Karen Larrimer
Chief Customer Officer, PNC Financial Services Group
No. 18 on the 2015 Most Powerful Women in Banking list

When Karen Larrimer was named PNC's chief customer officer, she had one nagging question about the role: What, precisely, does a chief customer officer do?

She didn't know of any chief customer officers in banking, and certainly none at a company PNC's size, whom she could look to for guidance. So she studied companies outside the industry known for stellar customer experiences — Disney, Amazon, Apple — to figure out what might work.

In the end, that's probably just as well, if not better.

"Our competitors, in my mind, are not just the other banks," Larrimer says. The competition is any company setting the standards for customer experience, and "those standards are way higher than they were years ago."

Since taking the post 18 months ago, Larrimer launched programs to help PNC meet those expectations, and to help employees understand how their interactions affect individual customers. She's gotten the company to establish customer-specific goals for each of its 54,000 employees, and to assess them in annual performance reviews.

"What's really important to me is that every employee, even if they're in the back office and handling the same piece of paper every day, understands how their job connects to the customer," she says.

She's also started an initiative called "Just Fix It" to let employees know that they need to "raise their hand and let us know" when they see something that's not working.

Customer data can help point to areas that need improvement as well. Larrimer's placing much more emphasis on such data, particularly the net promoter score, which measures how likely a customer is to recommend a brand to others. PNC now asks that question on every customer survey in every line of business, and Larrimer wants to move toward using that as the primary measure of how the company is doing on creating a positive experience.

The new responsibilities add to an already heavy workload for Larrimer, who also manages PNC's marketing, public relations and innovation groups. But she wanted to keep overseeing all those too.

"The customer experience is driven by the voice we have externally, which is marketing and corporate communications," she says.

Larrimer also has a busy schedule at home. She and her husband, Jim, have four children, ranging in age from five to 27. "I was handling diapers and college decisions all at the same time," she says.

As if she doesn't have enough to do, Larrimer sits on the boards of many charities in her hometown of Pittsburgh, including the United Way, Goodwill and PNC's own foundation. She likes the responsibility.

"When you do what you love, you find the time to make it work," she says. "And I do."

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