7 Insights on How to Create a Winning Customer Experience Strategy

Customer experience will be the basis for how people choose who will be the winners in the banking industry, says Swati Bhatia, who leads Marcus at Goldman Sachs. As she sees it, there are five steps to becoming one of those winners. Check out her advice on how to create a winning CX strategy, along with insights from other top female executives at Capital One, Citibank, Wells Fargo and more, all assembled here in honor of International Women's Month.

Customer experience is the crux of retail banking, but how many financial institutions execute on it well? Is it personalized and “magical”? Do you default to bankerspeak or use language customers can easily understand? How do you build memorable connections across all the touchpoints of the institution from your branch network to the mobile app?

These insights on customer experience come from our interviews with female banking executives, which The Financial Brand has assembled here in honor of International Women’s Month.

Each of the executives talked about the approach their financial institutions take with enhancing the customer journey, whether in branches or in digital channels.

Ally Bank, for example, is generating content that helps people better understand how to navigate the rough economy, rather than shying away from potentially stressful topics. Citadel Credit Union is looking for new and engaging ways to keep its members returning to the credit union.

Read on for perspectives that could inform your own strategic approach to customer experience.

Create ‘Magical Experiences’ for Customers

Swati Bhatia, Partner and Head of Direct-to-Consumer Business at Marcus

Swati Bhatia

Head of Marcus and co-CEO of GreenSky
Goldman Sachs

“I think customers will choose their winners. I think the criteria will, first, be any player that can meet the customer where they are, with a web-app-based banking solution. Second, they must build a true partner relationship with the customer. Third, they must provide value to the customer. Fourth, there needs to be personalized experiences. And fifth, there must be ‘transcendental magical experiences’ … not just functional ones.”

Read about Marcus:

Provide the Human Connection People Crave

Jennifer Windbeck, Head of retail bank operations at Capital One

Jennifer Windbeck

Head of retail bank operations
Capital One

“In a digital world — which is wonderful and affords lots of advantages and lots of conveniences to people — there is that hunger for human connection.”

By providing two different types of physical locations — cafes and branches — Capital One is reaching more people, Windbeck says.

The cafes, which are open to both customers and noncustomers, offer a very different experience than its branches. Instead of traditional branch employees, the cafes have banking “ambassadors,” who can answer questions and help with opening accounts on mobile devices. ATMs are also available there.

“The real differentiator is we’ve drawn inspiration not just from banking, but from retail industries in general,” Windbeck says. “I think that’s something that we’ve tried to achieve and tried to support with the cafes and also with how we’ve continued to evolve our branch experience.”

Listen to the podcast: Reimagining The Future of Digital Delivery at Capital One

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“Minimize the ‘Who Moved My Cheese’ Sentiment”

Reetika Grewal, Head of digital transformation at Wells Fargo

Reetika Grewal

EVP and head of digital transformation
Wells Fargo

On why Wells Fargo is taking a gradual approach to rolling out digital banking improvements for business customers:

“We want to make sure people are prepared to enjoy the experience and not have to worry about whether they are going to find everything they need. There’s an expression we use a lot around here: ‘We want to minimize the ‘who moved my cheese’ sentiment.'”

Read the article: How Wells Fargo Rebooted — and Personalized — Digital Business Banking

Make Banking Sexy

Courtney Rowan, Vice president of digital experience at Citadel Credit Union

Courtney Rowan

Vice president of digital experience
Citadel Credit Union

“Banking is not fun. It’s not sexy. I don’t think anyone would say that, but you can make it that way.”

How? Rowan suggests gamification as one tactic financial institutions can use to spice up the traditional banking routine and offer a more engaging customer experience.

Listen to the podcast: Partners Are the Key to Digital Transformation Success

Use Language That Customers Understand

Beth Johnson, chief experience officer at Citizens Bank

Beth Johnson

Chief experience officer
Citizens Bank

Citizens found that “our digital and mobile banking tools needed to navigate and communicate in the way customers think. A big part of this was using customers’ language. Terms that resonate for banking professionals don’t always connect with our customers and how they frame their wants and needs.

“One example of this was eliminating the word ‘wealth’ where possible since most people don’t actually consider themselves wealthy. By tweaking language to meet customers where they are and acknowledging sensitivities to certain words, we are creating a welcoming experience that will increase retention.”

Read the article: 4 Ways Citizens Bank Keeps ‘Human’ in Its Digital Banking Experience

Ask Yourself, What Would You Want?

Titi Cole, chief executive officer of legacy franchises

Titi Cole

Chief executive officer of legacy franchises
(and formerly chief client officer)
Citibank

“I tell people that I love consumer banking because it’s not that hard to figure out what actually needs to be done. You just have to ask yourself, ‘If this was my account, what would I want?’ Somehow, as an industry, I think we’ve lost that client perspective in some ways. But if you can answer that question, you’re good.”

Read the article: Citi’s Chief Client Officer: People, Passion, Purpose Drive Banking Quality

Don’t Avoid the Tough Conversations

Andrea Brimmer, chief marketing and PR officer at Ally

Andrea Brimmer

Chief marketing and PR officer
Ally Bank

On how Ally has tweaked its communication strategy to address the rocky economy:

“Your approach has got to be realistic and you can’t be dishonest with consumers. People aren’t dumb. They know there’s a recession potentially looming. They know inflation is at an all-time high. We believe in transparency and we’re not going to avoid such topics.”

Ally is frequently generating content on tough subjects like the economy, as a way to provide customers with the deep-dive insights they need to better understand their financial situations. Ally calls the resource hub “Do it right.”

An example: In early December 2022, the digital bank’s financial education team put out a post about the Conference Board’s U.S. Leading Economic Index (LEI), sharing key takeaways for consumers.

Read the article: How Ally Bank is Shaking Up Its Marketing Strategy

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