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Increasing the Net Worth of the Customer Experience

ING Netherlands Is Uniquely Customer Centric

ING's goal is to be different than other banks. Customer experience is one way the financial services firm sets itself apart from the competition. The company delivers that experience using a blend of collaboration and accountability.

"The model we have is like making a movie," says Kim Verhaaf, head of customer intelligence for ING. "You need a film director, somebody who sets up the lights, and the like. Marketing has the role of directing the movie. They explain what needs to be done. If you look at product management and channels, they are responsible for how it is done. For example, if we want to run a new campaign in the Internet channel, marketing says, 'We would like to run a new campaign in the Internet channel. These are the commercial targets. These are the people we want to reach. This is the value proposition.' But how it is implemented is the responsibility of the Internet channel, as long as these things are getting delivered."

This approach means the customer experience isn't managed from any one department; it's a company-wide effort. Customer intelligence, for example, manages the research and measurement aspects of the customer experience, while its execution is handled in various areas: in the channels, in the processes, and in the marketing choices ING makes, Verhaaf says.

Consequently, ING has a special steering committee comprising five board members who are responsible for the overall customer experience strategy and the implementation of this strategy. The committee includes Hans Hagenaars (marketing), Karen Bergstein (product management), Michael Koutstaal (direct channels: Internet, phone, mail), Ferdi Jonkman (face channels: branch offices, intermediaries, sales forces), and Bart Schlatmann (COO). 

"My colleagues and I report to them every month on what's happening on improving customer experience," says Verhaaf, who reports to Hagenaars. 

Verhaaf's team is charged with making recommendations on ways their colleagues in channel operations and marketing can improve the customer experience. "What we [in customer intelligence] provide is the insight on what needs to be done," he says. "I'm not in the position to say, 'OK, we have to do this.' I will go to marketing and say that we conducted research on, for example, ING's image and discovered that a few things need to be fixed. Our advice is to fix them. That's how the model works."

The customer intelligence organization has three main goals: research, campaign management, and credit risk modeling. Research projects include such analysis as how big is the market for mortgages, or what decisions people make before they take a mortgage. "We have about 25 people who do about 500 research projects per year," Verhaaf says. 

Verhaaf's team also includes 25 database marketers who oversee campaign management—they are responsible for spotting new database opportunities—and a team of six who conduct credit risk modeling. "ING has almost 8.1 million customers and we know almost everything about those customers," he says. 

This approach has driven several customer experience improvements. For example, ING found that many of the questions customer service was receiving were related to becoming a customer. Additionally, a great deal of cost goes into managing the sign-up process. So that became an area of change. In the Netherlands it takes about three weeks on average to become a customer of a bank before having a fully operational account, including a working bank card. "We have rolled out in several branch offices a process that in 30 minutes you have a fully operational account," Verhaaf explains. "You go in and after 30 minutes, you have a temporary debit card, your Internet banking works, etc. You can use it instantly."

ING is planning to roll out the program this year to most of its branches for specific types of individual accounts (co-owner accounts take a bit longer.

Verhaaf can't reveal specific results, but says The 30-minute account setup is delivering a positive Net Promoter Score (NPS), which is a major improvement, he says.

Measures of success

Increasing its NPS is one of the bank's customer experience goals. To do so management has defined several targets that influence NPS, such as operational excellence. If the bank sets an expectation that customers will receive a new debit card within five days, for example, it will measure whether customers are actually receiving their cards within five days. "It's not only good for the customer," Verhaaf says, "but it's also good for us because the better we are in this, the fewer mistakes we make and the lower our costs.

Performance is another target area. "We always want to give the customer the best possible advice, within our abilities to do so, of course," he adds. "So we check whether our products match customers' needs and expectations and whether we are delivering the right products and not, for example, exactly what other companies offer." 

Additionally, the bank works toward delivering a consistent customer experience across channels—one that meets customer expectations. "We would like to give customers the feeling that they're being helped," Verhaaf says. "To know if we're going the right direction we have to put measurements in place." 

The bank uses NPS to measure several areas. "We ask the NPS question to our customers, but we do not have one NPS, we have 47 instances because we are measuring NPS with segments, we're measuring NPS in products, and we're measuring NPS with channels," says Verhaaf. "We also ask the 'Are you satisfied?' question because people will say yes, but then we ask, 'Would you recommend us?' and people say no. There is a difference." 

NPS does not identfy root causes for dissatisfaction. For this reason, ING also conducts what it calls driver research. The goal is to determine what causes increases in NPS and customer satisfaction, as well as dissatisfaction. ING's improvement areas are based on those drivers.

Additionally, the bank tracks customer contact metrics for every channel. For example, there are typically three appointments for every mortgage application. After each appointment ING asks the customer what could be improved for the next one, and was he satisfied or not. This allows the bank to monitor customer experience progress down to the channel level, the department level within the channel, and even the employee level—the surveys allow the bank to know what people are saying about a mortgage advisor, for instance.

Finally, ING conducts transaction measurements on its 25 main processes. "ING has 8,000 processes," says Verhaaf. "It's impossible to measure 8,000 processes."

Ultimately, those measures are about rethinking the customer experience. "It's not about the metric; it's about the culture," Verhaaf says. "And what needs to be done within the financial industry is to change the culture and to make it more customer-focused."

Over the past year ING has made customer experience relevant for everybody in the organization. "We always use this example," Verhaaf explains. "You lose your debit card; you want a new one. 

How does that process go? You will contact the bank's call center. The associate says, 'We will replace that card for you.' The associate is very friendly because it's a direct contact. Then that call goes to the back office because the card has to be sent, etc. If the associate is friendly, but the person in the back office forgets to send the card, then the overall customer experience is a negative one. That's why everybody has a 35 percent target for customer experience."

The changes to ING's metrics, processes, culture, and the like are transforming the bank into a more customer-centric organization. It's a work in progress. "ING is a big, big company so change doesn't happen overnight," Verhaaf says. "It starts with making customer experience an important issue. We have done that by putting in the new targets. Then you get the conversations between employees and managers: 'OK, what needs to be done to improve the customer experience?' It's something that has to grow over time."