I had the pleasure of presenting to Singapore’s DBS Bank yesterday on customer experience and listening to CEO Piyush Gupta’s thoughts on the bank’s journey since he joined in 2009. He spoke about his conclusion upon joining five years ago that a critical challenge to be addressed was an inside-out perspective by the bank’s employees. Since then, he’s driven the bank through a successful transformation project Forrester wrote about in an August case study. Looking forward, he sees the bank working toward “joyful” banking and is seeking ways to embed more emotional connections into their customer experiences.

Listening to Piyush speak reminded me of my interactions with another regional CEO this year who has driven a successful company transformation: Telstra’s David Thodey. David also joined in 2009 and has driven Telstra’s success through a focus on the customer. He has given his customer focus organizational teeth by linking it to Net Promoter Scores (NPS) that determine part of the compensation system at Telstra. The importance of measurement is the key reason we recommend our clients leverage Forrester’s CX Index.

What else links these visionary CEOs? Their financial performance and stock prices have surged since they embarked on their customer-focused transformations. Telstra’s stock when David joined Telstra was A$2.09 and is currently trading over A$5.7.  DBS stock traded at S$11.44 when Piyush joined DBS and currently trades over S$19.72. These results don’t surprise me, because Forrester has known for some time that a focus on customer experience (CX) leads to better financial performance. Mapping our global CX Index against the performance of the S&P 500 shows that a focus on CX does indeed lead to clear and substantial financial ROI:

The similarities between David and Piyush send clear signals on what other Asia Pacific business leaders must do:

  • Drive customer-obsessed culture change. Changing company cultures is hard but critical. Piyush mentioned culture change is his proudest achievement when he looks back at his tenure at DBS to this point. Any organization that doesn’t understand the importance of culture will fail.
  • Establish empowered teams that drive CX excellence. At many regional firms, CX falls into a convoluted mix of roles in the marketing, digital and technology departments. Both DBS and Telstra have established clear organizational responsibilities and empowered teams to drive CX excellence. Paul Cobban of DBS shared some insights with me before speaking at our CIO Summit a couple of years ago.
  • Stick with it. It is interesting that both David and Piyush started in 2009. Speak to them today, and they will tell you that in many ways they have only just begun. Some CEOs pay lip service to the importance of the customer, but successful CEOs consistently drive an obsessive focus on outside-in thinking through their own personal commitments over time.

As Asia Pacific executive boards think themselves into knots dwelling on financial metrics, the coming quarter and industry shifts, Telstra and DBS show that success is simpler than they think: put good leaders in place who drive outside-in thinking and customer obsession, and good things happen.