Member Q&A: ATB Financial's Shannon Burch on Customers' Changing Expectations

By Emily Cowan posted 01-24-2019 12:00 AM

Few customers have reason to walk into their local bank branch these days, which creates new challenges but also new opportunities for enhancing customer experience. In this interview, @Shannon Burch, Market Vice President at ATB Financial, shares how this technological shift in personal finance is shaping customer expectations in new and surprising ways.
Execs In The Know: Pretty much every sector has experienced significant technological shifts in recent years. What are you seeing in the banking industry?

Shannon Burch: I started in customer experience way back in university. I worked in retail and also with the Motor Association - both customer-centric jobs focused on creating happiness for customers. After I left university I took that desire and passion to help people into a career in the banking sector, first in roles directly facing the customer (as a financial planner or business lender) and, for the past 15 years, leading those teams to design strategies that ensure our customers have an amazing experience.Over time I’ve seen a much wider recognition of CX having real, measurable value for the organization. Brands now see customer loyalty in terms of return on investment in the human resources and new technologies that improve customer experience.

EITK: Banking definitely seems like one of those sectors that relies on customer loyalty over “sex appeal.”

Shannon: Yes, until very recently I’d say customers saw banking as just a basic service. You didn’t have to have a real “wow” experience as long as the line wasn’t too long and your transactions went smoothly. What customers are telling us today is that they are expecting way more from their banking experience. What you’re using your bank for now is to achieve your goals and dreams and all those things that make you happy! It might be buying the house or car that best fits your family or feeling good about your retirement plans. There are emotions tied to those experiences, and customers have a new level of expectation for how those needs are met.

EITK: CX always has an emotional component. How do you operationalize a feeling?

Shannon: That’s the piece that we’ve been spending a lot of time on. When you get right down to it, banking products are pretty much the same. It’s like going into a grocery store to buy a can of soup - you can go into any number of grocery stores and buy the exact same brand of soup. It’s the same with banking; the actual product is basically the same, so it’s really about earning customers’ trust - mainly by listening actively and educating proactively. Customers are expecting personalization of service and a certain level of ease, but they also want to feel confident and knowledgeable enough to make smart financial decisions for their future. 

We are beginning to use proactive analytics to help our customer see around the next corner. For digital customers we use messaging to stimulate thought around how they can achieve certain financial goals they may find useful - 529s for saving for education, etc. On the flip side, we definitely have next-best conversation tools, which help advisors reach customers with relevant conversations and advice or conversations transition to additional information that the customer will value. Whenever possible, we use data to enhance the customer experience.

Believe it or not, proactive contact is the number one thing customers say they want to see from their bank. Accuracy is a very close second, but the number-one expectation is that banks take proactive steps to help customers understand what they need and how they can achieve their goals. That’s something we didn’t see a few years ago.

EITK: What do you think accounts for the change?

Shannon: It’s because banking is no longer about the branch. We’ve created efficiency in other channels for transactions; in some cases customers can see the impact of a transaction on their accounts real time. Although customers do not need the branch for transactions they do still require expertise in how to achieve their personal financial goals. Customers find extreme value in receiving that advice proactively based on the data the bank has about them.

So we’re focusing on contact strategies, not solutions - we’re talking about conversations around education and financial literacy. There are so many things happening with the global economy, and what does that mean for the individual customer? They have to be thinking about those kinds of things so we’re really focused on how we communicate that out. It’s all about education.

EITK: What’s biggest challenge you’re tackling right now?

Shannon: I think one of the biggest hurdles we’re facing in CX is consistency. Brands talk about great strategies, but how do you get consistency in delivery across wide and varied distribution channels? I am always very focused on having conversation with customers.

We’re using alternate channels for sure. We find that phone is a secondary or even tertiary channel for most customers, especially when we’re trying to be proactive. It’s all too easy for our calls to roll over to voicemail, never to be returned. We’ve been really focused on SMS and email. In both cases not really the meat of the conversation but something that would pique interest even if it doesn’t always trigger an immediate response. 

We’re also very particular about encouraging customers to choose their preferred channel. We have to be good at meeting the customer where they want to have the conversation. There’s no telling customers that such-and-such a conversation would be better had in person or via phone. You have to be sensitive to channel or the conversation doesn’t happen - and that doesn’t help anyone.

EITK: What makes you excited to get to work each morning?

Shannon: For me it’s about how fast things are changing! Customer experience has evolved at a high velocity. I think we’re really on the cusp of changing the mindset from, “My banking experience is OK” to “I want to interact with my bank today because it makes me happy to know I can achieve my financial goals with the knowledge they provide.”

I’m very focused on how we train our own people using technology that helps them deliver a better customer experience. For example, chatbots that “listen” to our employee-customer interactions, not just directing the customer to an answer but also providing the employee with the right information to talk over with the customer for a truly seamless experience. That’s been the biggest gap in CX: We train our employees and then they go to work. But “the work” is changing all the time. How do you keep them up to date and challenge them to keep thinking of new conversations that engage customers?

We are looking for new ways to help employees strengthen their conversations. Due to the high emotion involved with financial goals, a combination of human and machine must elevate the experience and will continue to put pressure on the conversation to be engaging, advisory, and trustworthy.


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