'Where everyone is going': How analytics is changing the customer experience

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In an industry already rife with buzzwords, there's a relatively new one making the rounds among bankers and card issuers: journey analytics.

Coined in 2015 by Forrester analysts, it refers to mapping out a process customers go through, such as opening a new account or obtaining a reissued credit card, figuring out what the customer experience was like along all points of the process, including call center, online banking and text messages, and applying analytics to see what is going well and what needs to be fixed.

Rebecca Wooters, managing director and head of global cards customer experience digital and journey strategy at Citigroup, has been applying journey analytics to its cardholder base.

“Each journey has a starting point or multiple starting points and an intended outcome,” she said. “What is everything happening in between those two spots, and are we doing what we need to do for the customer to provide a seamless, frictionless experience?”

The idea of such an experience isn't new and customer analytics have been in use forever. What’s innovative is examining what Wooters calls the “connective tissue” that connect points in a process, including anything that happens in operations, any risk or legal policies that may block a customer from a transaction, and interactions with partners.

“Being able to unpack these journeys and map them and redesign them in a way that includes our partners in operations, our vendors, our risk policies and how we may intervene or block them in access their own information or at the point of sale — these are all things that are important when it comes to breaking that journey apart,” Wooters said. “I truly believe that this is the right approach.”

At Synchrony Financial, Farrell Hudzik, senior vice president of enterprise customer engagement, is taking a similar approach.

The card company creates customer journeys for processes like authentication, “to get the true feel for what does it feel like when the customer goes through that, what can we do in those processes to provide things people feel comfortable with?” she said.

Hudzik uses software from ClickFox to sift through transaction data and map out these journeys.

“We started looking at digital containment — what are the real reasons for someone to come out of the digital experience and into the IVR or into the call center,” she said. “We're now mapping in voice of customer, mapping in compliance, mapping in transaction data and looking toward how do we start to correlate those business metrics and spending behaviors with key experiences in that journey. That's going to be a powerful tool for us. Our goal is to use journey analytics as a way to inform the way we make decisions in our business and change the way we work for our customers.”

Citi also uses ClickFox and has mapped a dozen customer journeys in it. Before the bank could even get that far, however, it had to reexamine data hygiene, Wooters shared.

The call center had one set of data, the IVR another, mobile and online banking data were separate and there was an independent complaints repository. In each data set, information was tagged differently.

“So there was a whole body of work just to get to this uniform data view of our customers,” Wooters said.

Now that this data has been submitted to the journey analytics platform, the bank is starting to understand what customers are doing in their “journeys” across multiple touch points — phone calls, online banking, mobile banking. It’s combined that with customer satisfaction indicators like completed surveys, filed complaints and net promoter scores.

“We also look at things like number of attempts, how long it took them to do something, and ultimately what did their completes look like — did they get an error?” Wooters said. “We can correlate that with their NPS.”

The bank can start to predict what a customer is going to do and how well the bank will handle the exchange.

“That's allowed us to reprioritize what we wanted to do for our customers based on what our customers were both telling us and doing,” Wooters said. “Customers will tell you what they want, but sometimes they do something different. And to be able to combine the behavioral analysis with what they were telling us greatly informed what we were doing and how we did it.”

"One of the challenges is when you have access to so much information, how do you take the right meaning out of it?”

Wooters' team observed, for example, that customers have high anxiety around replacing their credit card, and what happens in that “journey” can affect the relationship permanently.

“That allowed us to focus differently,” Wooters said.

Jennifer Garden, senior manager of customer life-cycle strategies at TD Bank, said the journey analytics concept appears promising.

“The customer is at the forefront of everything we do,” she said. “The journey itself and what those different touchpoints look like will continue to change. We have a lot of capabilities on the analytics front, but I think we could always do better. Also, I think one of the challenges is when you have access to so much information, how do you take the right meaning out of it?”

Richard Goldman, CEO of the card marketing data provider Competiscan, said his customers are also looking at customer journeys.

“Card issuers and financial services companies are asking for a much longer view of the onboarding experience,” he said. “Eight years ago, onboarding used to be defined as 90 days, today they're still onboarding a year and beyond.”

That change has occurred because the card market has become increasingly competitive and customers have access to more information about card programs than ever before.

"This has to happen much faster than banks are used to — it's agile, it's iterative, it's fail fast, and that is a really different mindset."

“There are people that are constantly shopping that are open to hear a different offer,” Goldman said. “If I can get them and keep them for a year, the chances of falling to the wayside of that person's wallet diminishes. That's what the issuers have come up with based on their own statistics around customer behavior during the first year.”

Card issuers are analyzing the direct mail, email, text messages and phone calls between themselves and their customers during that critical first year, he said.

These companies are not alone. Ally, Bank of the West and USAA are among the others mapping the customer journey to eliminate frustrating snags and improve the experience, as detailed here.

“This focus on journeys is where everyone is going,” said Bob Neuhaus, senior director of financial services at J.D. Power.

He also pointed out that the work is harder than it might appear.

“It's a real art to get it set up, it doesn't happen in one year,” Neuhaus said. “You have to talk to customers; it takes extensive research to understand how they feel and their behavior. Then putting in place analytics measuring systems is so critical. This has to happen much faster than banks are used to — it's agile, it's iterative, it's fail fast, and that is a really different mindset. It’s more exciting and can be threatening, too.”

Editor at Large Penny Crosman welcomes feedback at penny.crosman@sourcemedia.com.

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Customer experience Customer data Citigroup Synchrony