Winning the Battle for Customers: A Dinner Conversation with Bay Area Financial Services Leaders

Winning the Battle for Customers: A Dinner Conversation with Bay Area Financial Services Leaders

A dinner conversation among Bay Area execs about winning the battle for customers generates a surprising level of passion and intensity.  We saw this in spades at a recent gathering of financial services leaders at Prospect in San Francisco.  Once we were satisfied with the sharing of two vintages of our Director’s Reserve Cabernet, Don Peppers (formerly of Peppers and Rodgers) and Paul Hagen, a top thought leader on West Monroe’s CX Strategy team, kicked off the talk with a sobering look at customer experience today and some provocative views about where it’s going and what it’s going to take to really compete on the basis of customer experience.

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Their take: Few brands are really winning with customers, and those leaders continue to raise the bar and leave their competitors in the dust. They point to a Forrester’s statistic, “while 84% of companies aspire to be CX leaders, only 1 in 5 delivers good or great CX.”  That said, there’s growing group of companies that are showing real commitment, and they are steadily making the right moves to up their game, stand-out from the pack, and become CX leaders:  Delta Airlines, Tricare, SoCal Gas, Sacramento Municipal Utility District, Suntrust, and Best Buy to name a few.

With his flair for storytelling, Don zeroed in on the importance of trust and values and how that’s actualized in the design and delivery of every-day delivery of experiences. Without trust, there’s no loyalty. The golden rule always applies.  But he pointed out that most banks still have a long way to go to become highly trusted brands.  Paul highlighted the current hype around new technologies that can offer up ways to differentiate and deeply personalize customer experiences. He pointed out that the winners will be more sanguine about new shiny technologies and focus more on humanizing how we use technology for customers, employees and partners.

Both Don and Paul brought up the growing emphasis on employees and organizational customer centricity as critical for sustained CX performance. Ninety percent of firms expect to compete on the basis of customer experience, according to Gartner. So, what does this mean internally for the organization? How many firms, they asked, are able to say their employees understand what their north star experience is?  How many are intentionally driving the 3 Es—employee engagement, experience, and enablement, and have org change efforts around customer centricity underway? Few hands went up.

That set the tone for some lively conversations and debates at the tables.  We asked participants to explore two questions: One, what’s working in terms of efforts to improve customer experience; and two, what do you see as CX game changers you will need to deal with in the next two to three years?

On the first question, we had general consensus that blocking and tackling efforts are paying off.  Using journey mapping, applying voice of customer, measuring CX, internal training programs, and efforts to improve digital experiences have resulted in measurable CX performance improvement.  On the other hand, they agreed those capabilities are table stakes now, and getting to great in CX means doubling down on delivering stand-out experiences at scale, and becoming a customer-led organization.

As one might expect at a dinner like this, 80% of the discussion focused on game changers.  The takeaway is there’s a growing list of them – from AI and conversational interfaces to blockchain and IoT, cryptocurrency to declining privacy and trust, identity politics and how to engage millennials and Gen Z customers and employees.  And from the perspective of a Bay Area professional, that makes for exciting times in customer experience because the challenges and unknowns are daunting, while at the same time these innovations are opening up new opportunities to differentiate and compete in new ways to win the battle for customers.

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