Bankers reflect on failures as they evolve their customer strategies

Illustration of journey mapping process

The idea of a customer-obsessed culture, Amazon’s oft-cited mantra, is making its way into bankers’ customer approaches. One pillar of this is owning up to failures.

“You have to have something that might not work, and you have to accept that your business, in many ways, is an experiment and it might fail,” Amazon’s CEO Jeff Bezos once said. At the Customer Experience in Financial Services conference this week, practitioners sounded off on some of their key failures and lessons. Here are the major takeaways:

Study the target market
What might work in one market isn’t necessarily going to work in another. Alyona Medelyan, CEO of customer insights platform Thematic, which works with bank clients, reflected on a situation where a client institution was experiencing difficulties scaling their credit card offering in the Canadian market. The client asked Thematic to delve into the reasons the product wasn’t resonating with customers.

A study of the comments drawn from the customer data platform revealed the cards were not working. “It turns out, Canadian credit cards are different. They took U.S. credit cards when they went to Canada to test it, so they didn’t actually notice it,” Medelyan noted. “[It] really forces you to look at it from a different perspective and utilize data that you already have.”

Lose the ego
Being personally invested in a project’s success can have its downsides. Joe Colca, director and senior vice president of digital experience at VyStar Credit Union, pointed to the necessity to be guided by data in the rollout of a product strategy and not to be overly influenced by personal biases.

Colca remarked on a product rollout that was more informed by a belief in the project than an assessment of what customers actually wanted.  “[When] you get invested into the idea, ego comes into play,” he said. “What ends up happening sometimes is you continue to go through all the data to find those itty bitty proof points that make sense.”

Solve for the right problems
At times, solving for one problem might bring up other issues an organization isn’t addressing effectively. Kate Rush, senior vice president and director of customer experience at Bangor Savings Bank, reflected on a recent instance where the bank saw an uptick in attempted card fraud. The bank team immediately focused on devising solutions to stamp out fraud and re-issue cards. However, after personally visiting the call center, she realized another issue wasn’t being addressed in the most efficient way: speed and efficacy of responses.

“The pain point was actually wait times and our call center, and  just shifting our look at the situation helped drive us to derive a different response,” Rush said. “When you have a problem and can handle it well, it is an opportunity to actually double down and reinforce your brand message.”

The small things matter
Banks, like other customer-facing businesses, need to balance the short-term and longer-term initiatives to improve customer relationships. While major projects require significant investments in time, technology and money, it’s important not to lose sight of simple moves to improve customer trust.

“The quick wins are really important — for example, that coding change that will save three steps at the agent level,” said Richard Dorfman, vice president of customer experience at Eastern Bank. “Those are the ones that can make a difference quickly, and the success that you share with your teams will create more momentum.”