focussed on the Banking and FinTech industry. Benett spoke at BIT 23- Banking, Innovation and Technology Summit 2023, held on November 15 and 16.
Excerpts from the interview:
Do you remember back in the day when CRM, which stood for Customer Relationship Management and was a fairly human
What happened? Fast forward to today, CRM is merely a platform, in some people’s views basically a glorified phone book! Its a lot more than that of course but it is now thought of as effectively a product or software solution. When people think CRM, they think Hubspot, Salesforce, SAP or the widening number of products out there. People have also accused technologists of hijacking and ruining it from the people-centred relationship managed discipline it was supposed to be.
Except they would be wrong.
CRM is still people focussed but the ‘people’ component has now been taken away and placed somewhere else in the business - ie the sales process, or relationship management, account management or customer service. CRM has now become the insight mechanism driven by technology! The “So What” is there but it has transferred to other functions in the business.
Is customer experience going that way and should we be concerned?
The answer is potentially yes. If we use CX insight as a “fire fighting” continuous improvement mechanism then quality of insight is the only real differentiator. In other words we are not doing enough with it. We cannot blame the technologists for this — they have done their job very well. Technology in CX is mostly about insight. The problem lies with execution and this is where the real challenge lies.
The business hyperfixation on ‘the numbers’ ONLY overshadows the potential transformational capability that CX Tech offers. Business leaders rely on data and they have more data than ever to decipher. A reliance on numbers and BI Dashboards is understandable when a coherent customer story becomes more complicated and even more elusive.
Customers are telling us this approach is not working well enough?
To be clear, the case for great CX has never been clearer. To quote Alyson Clarke, Principal Analyst at Research Powerhouse Forrester’s: “Customer experience (CX) leaders grow revenue faster than CX laggards, driving higher brand preference and loyalty, and can charge more for their products”.
Despite all this investment in insight aligned to continuous improvement — which sounds great in concept — customer experience in banking is not only stuttering but in some areas in decline. The situation in customer service is even worse!
Forrester has reported:
Customer trust in banks fell for the first time since 2018 — a quite significant two per cent points in 2022 over 21.
Forrester’s US 2023 customer index showed that despite 80 per cent of business leaders recognizing the importance of enhancing CX, only a meagre six per cent of brands reported a significant improvement in 2023, down from 10 per cent the previous year. The report analysed over 96,000 US customers across 221 brands and 13 industries.
CX quality was also found to have stalled for direct banks and dropped for multichannel banks. Whilst many direct and multichannel banks reported customers think their experience is excellent, more than one-third still believe the experience is either poor or very poor.
It’s not all bad news, there are plenty of examples of banks who are doing quite well. It’s interesting to look at two of the leading examples in the US which have a business model slightly different to the commercial norm.
USAA and Navy Federal Credit Union. Both have Credit Union origins where the customers are also their members. The concept that your customer is also your member or shareholder should not be lost on us. Banks have been focussed on making great returns for their shareholders and this has been baked into their DNA for a very long time. Credit Unions had previously been regarded as a less interesting, less exciting and the poorer relative of their more risk hungry commercial cousins. USAA in particular is demonstrating this is not true.
Both these institutions asked different questions of themselves than their commercial cousins. Let’s look at an example of this Profit First Banks tend to ask three fundamental questions:
•How do we attract new customers to our brand?
•How do we keep them?
•How do we get them to spend ever more money with us? ie save, invest, transact.
This does not sound very customer centric does it? It appears to be the traditional profit first model that banks have espoused for centuries. Yes, it will yield great results in the short term, however, in the long term, it will only serve to alienate our customers since it focuses on value to the business, with little consideration to value to customers, value to employees, value to shareholders, and value to social agenda.
The Customer Centricity Challenge — The Execution Challenge — The Long Term Value Challenge
These are the questions posed to us by business leaders on our CX travels. They cover a wider variety of business functions, a wide variety of industries across 37 countries. The research has been carried out in a wide variety of formats but I thought it’s useful to share. The answers will be different across different companies — a great answer for company X might be terrible for company.
If we can answer them we can start to move beyond the operational CX merry go round which most have to live with:
•How can I connect to my customers in a closer way than I already do?
•How can I deliver customer outcomes and experiences that are consistently superior to my competition?
•How can I obtain meaningful insight that fuels innovation rather than just feedback?
•How can I deliver meaningful CX change more quickly without having to work “all the hours”?
•How can I influence other areas of the business to support, collaborate and reduce frustrating resistance?
•How can I build a CX movement throughout the company?
•How can I equip my staff with the capability to identify new opportunities and solve problems that traditional service excellence cannot?
•How can I get all my staff to genuinely engage and go that extra mile when serving customers?
•How can I educate leadership so they understand and champion the customer agenda and in a way I can get better support?
The good news is the answers to these questions need insight and lots of it. We need to be a bit cleverer in how we use it. Traditional customer experience thinking does not do a good job in doing this. And before anybody jumps and down screams “foul” — ask yourself why customer experience is still treated by most as a cost centre?
Are all those CEO’s and Heads of Finance all wrong? Or do we need to up our game, take Customer Experience into Customer Centricity and be recognised as the Profit Centre the discipline should be aspiring for?
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