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How to Become a More Customer-Centric Function

Banks' operations teams want to put customers at the center of their work in 2017 but, given their limited contact with customers, it's not always apparent how to do so; three leading firms provide some ideas

Financial services executives will be putting a lot of time and effort into “building a customer centric mindset” for their firm this year. More than four fifths (85%) of them say it is a “very important” priority for 2017, according to CEB data.

But while the vast majority agree about the importance of such a phrase, few agree on what it actually is. One head of operations in CEB’s network of financial services operations teams defined customer centricity as “keeping the customer at the heart of everything the bank does in terms of priorities, decisions, and design of experiences.” Another sums it up as, “Being customer centric is not just about understanding our customers, it is about understanding their mindsets and perspectives.”

Regardless of how management teams define customer centricity, there is little doubt that the majority of financial services products are commoditized. And so it’s often left to customer service to differentiate leaders from the laggards.

Three Steps to Take

There is a perception in banks’ operations teams that only employees who deal directly with customers have any impact on the customer, but the way operations employees understand and – essentially – work on behalf of the customer is just as critical as any customer-facing role. And while it is easy to get caught up in more traditional performance metrics in a production environment, what operations leaders really want their staff to worry about is providing value to customers as efficiently as possible.

Some of the most forward thinking financial services firms are now making headway in building a more customer centric operations function. Here are three ideas that could be helpful to others.

  1. Don’t try to fit the customer into your process, design the firm’s processes to fit the customer journey: Rob de Ridder of Danske Bank says that his organization has traditionally solved problems by thinking about how the customer fits into an existing process.

    But reframing their thinking to ask, “How do we fit into the customer journey?” has made a big difference. By thinking about how the bank can provide an experience that is similar to what customers expect outside of financial services has led the team to some very different questions and solutions.

  2. Measure performance based on experience customers receive: Rather than compensating mortgage advisors on the size of the loan, the fintech Sindeo, an online mortgage marketplace, compensates its mortgage advisors with a salary and a flat-fee for each loan they close — aligning with the company’s mission that every customer is treated the same.

    In addition, mortgage advisors and operations staff receive bonuses based on NPS score— so they are incentivized to create a great experience for the customer.

  3. Develop your own customer service strategy to improve the customer experience: Operations teams can become disconnected from the firm’s customer experience strategy when they view their primary role as processing work to fulfill a strategy set by the front-line executives.

    One operations team in CEB’s dedicated network took matters into their own hands and assigned specific roles within the operations function aimed at supporting new front-line strategies.

    They designed improved customer experiences, monitored “end-to-end customer processes” (what customers go through from their first point of contact with a bank to getting something for their money), and analyzing voice of the customer feedback to redesign processes.

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