Customer Experience: Are We There Yet?

By Tamir Sigal

Here’s what we learned from a CXO panel.

Most likely, many banking executives charged with managing the customer experience (CX) for their organizations did not anticipate having their current role. However, the growing trend to focus on end-to-end customer experience brought increasing respect to—and dependence on—CX as a discipline.

And it gave birth to a new position—the CX executive.

So, where did these intrepid individuals come from? Earlier on, you might have met them in various marketing positions, such as customer service or call center management. The bigger question, though, may be how they manage to persevere and prevail in a loosely-defined, yet often closely-scrutinized, position?

To gain perspective on the current state of CX and its players, a team from GMC Software spoke to a panel of seven CX leaders from the financial services and insurance industries. While I can’t share the interviewees’ names, I can tell you about them, and what we learned from them.

Their titles varied—chief marketing officer, chief customer officer, etc.—with additional descriptors added such as strategic initiatives, digital marketing and consumer products. Despite the variety in titles, they all agreed that the CX discipline not only is here to stay—it also has a long way to go.

We also found out that these CX executives know there is no single channel that benefits CX exclusively. Their goal is channel integration—ensuring that their organization services customers in the way they want to be serviced. That involves identifying how the customer prefers to engage with the business. Bank customers should be able to start something on the phone and finish online or face-to-face as they choose.

The challenge is to differentiate by creating a way for customers to self-select how they want to interact with a company.

In achieving this differentiation, the panel of financial services CX executives we spoke to said they face a multitude of hurdles. Many of them are technical. Here are a few obstacles that were mentioned:

  • Too many channels – Many experiences take place across multiple devices, platforms and channels, but they are treated as discrete actions because there are no systems in place to combine the relevant data. Without the ability to see the experience in its entirety, it isn’t possible to maintain consistent brands and messages.
  • The CX technology landscape – Technologies are emerging to help CX executives tackle the complexities of their mission, but they need to sell the value of those solutions to their organizations. It’s difficult to convince IT and finance to support a new system that is expensive to integrate across different platforms. Our panel of experts finds that complex legacy systems don’t have to be a barrier to improving the overall customer experience because there are ways to use customer communications management software to tap into existing systems.
  • Funding – Funding is always a problem because it’s hard to put a value on the customer experience. The CFO won’t want to spend money on the appearance of a store, or better web technology, or new mobile apps, if the CX professional can’t quantify the value of doing so. This also makes it difficult to get support from senior leadership in general. When CX professionals explain that improving retention will drive higher revenue, they are greeted with skepticism: finding new revenue is easier for other executives to track—and understand.
  • Education – While CX is owned by marketing in more than 60% of the organizations on our panel, it is about much more than marketing. CX leaders need to educate others to ensure that goals are well-defined and results are quantifiable. Business leaders need to understand how their organizational alignment translates to the customer.
  • Stakeholders and risk – Every customer communication, including contracts, welcome kits, invoices and statements, is part of the customer experience and many departments are involved. HR supports training for customer-facing individuals. Legal reviews onboarding and advises how best to communicate with customers. There are complex regulatory issues to be navigated. There may be penalties for gaps in the overall customer experience. IT, sales and finance all play a part and all need to be on board. Banking CX executives need to engage the entire organization to create an environment of success so that everyone in the company is incentivized to be compliant and customer-centric.

Despite these challenges, CX leaders report that they are making progress, particularly in their ability to measure engagement. In the digital and multichannel world, they are gathering more robust data about customer interactions. Once they start measuring, they are able to analyze results and work to improve them. Then they are able to go back to their CFO and point out how far they’ve moved customer engagement—and demonstrate the value of the investment.

Progress positive.

As a result of the efforts of these CX executives, the banking industry is beginning to see CX as a key business objective, not only for customer retention, but also for attracting customers, driving revenue, and creating brand advocates. More banks are putting effort into becoming customer-centric than they were five years ago.

In some cases, CX just sprouts. Our panel called this phenomenon “the mushroom approach,” which happens when the CXO role is created without infrastructure support in place. Some companies, however, are moving deliberately toward funding and supporting CX as part of their vision of the future.

Overall, CX is an emerging field, and leaders are looking to continuously reinvent the customer experience to allow customers to manage their affairs from wherever they are, regardless of time difference, device or channel. The goal is to create something entirely new and truly elevate the customer experience.

Tamir Sigal is CMO at GMC Software, a leader in customer communications. Sigal is a seasoned marketing executive with 20 years’ experience in enterprise software, governance, enterprise archiving, document management, records management and regulatory affairs. Sigal is a regular presenter at numerous industry events.