5 technology lessons in creating customer-first banking experiences

Australia’s financial services organisations are in the spotlight right now for customer experiences, and what they can do to improve and regain customer trust.

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Australia’s financial services organisations are in the spotlight right now for customer experiences, and what they can do to improve and regain customer trust.

Digital and technology capability, along with a healthy and privacy-minded approach to customer data, are key elements in this mix, making the role of the technology leader a vital one in creating customer-first banking experiences.

During this week’s Salesforce World Tour, technology chiefs from three of Australia’s financial institutions participated in a panel to discuss what it takes to tackle the very real challenges of being more customer-led, and key learnings they’ve picked up along the way.

Shake up your internal workforce operating model

NAB head of technology-broker aggregation, Stam Gonopolous, said four key areas were in the spotlight as the group brought 2800 instances of Salesforce CRM instances and data systems into one to improve the broker and end-customer experience. Called Podium, the platform integration was a job that commenced three years ago and incorporated six months’ worth of migration work, including complex data migration and consolidation.

The first and most important element was a hefty focus on the internal workforce and building their skillsets to manage the transformation program of work from within.

“We used some specialists where required, but this was about us focusing on internal teams, engineers and making sure they developed,” Gonopolous said. “Once the program is over, you want to leave that legacy behind and have people maximising your investment.”  

NAB’s adoption of Agile in the years prior to the CRM program of work was also a key way of accelerating the change program. This saw NAB’s technology operating model shift, with staff working on the CRM work restructured and stacked into squads incorporating delivery, infrastructure, operations and develops team.

“This meant they built it, owned it and ran it as a concept,” Gonopolous said. “We also introduced a three-way leadership model. This meant you were very clear with a delivery owner looking after the project side, a product owner and a technology owner. Together, you are empowered to make decisions and move forward. It wasn’t a decision by governance or committee, it was three people united, deciding what is right for the platform.”  

On the engineering side, this also allowed the NAB team to focus on getting those technical things right as it worked to overcome things like product limitations.

“We adopted a shift-left mentality, so we tested in as early in the lifecycle as possible and automating where we could. We also put in the right monitoring tools,” Gonopolous said.

And the result? “We are now in a state where we can maximise investment we made and deliver features at pace with brokers, keeping up with the market as well as compliance,” Gonopolous said.  

Foster a continuous user and customer engagement loop

For Gonopolous, another major part of getting things right was engagement with both business owners (the brokers) and end customers – lots of it and early on.

“A big thing we did which proved to be successful was not only interviewing and surveying brokers, but also getting them into the office as part of an ongoing working group,” he explained. “The brokers and their representatives had a say, they influenced our roadmap and made decisions. We’d show them proof of concepts and they’d assess if it was right or wrong. The feedback loop was really important throughout the program.

“We also focused on the broker experience – a key pivot point. There are so many organisations that would see this as a difficult tech problem and go down the route of tech remediation only. That would have solved the organisation problem but it’s not good for the owner. So we pivoted to a broker-experience first approach, mapping out that experience.

“We want it to be a good journey for them and improve the way they operate.”  

Determine your course of platform action

Over at People’s Choice Credit Union, transformation lead for digital and technology programs, Sean Cummins, is one year into a journey to put members at heart of what the financial services providers does. And that meant members had to be the North Star, followed by technology and digital capability.

“We made a conscious decision to go operating model first. That helped us keep focus on members as we did the more technical implementation,” he said.  

The credit union also separated underlying tech and member experience, something Cummins said allowed flexibility to meet changing and evolving member needs. This has seen the highly configurable front-end experience decoupled from the more laboured back-end systems, which play an instrumental role in ensuring customer data is managed, secure and available.

“When we’re talking about experience, we want to be flexible in what that is. Consumer expectations are changing by the minute, you have great stuff happening with competitors; fintechs popping up, delivering new experiences to market. We are trying to keep pace with that,” he said.

“If we hardcode that experience into what is a bulky back-end system, it’s not to say we can’t do change, but it creates lengthy change windows we want to avoid. We want to respond to real-time feedback and innovation, so when members ask for a desire experience we can respond to that.”  

Get staff in the mindset of the customer

At Athena Home Loans, chief technology officer, Peter Georgiou, said it’s constantly striving to put customer experiences front and centre with every staff member. One way is through a customer insights Slack channel, its most popular, where all customer verbatims are shared and discussed.

From the really early days, his technology team has also taken its sprint showcase concept and maxxed it out across the business through weekly showcases, and often demos products from the point of view of the customer. Athena also gets customers in talking to company about their experiences and conducts direct research.

“We never miss any opportunity to highlight that across the company,” Georgiou said. “You have to start with yourself. Think about every action you do – whoever you interact with is your customer or user. That helps you put yourself in someone else’s shoes.”

Tackle the question of trust

Panellist agreed trust is a vital part of how each financial institution needs to design the experience. With open banking not too far away, and as the data marketplace expands rapidly and being consumed more readily, trust will become even more important.

“We are continually looking at consent, identity and frictionless experience in everything we do,” Cummins said.  

Trust is multi-faceted, however, and includes broader industry conditions, community expectations of any business and how it acts today, and assurance that the experience and services provided have integrity, are secure, and available and responsive to a customer’s needs. What’s more, customers expect their feedback will be acted on. It’s this all three panellists agreed they’re building into experience design.

But what can happen if you focus too much on trust is you create friction – a no-no when it comes to improving customer experiences.

“When trying to building trust in, that can come in heavy, be intrusive on experience, you might be so secure a customer can’t use the platform,” Cummins said. “A frictionless experience from a security perspective is therefore what we’re looking for. We’re fortunate many technologies available today have that in-built – look at biometrics in phones, for example.”

Copyright © 2020 IDG Communications, Inc.

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