What is the current state of CX in 2023 amid a challenging economy, rapidly changing customer expectations and, of course, the explosion of artificial intelligence? Our co-founders, CEO Alfred (Chip) Kahn and President, Tim Attinger sat down and shared their perspectives on hot CX topics and the trends they expect for the remainder of 2023 and into 2024. This Q&A captures their insights on banking CX, customer retention, business agility, legacy technology and CX, and how AI is changing the game.
Tim Attinger: At the midpoint of 2023, we've seen a few things in banking. Broadly, we see enterprise banks realizing even more acutely how important it is to have solid, deep customer relationships. That comes from orchestrating great outcomes for customers as opposed to concentrating on improving transactional interactions.
Making sure a call goes well, while important, doesn't make someone more loyal to you when the market looks rough. Helping a business owner achieve a great life goal or managing an integration all the way through to success is what’s important in building a relationship, especially with business owners. We see banks doubling down on this, particularly on the commercial side, by making investments to ensure that. When they can solve problems, they create more loyal customers. I think that's where CX is headed over the next 6 months.
Chip Kahn: I agree. The name of the game right now for financial institutions is deposits. The way to drive deposits is to be very easy to work with and to offer solutions that drive a relationship versus single point-in-time interactions. Very often, the solutions offered are delivered by third-party partners, so, to make that a holistic and seamless experience, organizations need to consider a customer experience management strategy.
Tim Attinger: That’s right. Capturing deposits requires solving as many business problems for your customers as you possibly can. And that often means building partnerships with outside organizations, which can significantly impact how smoothly a customer’s journey progresses.
Tim Attinger: Financial institutions have leveraged partnerships to try and improve their position with commercial customers, but for those who don’t have a thoughtful CX strategy and connector ecosystem management strategy, it's actually made it harder. If you don’t have the right tool sets in the process of trying to shore up your deposit position, you are in a tougher spot. Half the time, the customer is in the hands of partners during the journey and the institution doesn’t have visibility or control over how that goes.
What we’ve seen with the commercial banks we work with that do this very well is to create a single front door to the organization with an orchestration capability that unlocks visibility into the activities of my partners - but also gives them control. They can send requests and send commands to update information between organizations. The result is when a customer is interacting with a partner, it feels just like another department of the same bank vs. a totally different organization.
With the right system in place, like CXMEngineⓇ, we’ve seen banks successfully drive revenue growth, attrition reduction, expense reduction and increases in net promoter scores and employee scores, which is important because everyone is staffing-challenged. When you make it easier for employees to do their jobs, you get happier customers, but you also get more loyal employees. You now have motivated employees equipped to help customers achieve their goals in the most seamless way possible.
Chip Kahn: Yes, having the right customer experience platform becomes important because you need visibility across teams, the end client, and the ecosystem. With more constrained resources, having more automation to drive communications in a personalized way and to drive collaboration is critical. Customer experience platforms do that across products and across journeys that are bespoke.
Tim Attinger: That’s right. I’ll add that orchestrating a great experience is not just putting a thin veneer of helping a customer navigate a web page or a process or a form over the top of a fragmented process that disconnected.
A CX management solution needs to be highly operationally focused to tie together teams, systems, activities and functions and it needs to help deliver a toolset that allows a business manager to orchestrate across internal and external organizational silos so going across the enterprise and its partners don’t just look seamless, but it actually feels seamless to the customer.
Chip Kahn: Agility is extremely important in today’s environment as organizations bring new products to market. You want to drive a return on investment in this kind of environment as fast as possible. Only the things that do that will be approved.
One way to drive fast ROI is to enable journey orchestration so a business line or a product manager can do it… they can make adjustments as necessary based on customer feedback and analytics without submitting a ticket and getting into a development queue to solve for something that’s hardcoded. You need to be able to do it dynamically to affect the results, see the results and make changes as necessary. The things that will get approved right now drive a fast return on investment. To do that, you need to be able to orchestrate journeys and do it in a no-code platform.
Tim Attinger: Yes, this is what we are seeing. Financial institutions are coming to a realization. First, they had on-premises systems customized to the nth degree. Now they are using the next-generation cloud-based systems, but they are still highly customized to the organization’s use case and rather inflexible and brittle.
Now they need agile, business-responsive capabilities, but they are not going to drive those back into these cloud-based systems that are built for one-size-fits-all. There’s not much flexibility unless they throw tons of developers at it.
What we are seeing in commercial banking is a strategy to put developers against strategic activities on that core platform, like ensuring data is clean, things are landing in the right place and there’s stability. Then, they can add a flexible CX platform that connects back into the tech stack and enables data-in, data-out flexibility and extends the use of that platform into the business line. Developers, CRM administrators and case management systems then become business partners that drive positive business outcomes instead of cost centers that block business success.
This strategy is great for IT managers because they can drive flexibility into the business, and it's great for business owners because they gain much-needed agility and responsiveness to the market that Chip referenced.
Tim Attinger: Investing in CRMs, case management systems and knowledge management platforms is a given. The challenge is that those systems have been in place for a long time, and they are large, complex, and not interconnected. They are fit for purpose for a particular application. However, when companies need to help a customer drive a journey across multiple teams in multiple systems and external organizations in a matter of days, not weeks, they are not fit for purpose in this context.
There is no amount of development in a CRM that empowers the orchestration of a partner's capabilities or that brings information to CX specialists or associates in real time within the context of a journey the customer is trying to accomplish. There just isn't. We haven't seen it.
In my opinion, the next generation of technology investment, which is modest for banks and enterprises, is investing in platforms that deliver CX orchestration across all existing systems by plugging into them. Then giving tool sets to business managers, like visual low-code, no-code journey builders to orchestrate business outcomes.
When we’ve talked to banks, every one of them tell us that the process of getting something new done in their existing system is onerous and expensive and it takes a while. That isn't okay In this environment. It never has been, but in this environment especially, you need to move faster.
Chip Kahn: Yes, the more a CRM is customized for a specific product, the more silos enterprises are creating, because ultimately it can't be used by other lines of business. Companies end up having more silos and more systems to orchestrate across. They are making the problem even larger instead of solving it.
Chip Kahn: AI is a hot topic right now for any software company serving enterprise and B2B customers. Large language models (LLM) and generative text systems are at a place where they can be commercially available. The question becomes what makes AI valuable? What are the valuable use cases?
Anytime you can make people more efficient and more helpful in terms of getting a job done, there’s value in AI. In CX specifically, the value of AI is when there is unique, proprietary data or knowledge beyond general web knowledge. For example, metadata from journeys, insights and automations and proprietary workflows that the models can be tied to in order to produce unique and specific insights. Otherwise, it's not much different than how Bing is incorporated into the search engine.
Its value comes from having a unique sector/segment, enterprise-specific knowledge and knowledge management to feed it. Then it needs the workflows and automations that can provide further insights and the services to expose them.
Tim Attinger: To add to that, many times, CX professionals are supporting solutions that are actually provided by partners. They are on the front lines trying to help a commercial client go live with a solution or to solve a problem and when they look for the information to service the client, they find an Alexandria library of scrolls! Good luck finding the answer to the question!
What AI does in this context is to look at the customer to determine:
• What product suite do they have?
• What journey are they trying to accomplish?
• What journey are they in?
• What step are they in the journey?
• What was the sentiment in the last conversation?
• What was the intent of the discussion, whether it happened in chat or other modes?
The AI engine can see what it is that a CX support professional is trying to solve, and then extract the three paragraphs out of that entire 10,000-volume library that will help them in the moment. That is where we see AI as massively beneficial.
Or a business manager is orchestrating a journey in a visual drag-and-drop-builder. And the AI model, like a coach, notes that the journey tends to go better if they put the step here, not there. It’s machines plus people, not replacing people. AI is a facilitator and an enhancer.
This is the benefit we’ve seen in managing knowledge using AI. Enterprises don’t usually want support teams to be up-to-speed on 14 different products that change every time there’s a new release. Instead, they want teams to be great at interacting with customers and the enterprise will bring them the answers they need.
Chip Kahn: Exactly. AI empowers knowledge delivery, which means, getting the right information to the right person at the right time and in the right context. The AI tools are making that even better for CX professionals.
Tim Attinger: Despite some of the turbulence we've seen in the marketplace over the past six months, it's still fundamentally true that the most trusted entities for managing a financial relationship in the commercial space are banks.
Financial institutions broadly, are starting from a position of strength in the marketplace because they are trusted entities to deliver core services. Are they seen as highly innovative in delivering next-gen solutions in treasury products, commercial solutions, etc.? Likely not. Are they great at delivering those internally at scale, nimbly, without sinking a lot of money into an internally-built solution? Generally not.
Enterprise financial institutions have captured customer interest and relationships, and the key for them, as we've talked about before, is holding those and deepening those relationships. The way they deepen them is to take this great experience in the core products they’re delivering and make it easy to do business with a fintech that a customer has never heard of, but it feels seamless because it feels like the bank.
Banks take on finding partnerships, building a trust relationship with that organization, defining the solution they bring to market for clients, integrating into the fintech and then orchestrating across all of the organizations to deliver a great outcome. The bank will take the complexity of discovery, building and integration, go live and servicing that would be challenging for their clients if they had to go direct to a third party.
Chip Kahn: Banks have been partnering with third-party partners for a long time to issue credit cards and to help businesses accept payments. It’s nothing new. It’s expanding, though, around tools in fintech partnerships, like cash management for small businesses.
Even more thought needs to go into embedded finance and banking as a service, which moves the bank services into the software that businesses use every day. That's a multi-party relationship and ecosystem, delivering to a common end client. It involves at least three different parties, and oftentimes, more.
It really has to be thoughtful around customer journeys, from buying the services and software and activating and boarding the customer to servicing. All of those journeys need to be orchestrated thoughtfully across what can be many, many different integrated software vendors or ISVs and fintechs that have consumed the bank’s APIs.
Tim Attinger: Our CX management solution, CXMEngine, is something enterprises can bolt on to their existing tool set. It’s not an either-or thing. Many financial institutions are already using an ecosystem of enabling and extending tools in many platforms, including Salesforce and others. This is exactly like that. CXMEngine is just another extending tool for the customer experience that happens to be super powerful and also super lightweight.
CIOs are telling us that they are increasingly asked to lead innovation and be business strategists and partners. As IT leaders, their job is to help the business manage outcomes and improve results in the bottom line. We absolutely see CXMEngine doing that. Our clients have experienced double-digit improvements in revenue growth, retention, sell-through, and in both customer and employee satisfaction scores.