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Profiling Dann Allen Leading CX Practitioner from Bank of the West

Dann has been Head of Customer Experience in the Consumer Banking division of Bank of the West for the last 3.5 years. Previous to this he was at AAA looking after customer experience in road service, travel products and auto home life insurance as well as at Sprint Telecom where we was Head of CX for the pre-paid phone division.

Dann has been profiled by Forrester in the book ‘Outside-In’ and is recognised as one of the world’s top CX practitioners.

Dann can you describe a little about Bank of the West and why you are there?

Bank of the West’s Consumer Banking division comprises 6,500 employees in 550 branches over 19 states in the Western USA and has a historic reputation for excellence in customer service. I was brought in as the division did not have one person governing customer experience. They also wanted to take customer experience to the next level particularly with pressures from the larger banks who have actively improving their digital proposition and after we ourselves had stagnated in the JD power satisfaction ratings.

What have been your main successes at Bank of the West?

Transitioning the bank to Net Promoter (NPS) has been one of them.

Previously the company was using a set of measures that were a little hard to understand. It was also obvious that our people needed a methodology that was easier to ‘get’ and added value to the bottom-line. However, change is difficult when employees are already used to doing things and being incentivised in a certain way.

However, through lots of education and socialisation we showed how NPS would help support them improve the customer experience and obtain more stable and meaningful results. Indeed, we I ran both sets of metrics - legacy and NPS - in parallel for a year to give people time to acclimatise to the change and see the benefits.

We are seeing some great success with this. Over the past year, NPS for Consumer customers had improved in the branch network by 9%, while for our SME customers we saw a 16% improvement. This is particularly impressive as we had a challenging year in 2016 with branch changes, downsizing, reduction in footprint, role changes and an emphasis on digital so we could catch up with the big banks.

Do you use any other metrics than NPS?

We do have other measures such as overall satisfaction, ‘ease of doing business’, ‘satisfaction with service’, cross-sell, problem resolution and % of customers with problems. Many CX vendors have come to me with various approaches but I don’t want to send mixed messages to our staff by having too many measures.

At the end of the day it’s important to be clear on our business objectives. We are a regional bank with a historically low marketing spend. So we have to grow business and share of wallet through referral and advocacy. Hence, the focus on NPS and supplementary measures to explain the drivers of NPS.

We are also aligning incentives with NPS. If you tighten up here and raise the bar on pay then that will likewise raise the bar.

What other CX programmes are you running?

We are focusing on:

Training and education of team members. We want staff to be trained in the experience we want to deliver (previously there never had been any training). To do this we have assigned training to our new hires through our Learning & Development (L&D) system. A lot of our best practice libraries have been developed in-house. Our customer facing teams also have daily huddles and if there is positive feedback we encourage this to be shared with the team and successes are celebrated. At the moment the L&D group is creating material so we can provide more CX training.

A recovery programme for NPS. If a branch does not come in at a certain % of target within one quarter then we have a recovery programme where we re-educate and train them on the experience to deliver as well as give examples of best practice CX. This has had a high success rate.

We are emphasising coaching a lot more. There are a couple of people we have who help out on webinars, understanding best practices and provide relevant information. We also provide a live WebEx training session once per month.

With training we are also building in our brand promise. Since customer experience is a manifestation of the brand promise, we worked with executive stakeholders to develop a CX vision. To do that we break it down into its phases of the experience and define what we need to do around that. For instance, how do we want our customers to feel across key moments of truth, e.g., feeling valued, educated, happy with problem resolution, and service.

What have been your biggest challenges at Bank of the West?

There are some big challenges in the USA with regulation. The thing is, how do we balance all of these while providing a great customer experience? It’s very difficult to do, sometimes you have to ask certain questions that customers may feel are intrusive and they don’t want to answer.

Another thing is obtaining investment $ for CX. Here we have some legacy systems that are antiquated. And the number of systems or applications impacts the staff experience. With so many how do they learn that? How do you wrap this together to make it a cohesive experience? Interest rates are also low so it's not so easy to have the money invest.

To ensure we continue to improve, I have set up a CX Council that meets about 4 times per year. Here we take in and catalogue all pain points from council members, complaints, market research, surveys, focus groups, benchmark data and so forth. In the council we look to define some root-causes, find who owns the issue and work with them on their current projects or to stand-up a new project. The only issue is that new projects require new funding, so we try to get things on the roadmap or conduct more research to demonstrate that these issues are important.

Another way we handle things is through mitigation. If there is no money, we get the team to try and mitigate the pain point as much as possible. For instance, providing additional information on the website. Take for instance an issue with bill payment, we could fix it but have no budget, so we put a message on line to let customer know what to expect and how they can compensate.

Finally, what have been some of your successes prior to Bank of the West?

One of my big successes was at Sprint. There I worked in the pre-paid division. We put in place Experience Designers. These are people who did not have any formal training in user design, but always thought about what is best for the customer. We integrated them into the product development teams which included representatives from marketing, IT and operations.

That enabled us to get to market quickly with new products and services. For instance, we found an issue on the customer authentication journey. In the USA, you have to set up authentication measures and maintain these; if the customer forgets they have to go through another journey. By using call center dispositioning data and identifying why calls failed authentication, we found that customers in one of our core segments were inadvertently being made to feel inadequate. That led to us revamping the authentication journey, which was a challenge for our legal team. However, we did improve it and it saved over $2m per year in OPEX. This work won the Circle of Excellence Award at Sprint.

In AAA, I found a lack of customer segmentation. Everyone was being treated the same, the company never looked at customer profitability. We were losing money on some segments by over delivering. So I brought in customer segmentation. We worked with marketing analytics where we developed predictive models to look at future customer value. This led to a three tier segmentation. Of course everyone gets great service, but the more highly profitable receive differential service. In implementing this over 18 months our customer lifetime value rose by $59 million.



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