Digitalist Network // February 08 2018

Championing CX inside a large bank – Case OP

On his blog post Ville wrote wisely about change and management’s essential role in driving change whereas Pekka added a great story about how any company can become a CX superhero. Ville asked me to continue the narrative and thanking for the opportunity, I’ll try to combine the two perspectives and add up some ingredients and spices of my own in a personal story of customer experience driven leadership. 


Like Pekka, I recognize in myself the very same tendency to masochistic professional choices and challenges at work – it gives you boost to stretch the extra mile when you know that the opportunity and challenge at hand is almost impossible to tackle. I consider myself as an entrepreneur even though working in a corporate setting, as it describes better my passion and inspiration to challenge in order to get companies moving forward. Like Kirsi Piha puts it: “If a company cannot create a culture that challenges it from inside, it will be challenged from outside and then it will often be too late.” (author’s free translation).


I came to work for OP 6 years ago to ramp up the digital development unit in Oulu together with a team of about 35 people –  today we are more than 350 people. When we started, our task was to disrupt current ways of working and to bring in understanding and expertise in building digital services & business. The road has not always been smooth and easy, but thus very interesting and inspiring. We have introduced new ways to engage and co-create with customers in product development and ways to consider and implement customer centricity and design thinking in innovations and product development. To do this we hired the company’s first service designers and we launched also the first multidisciplinary teams across business, design and technology. Having these skillsets in-house and working closely with each other has been pivotal in our transformation becoming customer centric operation.


Last year I’ve had the honour to lead the launch of new, biggest online banking sites in Finland with appr. 9M monthly logins by 1.5M active users. Now as the launch is almost complete and we have around 95% of the traffic directed to the new site we can begin to draw some conclusions about key learnings and successes. Based on our internal analysis, there has been 3 critical success factors to the launch. First one is that there has been a fully operational cross-functional core team that has the mandate to make decisions, needed understanding to make necessary actions and all relevant support functions to enable proceeding. One of the key decisions here was that the management team made room for more hands-on and cross-functional team to take over the business transformation day-to-day leadership. Secondly, we placed customers and data into the centre of all decision making about next steps, launch activities, speed of moving forward etc. This is something I’ll open up in more detail below. Third success factor is that we have had all required support from top management of the company as well as horizontally across all support functions down to  marketing and communications.


Looking more closely into the second success factor, customer centricity and data, it all started with target setting and metrics. We knew that to get the site launch right we would have to do it according to our customers readiness and willingness to change and adopt using the new site. People generally do not like to see changes in functionalities such as paying bills, when you’re in a rush and there is no time or willingness to learn new things even when in the long term new changes would make your life easier. For this reason we did a lot of communication and change management internally towards management and other units and teams, with the assumption that at some point of time we would see a significant drop in NPS when we would direct people to the new site. At the end however, we managed to keep NPS quite stable improving it steadily throughout the journey, it did not sink below 28 at any point of time during the launch. Another important target was to minimize negative inbound calls and emails throughout the project which we achieved by listening to our customers and by making continuous decisions based on data.


All activities and tasks during launch were executed in phases, step-by-step, to make the transition as smooth as possible for all customers. This wasn’t always an easy task to follow – in a software project of this size there’s always surprises, difficulties and challenges to tackle. What clearly helped us in managing complexity was a daily routine based on data and customer feedback – each and every morning we began the day by going through key metrics such as web analytics, NPS and open feedback from customers, performance statistics, inbound statistics (web, email and calls), production monitoring and error status, communications – media inquiries and social media, and marketing such as A/B tests’ results, SEO and conclusions. Also, it was essential to act with a sense of urgency, based on the feedback we got – constantly evaluating how to change our priorities, adjust our activities or refocus our efforts in general based on how our customers were following the plan. 


We were not only changing the website and the way people handle their daily finances but also introduced a a full scale beta version which is a fairly new way to engage customers in finance sector outside fintech startups. In the very beginning of the whole launch project we opened up a pilot version of the new site to our employees. After some revisions and new versions based on employee feedback we invited 150 of our online community customers to an invitation-based private beta. After first line of feedback and revisions, we invited more customers to join beta We launched public beta in the end of 2016 – first to Pivo and OP mobile application users, then to active users and finally to all customers. And again, we proceeded with a build-measure-learn attitude and based on statistics, revised our plans and way forward. In June 2017 we re-directed all our customers from old to new site, which was the first effort that actually “forced” nearly 50% of web bank users to the new site. But before that, we knew that more than 800.000 customers had already logged in to the new site (which was more than 30% ahead of our target) through our subtle efforts asking our customers to take a look at our new site (e.g. directing them to the new site when logging out from the old one). At the end, almost all customers were re-directed to Last remaining group of people was not keen to begin using the new site for daily finances. However parallel use of old and new site and all the communications efforts made the transition smooth to these users as well – we saw only a slight rise and temporary peak in inbound calls and emails, which was actually one of our original targets for the market launch. 


All in all, the most important learnings for me in customer experience driven leadership would be something like this:

  1. Believe in what you do, follow both facts and intuition to avoid analysis paralysis, and do not forget to listen to your heart. 
  2. Customers are human beings, treat them accordingly. Always be prepared to be in the front line yourself when needed.
  3. Be bold to change the old ways of working – if it requires putting aside the management team, then just do it, the rest will follow.


By Paula Ylisassi, Senior Manager, OP Financial Group

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