I recently had a conversation with Richard Antosik, Vice President, Digital Operations (Client Services) at Laurentian Bank regarding their contact center’s recent digital transformation. The following are the questions and answers regarding their lessons learned.
Aoki:What was your past experience regarding contact center digital transformations?
Antosik:This is the third significant transformation I have helped to lead in my career. The first was in the corporate travel space where, post-9/11, an entire industry had to redefine its business model. The move from using travel agents to self-serve bookings, which were completed online, totally changed how customers viewed the end-to-end travel experience. In those early transformative days, we focused on technology first, with customer and employee education as fast followers. Failing to focus on the customer and employee experience up front was a miss that caused unnecessary confusion and delays.
The second transformation was in the payments space, where we quickly moved from using knuckle-crunching machines to “chip and PIN#” and now to contactless payments. Similar to the travel industry example, themes emerged surrounding customer demands for speed, flexibility and new mobile solutions. We were smarter here, focusing on the technology solution and our customer education up front. However, the change management for our people still occurred too late in the game.
This third transformation involves the personal banking industry. It reinforces customer expectations regarding flexible servicing options, increased security and immediate gratification. One additional expectation has emerged, and that is the desire to receive useful advice in non-intrusive ways.
Aoki:What are the biggest opportunities to help customers through digital transformation in the personal banking area?
Antosik:The four big opportunities for us today are:
- Empower our customers.
- Make even the most complex transactions simple.
- Help our customers become smarter.
- Do this in a meaningful way, through the customer’s channel of choice and only when they are ready to hear from us.
Aoki:What does Laurentian Bank’s digital transformation involve? What is changing?
Antosik:We took a two-step approach to providing solutions we know customers are expecting from our bank. The first step was to develop features for our new core banking platform and to refine processes, so we can better transition to a digital environment. Ultimately, the solutions we are providing focus on ease of use, 24/7 access and providing exceptional products and product support. We see the investment into a single core banking system as a real-game changer in our industry. A better view of our customer provides increased servicing flexibility which helps improve the overall customer experience (CX.)
Aoki:What prompted the bank to invest in this initiative? What do they hope to gain by doing this?
Antosik:We are building a culture of performance that fosters better teamwork and brings the vision of who we are becoming to life. The history of our bank dates back over 170 years; however, we feel younger and more relevant today than at any other time in our history! Developing digital products will offer convenient tools and a renewed customer experience and, for our retail customers, our efforts will result in the convenience of digital transactions, coupled with the value of human advice.
In 2019, our customers will see the first tangible benefits of our new digital offer, which will be gradually launched across Canada under two of our brands: Laurentian Bank and B2B Bank. New customers will provide a new source of funding, and will represent added value for the independent brokers and advisors we partner with as well. Ultimately, our customers were looking for new ways to bank with us. We listened and are excited about what we have to offer.
Aoki:How will these changes affect the contact center?
Antosik:One of the biggest changes in the contact center will be the need to continually “switch gears” as we service both business-to-business (B2B) and business-to-consumer (B2C) customers. Our B2B customers include lawyers, financial advisors and mortgage brokers who have specific servicing requirements.
Our new customers will originate online through digital channels. They will be technologically savvy clients, who demand control over how and when they bank with us. Customer expectations regarding speed of servicing, providing useful advice and the accuracy in executing requests are going to increase.
As we move to new servicing channels such as Messenger, chat and SMS, we are now working in very public forums. In this digital communications space, any servicing issues can easily be shared with thousands of followers within a couple of clicks. As we grow our customer base, there are heightened expectations surrounding quality, security and delivering the products and services as promised. We’re taking this responsibility seriously and accelerating efforts to deliver on our brand promise.
Aoki:What steps are you taking to ensure a smooth roll-out for the contact center and its customers?
Antosik:We are doubling down on our efforts to seamlessly educate our people and customers through this digital transformation. Our product and operations teams spent countless hours sharing why this move is going to have mass customer appeal. With growth comes new challenges and opportunities for our people. This opportunity drives additional excitement.
During my earlier transformation endeavors, we missed the mark on ensuring that our people knew the “why” and the “how” of our transformation initiatives. Today, we have clearly articulated where we are going and how our people are a key part of getting us across the finish line. Also, letting them know how they will be supported through this transformation.
Failure to share your transformation story on an ongoing basis can begin to look like “change.” By itself, change instills frustration and fear in many people. In severe situations, it can also breed resentment against the organization, as the perception could be that people are being forced to do things differently. This perception can influence customers and employees alike. I think this emotion comes if your people feel helpless. We can never underestimate the power of freewill. By constantly checking in, and reinforcing your message, you can avoid some of these engagement pitfalls.
Aoki:What key lessons have you learned while implementing this transformation?
Antosik:Communication is essential to ensuring that your people are onboard and well equipped to handle the transformation. I use a simple communication approach for both internal teams and clients. It helps to galvanize support while also empowering your people as they work toward a better future.
- Create a sense of urgency supporting the need for change. Help your people and customers understand why we are asking them to look at doing business differently. Providing a brief explanation that shares the thought process and consideration goes a long way to keeping everyone onboard.
- Share how your people and your customer’s lives will be better because of the transformation. The smartest leaders I have worked with tie their employee’s personal motivation to the overall business’ success. This provides an added kick to the buy-in. The smartest companies will use their data to take the same approach to educating their customers as well.
- What are we going to do to help you through the transformation? Keep it fun and exciting, and overload on the support. It is incredible how resourceful your people become when they know support is there, and how the exact opposite takes effect if they feel support is lacking!
- Understand that your people and customers decided to join your brand for a reason. Cherish what brought them to you in the first place and share what will not be changed as part of your transformation.
Aoki:What final advice would you give other contact center leaders regarding digital transformation?
Antosik:Successfully transforming your contact center can be an extremely rewarding experience. The key is approaching things in the right way, which includes a heavy dose of communication delivered with a dash of gusto.
The toughest part of any transformation is having the courage to bring in the people and solutions that will help grow your brand moving forward. This may sound easy, however asking your people and your customers to take a leap of faith can be uncomfortable.
As human beings, we desire to work with an element of certainty. Unfortunately, this desire can hold us back and force us to make the safe choice rather than the best choice. In the stone ages, certainty helped save our lives. Now, it may help avoid the embarrassment of failure, but also limits the chance to celebrate great accomplishments.
A little foresight and planning will go a long way in helping to transform your business.