Podcast: Realizing customer research opportunities in the digital era
Erica Todd is a Customer Insights and Research Manager at CommSec. Prior to her current role, she worked at market research agencies in Australia and the US, gaining experience on projects across a variety of industries, including automotive, FMCG, insurance, fashion, energy, childcare, and electronics.
Hear the full interview
Erica was joined by Clay Warren, Head of Digital CX at Qualtrics.
Here are a few takeaways from the discussion…
What are the consumer behavior trends you’re seeing in financial services? Is there a shift towards digital channels?
“Our business as a whole is digital...We're continually thinking about how we engage with our customers in a digital way.
One of the things that has shifted in the past six months from a customer research point of view is how we get feedback from our customers. We often have customer interviews. We would only be able to get people who could come into an office and talk to us and test our products in person.
But now with the social distancing, we are actually finding that we are using new technologies to contact them. We're doing a lot of this online. In a way, there can be drawbacks because you're not in the room, but we're actually able to access a lot more people.”
Are you able to move faster and accelerate your innovation and product, because of this pivot towards digital?
“I would say so. Every time you make a new approach, you've got to make sure that you're not doing anything that will sacrifice the quality of your results. We’re always trying to make sure we do right by the customer, but at the same time, I feel like we are really innovating.
Recently we introduced a customer support wizard. We actually used Qualtrics to do that. We wanted to try and support people who were online and needed help, without them having to call up. We felt like if they had to leave the website, it was more effort for them, so [we thought] is there a way for us to answer their questions online?
We’re getting feedback about how [customers] behave using this tool too. We can see the types of questions that they are looking to answer on the website, and we can think about ways that we can improve those experiences. Is it about educating them on how to use that part of our website? Is it about improving certain services? We've been able to learn more about our customers as well as support them at the same time.”
As you move into the new normal and businesses begin to open up, do you expect your customers to engage with CommSec in the same way they have over the last six months, or do you expect some relative “normalcy” and it’ll die down in digital?
“I think because our business is already digital, people are behaving in a similar way. We'll continue to support our customers' needs and continue to listen to them throughout our ongoing support feedback methods that we currently have. It's a two-way street -- listening to what they have to say to us and what we can do to support them.
When we're talking about a new normal, we don't want to make things confusing for customers as we shift into this new era. I think supporting them is really important.”
What advice would you give to someone who's trying to figure out what they should be measuring, how to better understand their customers, how to take action on the insights?
“In our business, we talk a lot about actionable insights. So, what can you actually do with this information? I think the briefing is extremely important. Setting those expectations at the start of any project, no matter how big or small, just thinking about what are the objectives, what do you want to know, what do you need to validate, what are your hypotheses, what information do you already have about the customers, and what are you missing. And that can really help to better direct what your approach is.
Accessibility of insights is a really key factor. It's important to share your learnings with the right people across the business, so that they can make those actionable decisions. There's no point in doing this work or having this information, if it's not shared with people.
Try to have a really customer-centric mindset and a holistic approach too. When we hear from our customers, we want to make sure that we hear from a really wide range of people so that we're making sure that we're not making unfounded statements.”
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Clay Warren (00:02):
Hi, this is Clay Warren, Head of Digital CX at Qualtrics. I want to welcome you to a podcast series that we're calling the digital playbook. In this podcast series, we'll discuss all things, digital -- digital marketing, digital analytics, digital strategy, and digital customer experience. Throughout this series, we'll invite industry experts and digital practitioners to discuss and debate these topics. Today, we're going to talk about how financial services brands are responding to this new digital-first era. Specifically, we'll talk about the impact of COVID-19 on Commonwealth Securities, or better known as CommSec, Australia's largest online stock trading firm. For this discussion, we've invited Erica Todd, manager of customer insights and research, from CommSec to join us. Welcome, Erica. Really good to have you on.
Erica Todd (00:52):
Thanks so much for having me, Clay. I'm really excited to be here.
Clay Warren (00:56):
I'm just thrilled that you've joined us today. Erica, tell us a little bit about Commonwealth Securities, what services they provide, where they're located.
Erica Todd (01:08):
Sure. Commonwealth Securities is locally known here in Australia as CommSec. It's the digital retail, broking arm of the Commonwealth Bank, which is Australia's largest bank. CommSec's full-service platform services hundreds of thousands of self-directed investors who have access to ASX-listed securities, international securities, and a wide range of trading tools. Our customers can trade online through our website or on their mobile, and they can also learn about the stock market. Our clients range from very experienced investors with an in-depth knowledge of investment strategies right down to people who are just starting out. I'll also add that last year we launched CommSec Pocket, which is a separate product. It's an app that's catered to Australians who are finding that taking the first step in investing to be too daunting. It simplifies their choice by providing them certain investment options.
Clay Warren (02:11):
Very interesting. Tell us about your role as a customer insights and research manager. Tell us about the day in the life of your role, your objectives and how those are measured. I'd love to hear more about that.
Erica Todd (02:28):
Sure. When I first joined CommSec, my focus was a bit more on the market research side of things. I worked more on ongoing, strategic research and contributed to our voice of customer program. I think some companies may call that a customer listening program -- it depends on where you are. This involves things like coordinating an action forum, consolidating and synthesizing insights and findings from our customer satisfaction tracker, diving into customer complaints, and understanding the core motivations of why our customers are contacting us. I was also tasked with designing and deploying analysis that integrated both customer satisfaction and complaints insights with our customer behavior data to provide a holistic view on customer engagement. Just over a year ago, I shifted into more of a UX-related role. My focus has now become a bit more on undertaking bespoke, agile, and ad hoc research to better understand our customers in relation to specific topics and areas, in particular relating to our digital platforms.
Erica Todd (03:34):
Through this research, my aim is to get valuable feedback about how and why our customers use our products and services as well as identify unmet customer needs and opportunities to grow. I think the dual experience of these two approaches has really helped me to understand the whole picture of our customers and also deep dive into the little pockets and different aspects of what their needs are. In terms of goals, one of my key goals is to focus our business on our existing and emerging customers, and doing this by listening to them, talking to them directly, and then recommending and advocating to drive actions. I try to support that through organizing primary and secondary research and sharing any actionable insights with colleagues, so they can essentially walk in our customer's shoe. Another goal that we're trying to look towards is to really improve the processes. In the future, we'd like to be able to broaden our research capabilities, gain access to more tools that would make our research more effective, expand the types of research we do, and think about other methods and ways that we can listen to our customers.
Clay Warren (04:49):
Very interesting. You mentioned how your role has shifted and you've been more focused on digital as of late. I'm really interested to just hear how over the past six months -- as we all know -- we've had this dramatic shift in consumer behavior in terms of how consumers are engaging with brands through digital channels, especially in financial services. Can you tell us about some of the trends that you're observing? If there's anything that you didn't expect to see in terms of feedback you're hearing from your customers, or maybe trends or insights that you've found.
Erica Todd (05:26):
I'm more on digital -- like a focus more on the digital platforms -- but our business as a whole is a digital business. Most of our customers engage with us online. I would say that we're continually thinking about how we engage with our customers in a digital way. One of the things that has shifted in the past six months from a customer research point of view is how we get feedback from our customers. We often have customer interviews. I'm based in Sydney. We would only be able to get people who could come into an office and talk to us and test our products in person -- whether it be on a computer or on a mobile app. We would get them to come in and we would watch them as they'd do it.
Erica Todd (06:14):
But now with the social distancing, we are actually finding that we are using new technologies to contact them. We're doing a lot of this online. In a way, there can be drawbacks because you're not in the room, but we're actually able to access a whole lot more people. We're not restricted just to people in Sydney. I think this could be the way that we move ahead as we engage. Even after we get out of everything that's going on right now, we can continue to talk to people all across Australia in this way. It actually hasn't been as much of a setback as we thought it could have been to do that. I think that's one of the benefits of how we're engaging with someone from a test and a research point of view.
Clay Warren (06:54):
Wow, that's really interesting. Are you recruiting panels? Are you engaging consumers within the experience and just soliciting feedback within the experience?
New Speaker (07:06):
Yes, we've done it a few different ways. Sometimes we work with a market research agency to help us recruit. We've also recruited people through our website. We've just said, "oh look if they're on the page that we're talking about," we might say, "can you give us feedback about this page? Would you be interested in having a discussion?" And then they're recruited that way. I think in the future, we're thinking about doing unmoderated discussions with them where they just have access to a particular prototype or idea that we want to put forward to them and we monitor their feedback.
Erica Todd (07:41):
At the moment we're doing moderated things, so we hire a moderator who talks directly to them. They ask the questions that we have for them and give us really good, fast feedback. As we continue to evolve the products and services that we want to deliver to our customers, we want to make sure that we're always testing and validating, and this is something that's really important. I think even with everything going on right now, it's good to know that we still have ways to definitely hear from them, make sure that we're doing what's right for them, and we're listening to their needs.
Clay Warren (08:13):
Absolutely. It seems like this pivot, almost this forced transformation, it seems like it could be accelerating your timed insight and almost advancing or accelerating your innovation and product. Would you say that's accurate -- that you're able to move faster because of the pivot towards digital?
Erica Todd (08:35):
I would say so. I think in a customer realm, you also have to be careful in terms any type of risk. You want to make sure that you do things in the right way. Every time you make a new approach, you've got to make sure that you're not doing anything that will sacrifice the quality of your results and you're not doing anything that's not right by the customer as well. We are always trying to make sure we do right by the customer, but at the same time, I feel like we are really innovating. We do work in a business that's really, really innovative, and that's something I really like about this place. I mentioned the CommSec Pocket product. That was a case of an innovation. A small team actually started it and it kind of blew up. We've always been quite innovative.
Erica Todd (09:17):
Another thing that we did quite recently in relation to COVID was we introduced a customer support wizard. We actually used Qualtrics to do that. Basically, we wanted to try and support people who were online and needed help with things without having to call up to the phone line. We felt like if they had to leave the website, it was more effort for them, so is there a way for us to be able to answer their question online. We saw this as a proof of concept, something that we've never done before, but we're also getting feedback from how they behave using this tool. We can see the types of questions that they are looking to answer on the website, and we can think about ways that we can improve those experiences and kind of take that information down -- is it about educating them on how to use that part of our website? Is about improving certain services? I think that's been a really great way that we've been able to learn more about our customers as well as support them at the same time.
Clay Warren (10:24):
Yeah, that's fascinating. We've seen several brands globally, especially in financial services, really deploy this type of tactic that they're trying to reduce their dependency on their call centers, or their customer support teams, by driving self service through digital channels. They're using technology, whether it's CX tools or other tools, to try and engage customers in the moment that they could sense some confusion. Some companies are actually using behavioral data to say how long you've been on the page, on a on specific customer support page, that we can actually trigger some feedback mechanism to say, "look, is there something you're looking for? Can we help you or direct you to the right content?" That way they can avoid the frustration of a customer actually saying, "Oh, now I have to call the customer support team and I have to explain my situation." That's really fascinating because we're seeing that trend with a lot of global brands.
Erica Todd (11:21):
We were actually kind of working with some of the behavioral data scientists in terms of how people answered the questions as well. We can work with our data team to see, "well after they answered the questionnaire, did they still make a call?" So we can kind of see if it's been effective and if they've actually helped themselves.
Clay Warren (11:45):
Yeah, absolutely. It has a huge impact on revenue for a business. We don't have to get into that, but this idea that we can reduce costs and actually improve customer satisfaction if we can deflect calls from our call center. I'm always the first to tell my customers, nobody wants to call the call center. They want to be able to self serve in a digital environment. It actually will drive higher satisfaction and help reduce costs for your business.
Clay Warren (12:13):
Very interesting, it's fascinating how you guys are approaching that. As you move into the new normal and businesses begin to open up in the Australia region and the other regions where you guys operate, do you expect consumers, your customers, to engage with CommSec in the same way? Like they have been over the last six months? Or do you expect some relative normalcy, maybe it'll die down in digital? What are your expectations?
Erica Todd (12:47):
I think because our business is already digital, people are behaving in a similar way. I think we'll continue to look to support our customers' needs and continue to listen to them throughout our ongoing support feedback methods that we currently have. I'd say regardless of whether new things arise, if it's the new normal, or if it's a new initiative, it's not only important to understand how they might be engaging with us, but also to understand how we can inform them of any new processes that we're doing. I think it's a two-way street -- listening to what they're having to say to us and what we can do to support them. For example, I've been working closely with our digital marketing manager on some interesting projects on how we can educate our customers on some of the new online enhancements that we have in reaction to new approaches. When we introduced a new feature, we created a popup feature that gave them information about our new digital experiences. When customers come online, it can be that if you're used to one thing, it can be a daunting thing to change. I think when -- if we're talking about a new normal -- we don't want to make things confusing for customers as we shift into this new era. I think supporting them is really important.
Clay Warren (14:15):
I love the idea of -- we often we've called this here at Qualtrics this idea of keeping a digital open door -- but also using digital, whether it's digital notifications or in-product notifications to say, "Hey, we have this new capability that's addressing a specific problem" -- almost to keep a digital open door and communicate actively with your customers. I love that you guys are doing that, it's fascinating. So, you're basically a CX practitioner, and a lot of our listeners are wondering what advice you would give to someone who's trying to figure out what they should be measuring, how to better understand their customers, how to take action on the insights? That's a common question we get is, "Hey, we're, we're gathering all this great insight about our customers, but a lot of times this insight sits in PowerPoint decks, it sits in emails." Do you have any advice, Erica, for our listeners on what they can do? Not only what they should be measuring, but how they can take action.
Erica Todd (15:24):
I think that's a really good point. In our business, we talk a lot about actionable insights as well. So, what can you actually do with this information? For me, I think when I'm an acting on anything, I think the briefing is extremely important. Setting those expectations at the start of any project, no matter how big or small, just thinking about what are the objectives, what do you want to know, what do you need to validate, what are your hypotheses, what information do you already have about the customers, and what are you missing. And that can really help to better direct what your approach is.
Erica Todd (15:58):
You mentioned accessibility. I think that's really important. Accessibility of insights is a really key factor. It's important to share your learning with the people across the business, so that they can make those actionable decisions. There's no point in doing this work or having this information, if it's not shared with people. The way that we do that could be having central depositories where we store reports and findings. We present to our colleagues. We have a monthly popcorn showcase where people across the business hear the insights by our heads, or you could go to the particular stakeholders that are relevant and make sure that they know something that you've found so that they can use it in their work. And then, just making sure that people can easily find it. I think that we try to have a really customer-centric mindset and a holistic approach. When we hear from our customers, we want to make sure that we hear from a really wide range of people so that we're making sure that we're not making unfounded statements. We really can't have those hypotheses validated or invalidated and make sure that we get a good variety of responses so that we can target specific groups if we need to, or we'll segment to ensure that the relevant voices are being heard.
Erica Todd (17:10):
I'd also say that we want to avoid targeting the same people all the time because that means you're either bombarding them or you're diluting the quality of your responses, so you're only hearing from a vocal minority. I always try to combine individual research papers with other sources of information to strengthen and better understand our hypotheses and findings. That could be doing more than one round of research; it could be mixing methodologies, like having surveys and interviews. It could be holding stakeholder sessions with people around the business to understand what they're seeing in their realm, or it could be viewing aggregate customer data or looking at industry-based stats as well. I mentioned earlier that with that customer help wizard that we have on the website, we're also matching it with whether or not they're going on to make a call after. That's an example of matching a couple of pieces of data, that you're not just reliant on one thing, and that can really help to measure better and understand your customers a lot better.
Clay Warren (18:08):
That is awesome advice. Erica, thank you so much for coming on today. This has been awesome. You've certainly outlined the playbook for how brands and market research teams and digital CX practitioners can be very successful in developing their digital CX expertise and better understand their customers' preferences and behaviors. Thank you again. For our listeners. If you want to talk about anything you heard on today's podcast or how Qualtrics can help your business, your business' customer experience, please feel free to email me at firstname.lastname@example.org or visit our website, qualtrics.com, for more information.
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