The relationship people have with their banks is probably one of the most critical ones in their lives. Certainly, it comes in to sharp focus – and crisis point - when things go wrong. As such, it was refreshing, enlightening and encouraging to hear Will Cronin, Director of CX in AIB, share the story of that bank’s evolution towards customer centricity at our recent CXPA Ireland breakfast.
With no attempt at fudging the facts: ten billion in losses in 2010, an unsustainable cost: income ratio, little or no customer trust and significant internal challenges, AIB looked to customer centricity to deliver the turnaround they needed and have secured today.
At the height of their troubles, customer research showed them that local customer relationships were a key asset for the bank. However, digital enablement was going to be key to their future success. How to align the two? Deftly, rather than to become a digital bank, they recognised that their best strategy would be to become a digitally enabled, customer focused bank. This positioning of AIB continues and is strengthened in its most recent campaigns which speak of backing customers to achieve their dreams and ambitions.
Will shared what he considers to be the key drivers of AIB’s success, as follows:
The initial strategy was conceived in 2011and also championed by the current CEO Bernard Byrne. In fact, it was a key part of his manifesto for the leadership position. Byrne said “I will continue to champion the customer agenda. I fundamentally believe we need to put customers at the heart of everything we do. The customer-first agenda was led from the top and clearly and consistently communicated at every level internally within the organisation and externally without, forming part of the narrative with investors before the IPO. The bank’s NPS score is now a key benchmark figure in the company’s annual results.
The bank realised early on that creating a customer-first culture would be critical. To facilitate this, structures were put in place to make customer-first the guiding principle of all decision-making. Will reported a number of initiatives that supported this including the appointment of Tom Kinsella, CMO as customer champion and of non-executive directors, who would champion customer-centricity at board level, and bring fresh perspectives to the director cohort, traditionally the preserve of accountants and career bankers.
Voice of the customer measurement
AIB started to take the pulse of customer attitudes with a VOC programme designed, mobilised and managed by W5 in 2013. At that time, Will claimed the organisation did not have the structure in place to listen or act upon what customers had to say, but a benchmark had been set.
From this point, the bank went on to develop a customer experience strategy, all the time augmenting and expanding the VOC programme to the point that today they have an assessment of how well the bank is delivering for its customers, based on approximately 70,000 opinions annually, across seventeen journeys. The programme is ongoing, talks to customers every day, and is integrated with customer listening across complaints and social media. Interestingly, as the programme expanded and significant financial and other resources invested in it, mystery shopping was discontinued to make way for what Will referred to as ‘true, honest customer feedback’.
For Will the strength of the VOC is that it allows the business to have conversations with stakeholders where they can acknowledge their view and support, inform or counter it with the evidence of customer opinion which is more important.
AIB has moved its NPS score from plus one at the beginning of their programme to plus forty-one today. The challenge for AIB now is that whilst in the beginning they were making great strides, consistently improving on poor scores, it is more challenging to continuously improve when their overall performance is much better and customers’ expectations continue to rise and rise.
With over seventeen customer journeys identified, AIB prioritised specific journeys to improve. One particular journey they looked at was the loan decline journey. Identified from the VOC research as an area of annoyance for customers, Will and the team delved beneath the feedback to find a solution: changing scripts to show more empathy, giving reason for declines and leaving the door open for further applications. As a result, NPS improved from minus 31 to plus 36 in a twelve month period.
It was interesting and perhaps salutary to hear from Will, despite all their success in AIB, his experience underlines the fact that there is no magic bullet for CX. Simply put, he said, ‘If you take your foot off the gas, the performance will fall’. He referred to their experience with the loan decline journey to make this point. Thinking they had fixed this journey and moving their attention to another one, the loan decline journey scores fell again, requiring sustained attention.
In many respects, it may be said that AIB has been restored to form, landing the largest IPO in Europe in 2017 and raising €3.4 billion and bringing the total repayments to the State up to €10.5bn. It is understood they have even bolder ambitions – including that for their NPS score. Now at plus forty one the ambition is to match overseas exemplars with a plus 70 score for priority journeys. We watch with interest.
Will Cronin, CX Director AIB was speaking at a CXPA Ireland event.
CXPA (Customer Experience Professionals Association) Ireland is the Irish chapter of the global CXPA organisation that comes together to promote and develop Customer Experience best practice. As a rapidly growing organisation we are keen to welcome new members and anyone with an interest in CX to become involved. Please contact the CXPA here at firstname.lastname@example.org join.