Customer centricity is the difference between intent and action, says NAB

Head of customer experience design says companies need to start planning products and services from the 'outside in' using customer data and perspective

NAB's head of customer experience design, Louise Long
NAB's head of customer experience design, Louise Long

Organisations may be increasingly striving to become customer centric, but it’s only those who can bridge the gap between desirability and capability that will make it happen in a sustainable way.

That’s the view of NAB’s head of customer experience design, Louise Long, who caught up with CMO at the recent Forrester Summit for Marketing and Strategy Professionals in Sydney to discuss how the bank is making customer centricity a reality through her customer experience team’s efforts.

According to Long, the tipping point for organisations looking to be truly customer-centric is the move from intent to the ability to achieve it.

“The evolution is the intent for everyone to be customer centric, to knowing what that means - that is the leap for organisations,” she said. “Nobody goes to work to do a bad job, and no one goes to work saying they don’t care about the customer.

“For me, the focus is on building capability and ensuring people have the ability to be more customer-centric. I think that’s where the barriers come from – they have the intent/desire, but not the capability.”

Since 2008, Long has headed up a dedicated customer experience team advising on NAB’s product products and services development. While the team sits under the product division, it regularly works with multi-functional groups including marketing, IT and legal and includes staff with skills as diverse as marketing and brand leadership to project management, human factors design and digital.

“Everyone has come from different disciplines and it comes back to that idea that you need a lot of different ways of thinking to solve problems,” Long said.

The customer experience team has its own a design room and holds weekly open meetings where people from across the organisation can ‘bounce’ ideas, as well as discuss the impact the work they are doing will have on customer engagement. The team often takes the role of ‘facilitator’, helping to bring different staff together in a room to work together on projects and changes to business products and services, she said.

During her presentation at the Forrester Summit, Long emphasised the need to look at customer experience “from the outside in”. All too often, organisations look at solving a business issue, rather than a customer one, she said.

“Lots of organisations may want to get closer to the customer, but if you listen carefully to what stakeholders or your colleagues are saying, what they’re really looking at is the point where your customer is touching your product,” Long said. “What they’re asking about is the business need, let’s say around a customer credit card. They want to know what happens when someone buys a credit card and the questions they’ll want to answer.

“We should know and learn all about what customers are using our products for. But what would happen if we went back to the customer and instead of zooming in, looked from the ‘outside in’? What are all the things impacting the customer’s experience of our products? It’s not just the card design or where it’s accepted, it’s bigger than that.”

Customer-centric elements include rational factors which a brand can contribute to, as well as emotional factors ranging from societal influencers and education to religion, cultural etiquette and social standing, Long said. There are also goals, such as life stages, the customer’s desires and aspirations.

Long noted brands often overinflate the role their products play in a customer’s life, or fail to recognise products are most important at a specific point in time based on a person’s interests and needs.

“Customers don’t want products, they want relevant solutions,” she said. “We need to understand the whole context of the customer, not just the point at which they interact.

“Yet our organisations are structured so that we think about customers as ‘credit card customers’ or ‘home loan customers’, and we manage them in different silos.”

To help NAB craft more customer-centric solutions, Long’s team uses customer personas based on a raft of real customer data as a starting point, and the plots the journey they might take. Another technique is service blueprinting, which looks at what is both visible to the customer as well as operating in the back-end, to better understand how products can solve customer problems.

As an example, Long cited an exercise undertaken with senior leaders around its enterprise services which analysed how three different customers think and feel in certain scenarios. The focus was on their emotions, thoughts, questions, plus the physical and digital environments they interact in and who in the organisation can impact those.

“This is about understanding value chains and how everyone in the organisation plays a role for the person delivering the experience, process, system or website,” she said. “We also talk to the customers to understand what motivates them.”

In terms of measurement, Long said vital metrics include customer value proposition and tracking value across targeted segments, along with NPS and reciprocal value between the business and customer. As a team, transparency is vital.

She also pointed out the insights delivered to product managers helps ensure they are more informed and make sustainable decisions.

“There’s less risk in developing new products as we’re not building them, then trying to find customers,” Long added. “It’s also a more predictable outcome in terms of market acceptance.”

Is NPS the right customer-centric metric?

Long believed everyone in the organisation needs to own customer experience, and agreed metrics such as the Net Promoter Score (NPS) can be a useful way of rallying the whole organisation around a single point of outcome. However, she pointed out measurement is one piece of the puzzle; methodology is another.

“NPS at its core is about data and managing data, listening to customers and responding in a timely manner in a closed feedback loops,” she commented. “You can do all of those things without NPS. NPS is just one way to measure advocacy and act on customer feedback.”

Long also referenced a comment made to her by the head of customer experience at Emirates, that customer experience should be positioned in a similar way to other company assets, such as brand.

“What he told me is that if you get asked by finance how you measure customer experience, ask them how they measure their input. Because customer experience is as much the lifeblood of the business as finance is,” she said. “It’s about managing the stuff you need to survive as a company.”

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