As customers we’re rarely satisfied with simply buying goods and services. What we really want, on top of the actual purchase, is a great customer experience (CX). This drives us to seek out companies that not only understand our wants and desires but more importantly, understand the role their company’s products actually play in our lives.

Nowhere is this more true than in the hyper-competitive Australian retail banking market. That’s why we invited Louise Long to speak at Forrester’s Summit For Marketing & Strategy Professionals: Australia. Louise is Head of Customer Experience at National Australia Bank (NAB), leading the company’s initiatives to deliver truly great customer experiences to NAB’s clients.

Louise was kind enough to answer a few of our questions about what she’s doing. Read on for insight into how NAB continuously seeks innovative ways to ensure that the customer remains at the center of the company’s business strategy.

Those of you who’ll be with us in Sydney on Wednesday, August 13th, can hear even more from Louise. I look forward to seeing you there!

Q: When did your company first begin focusing on customer experience? Why?

NAB has always focused on and cared about the customer experience – the customer is at the heart of everything we do and it's critical we get the experience right. NAB invests a lot of time and energy in ensuring we continually improve the experience our customers have.  In 2008, a role was created within the Marketing function that sat across products and channels. This was in response to a desire to differentiate in the market on CX, focused initially on the Retail Bank. 

Q: How do you determine what aspects of the customer experience you must try to excel at?

CX should reflect the organisation that is delivering it – so it is not enough for us to deliver a great customer banking experience. We must strive to excel in those aspects of the customers' experience which best reflect and bring to life our purpose (the DNA of who we are), our brand, and our customer promise of “More Give Less Take” – it must be a NAB experience. 

Q: What if anything is different about what you're doing now to improve CX versus what you did when you were starting out? Why did you change? 

Now we strive to more actively design the customer experience by better understanding customer needs in balance with what is feasible and viable for the business. If we know a point at which we deliver a customer experience is not working, we are more likely to conduct customer research to better understand how to change that for the benefit of both the customer and the business. We also understand that to improve CX, the organisation needs to think and behave in a customer-centric way. This includes customers being embedded in frameworks like project methods and product lifecycles.  In the past we were more reactive, focussing on what was being complained about. We still do this because it is important to listen to our customers, but it is just one way we can better understand what our customers need and want from us. 

Q: How do you measure the success of your CX improvement efforts (e.g., higher customer satisfaction, increased revenue, lower costs)? And have you seen progress over time?

The question of how to measure the success of CX improvement efforts is one that is most often discussed with this type of work. If we improve CX the whole business benefits. All of your example measures are valid and which one is used to measure success will depend on the nature of the improvement. Sometimes the only way to measure the success is in terms of the cost of the poor experience – cost of rework, complaints, enquiries, double-handling. 

Q: What would be your advice to companies about to embark on their journey to CX transformation?

  • Ensure CEO/Executive support. Start by looking at your organisation's purpose – does it mention the customer? If it does you will have a way to unite the organisation around the work and be more successful. NAB's purpose is very clear, "Do The Right Thing, Help Customers and Communities and Realise Potential."
  • Know your brand. What is your customer promise? What does your brand want to be to its customers – the experience they have with you is also your brand, not just the logo. At NAB we live this through "More Give Less Take."
  • Know your customer. Do you see your customer through the eyes of your product or as a whole person? Do you understand their context, their goals, their needs and then their tasks? How will you walk in your customers' shoes to create empathy?
  • Know the value chain in your organization. Which are the dependent relationships that need to work so that the experience works? Be prepared to collaborate across the organisation.
  • Consider how you will create and use customer insights in the way you make decisions. Don't act on well-intentioned but isolated data points or assumptions.