Richard Waring and his team lead on insights and market research in Bank of Ireland. Along with the bank’s Customer Experience team, they form part of a newly-formed Chief Marketing Office. And it’s no coincidence the CMO looks after insights, market research and CX at once – for Bank of Ireland, modern, high-quality and timely research is absolutely essential to great CX.

As part of our series on CX visionaries, Richard explains the role of data in CX, why bad data is worse than no data, and how banks can improve their customers’ lives.

On getting started in CX at Bank of Ireland

Good-quality data, collected in the right way, is at the core of CX

I’m a self-confessed data purist and believe that at the core of good CX is good-quality data, collected and interpreted in the right way.

So when I joined Bank of Ireland a couple of years ago, I made it my goal to put data at the heart of our CX efforts. Today, we’re in a great place where decisions that affect customers are informed by good-quality research and data.

And I have a very broad view of CX, believing that data should inform how we interact with customers at every single touchpoint. That might be down to my 20 years working agency-side with dozens of FMCG and financial services brands on their market research.

On the role of data in CX

We don’t just provide our colleagues with data, we ensure it’s interpreted correctly

When I’m asked what we could do to improve CX, I look at the data and consumer research. As an organization, we’re using customer-based data to make customer-centric decisions. That’s how I know my recommendations are right. When we recommend the organization invests we need to be very certain it will deliver the optimum gain for the customer. Without the backing of quality data, I’d lose sleep wondering whether my recommendations are correct.

Our dashboards are key to how we get data into the hands of our employees. It gives our colleagues a continuous stream of customer data that they can use to inform their decisions. From our branches to our contact centers, role-specific dashboards show our employees how they can improve CX.

We also partner with key areas of the bank to identify 2-3 things they could do to improve CX. And then we check in monthly to see how things are going and that data is being interpreted in the way right.

Basically, we don’t deliver customer data and then run away. We identify the customer need, we explain it to the relevant teams, and we work with them to make things better.

On the perils of bad research

No data is better than bad data – if you have the latter, you’d be better off just relying on your gut.

If you’re not versed in data or market research, you don’t always understand the difference between good and bad data. It’s not all created equally. And all of us have our own inherent biases and seek out data that supports our worldview. So as a team we are constantly challenging the internal voices or opinions which are not grounded in fact.

At Bank of Ireland we make sure those gathering and analyzing data know what they’re doing. Because this is important stuff – bad data leads to bad decisions, leading to poorer CX and lower revenues.

In my experience, a company would be better off with no data than bad data. It’s a case of garbage in, garbage out. They may as well use their gut, than base their decisions off poorly-collected or misinterpreted data. At least your gut is a collection of your career experiences. The more experience you have the better your gut intuition should be.

On the balance between experience and research

Research should never make the decision for you – but it helps you make a better decision.

You need to take good-quality data and overlay it with your employees’ experiences. Because if someone’s been in home loans for 20 years, they know what they’re doing – and they shouldn’t rely on the data entirely.

On the other side of things, data can challenge our long-held beliefs, and we should be prepared to change what we’re doing based on new information.

That’s why my motto is that research shouldn’t make the decision for you – it should help you make a better decision.

On challenges in the financial services world

We’re in such a highly-regulated industry that oftentimes we need to ask for a lot of information from customers.

We know these regulatory checks protect the customer and keep their money secure. But our challenge remains to get customers through them as quickly as possible.

Because customers want to get things done quickly. So to differentiate ourselves from competitors, we need to be shaving seconds, minutes or hours from every process.

On transactional versus advisory customer journeys

Established banks have a real opportunity to improve CX and drive loyalty by guiding customers through difficult decisions

In my view, banks now have two kinds of interaction with their customers: transactional and advisory.

Transactional means checking your bank account balance online, withdrawing cash on the high street or opening a new account.

Advisory means sitting down with a business customer to help them take their business to the next level. It means working with a first-time buyer to help their get the house of their dreams. In these instances, humans win out over new technology every time – we still want to deal with someone real when making these kinds of larger life decisions.

But it’s important not to over-index on advisory interactions and think that’s where you make the biggest impact on CX. Transactional moments can be just as powerful – after all, doing the basics right can be a differentiator in itself.

On breaking out of the FS bubble

We need to recognize that consumers are not just comparing us against other banks

Our customers don’t live in a finance world. So we look for insights and best practice from beyond the FS world, as much as from within it. For example, the health sector in Ireland has some great mobile experiences, and we share a lot of similarities with the retail sector. After all, we have nearly 300 branches in Ireland, effectively making us a retailer as well.

We always try to remember that consumers are comparing us against brands from many different industries, so delivering CX on a par with other banks sometimes isn’t enough. We need to be emulating the world’s CX leaders, whichever industry they belong to.

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