The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the thought leader and not those of CeFPro.
By Martin Lange, Director, Client Experience Strategy, BNY Mellon
Why is it important to establish a mature client experience practice?
There are two fundamental reasons that are interconnected.
- We are surrounded today by experiences in our work place and in our personal life that range from lacklustre to exceptional. It does not matter what industry a company operates in, in the end there will be human beings making decisions about awarding business based on current and past experience alongside pure rational and economic factors. And the experience that a company delivers will be directly compared to the last best experience an individual had, regardless whether that was job related or not. And consciously or unconsciously the evaluation of that experience will influence the business decision. Which leads to…
- Many studies from large analyst and consulting firms that have observed the investment behaviours of firms into Client Experience related disciplines and execution all conclude the same: firms with a focus on delivering exceptional client experience, whether in sales, marketing, servicing, interface design or offboarding, all excel in the most important commercial KPIs: top and bottom line growth as well as shareholder value increase. A well established CX discipline does not only drive better acquisition or retention KPIs, but also drives down servicing cost if executed correctly.
How has digital transformation influenced client experience?
Digital transformation itself is a hard to define term. Likely no firm would say that they are not on some path to transform, but the meaning of this can be very different from each firm. In our eyes, this transformation is equally application of new technologies in areas that have traditionally been executed more manually, as well as the change in how we work and deliver to the market. This is almost more of a culture change than a technology evolution. In that way, CX actually fits into both aspects. It brings new working methods and disciplines to the table, e.g. design thinking, conversational design or content strategy. But it also refocuses the importance of the user experience within software design as more and more interactions happen via software interfaces, chatbots and more and more APIs, which pose a new level of challenge to define the end user experience. In that way, digital transformation has allowed the CX discipline to flourish and bring its strengths to bear.
What is the cornerstone of a CX strategy?
The term “client” experience mandates an in-depth understanding of the actual client. And we can define “client” in many different ways, whether that is an industry segment (asset manager), a function within a company (chief investment officer) or a human being (Martin, software engineer, in charge of API governance, passionate user of chat systems). This is the reason we rely heavily on qualitative research to really understand our clients’ goals and needs in context of their business. It is not sufficient to merely monitor processes and mitigate potential break points. CX as a discipline is much more impactful when it looks to find solutions to help clients achieve their goals, by understanding their expressed or deducted needs. In that way we promote a strict outside-in view to provide an open area for innovation, minus the constraints of status quo operating models. If one then marries this qualitative insight with continual monitoring of client satisfaction across all roles and functions, we can make very informed decision about product and service evolution or opportunities. Another critical element for a successful practice is the ability to execute. Which leads to the next question.
What advice would you give when navigating cultural differences?
Companies are often culturally defined by the industry they are in. Having worked across almost all industries from soft drinks to automotive to custody banking it becomes evident that some of the most fundamental drivers of success in an industry are also their cultural drivers (e.g. engineering exellence, user experience or operational efficiency). And CX does not always play well with an inherent cultural driver. In order to be successful, one has to understand the KPIs of the various disciplines in a company and their relative importance to the overall success of the company within that industry. I personally have taken a while to understand the importance of risk management and technological and operational complexity and their KPIs, which leads to productive co-existence and elevates all disciplines. We as practitioners always talk about understanding our clients by empathising with them. We need to be doing an equally good job with our peers from other disciplines internally.
How has the COVID pandemic influence client experience?
My favourite cartoon is a group of executive committee members sitting in a corner office, concluding that digital transformation won’t impact them in the near future. While a wrecking ball with “Covid-19” painted over it is descending on the building. Yes, the pandemic is accelerating the adoption of digital ways of working (who has a fax in their home to receive daily reports?). And with that we need to accelerate the way we think about the digital client experience.
Very tactically though, and in terms of how we work: our practice has been highly reliant on in-person interviews, observations and workshop-type formats of work. We have successfully shifted this way of working to an entire virtual environment that works to an extent even better than the physical environment (think of a war room that you won’t have to give up after 6 weeks). We are missing the human to human connections and the subtleties that this might allow us to deduct insights from.
Covid-19 has “helped the discipline” in critical ways: it has elevated the need for brilliant digital experiences, but it has also accelerated new virtual ways of working that are here to stay.