The Festival of Marketing 2015 will feature a variety of companies discussing the challenge of keeping pace with customer expectation.

The complexity of personal banking provides a particular challenge, one which Chris Woolnough has been wrestling with at MBNA (Bank of America's credit card).

We caught up with Chris to ask about MBNA's journey. Here's what he had to say.

The Festival of Marketing includes 12 stages - see the speaker line-up and book your ticket at festivalofmarketing.com.

Please briefly describe your role at MBNA.

I lead the digital team in the UK for MBNA, Bank of America’s UK Credit card business.

We have over 5m credit card holders in the UK and have been based in Chester since 1993. I manage a team who are responsible for all aspects of our digital experience – from strategy to marketing, user experience, digital transformation, communications, mobile, desktop and how we protect our customers.

Basically, pretty much anything you see when you interact with us in any digital form is led by my team. Given we don’t have a branch network, the majority of our customer interactions, aside from phone calls, occur digitally.

So, this is a really important focus for the business.

Can you tell us where MBNA is currently in terms of being digitally transformed?

Our lack of branches means we’ve always been a somewhat digital-focused business. In the three years I’ve been in the business that focus has intensified whereby we are now very much in a run-to-digital environment throughout our entire organisation.

We’re starting from a great position as our customer experience is already well on the way to being what I’d consider best in class for digital. We remain on a journey with some of our back office processes and ensuring we keep ahead of customer expectations.

The company has recognised the importance of digital transformation and thus it’s been a key investment area for us, just this July we completely overhauled our MBNA.co.uk site and its content management system to stay ahead of the curve and this will continue.

This was, for example, our third iteration of a mobile optimised site when we are still seeing some companies struggle to launch their first.

How important is data and customer insight to MBNA in developing the customer experience?

It’s vital and underpins everything that we do. We have run a number of analytics transformation initiatives this year and last to enhance our web analytics capability but we also continue to invest heavily in usability testing, focus groups and customer surveying.

We use this to drive our roadmap of change, support business case creation and most critically use it to monitor new initiatives post go-live, to ensure they meet customers expectations.

Recently we launched an incredibly innovative two-way messaging service to prevent fraud and within four weeks customers scored it 100% consistently on a delight measure.

What are the main challenges MBNA has experienced in trying to achieve digital transformation?

The challenges are likely very similar to every organisation going through rapid change at this time. Staying ahead of customer expectations has probably never been harder so the single biggest challenge is the sheer amount we can/could do.

We’ve made a lot of priority calls this year and have to continuously manage how much change we are committing to. Above all else we have to protect the day-to-day service which customers expect from us and ensure they can do the things they want to do. Only then would I want to launch more transformational initiatives.

Ongoing change has led us to create a digital strategy and corresponding set of KPIs which we then use to prioritise new ideas. 

How do you track the success of social activity? Is this used towards building customer profiles?

We officially launched our social media activities back in Q1 with a focus on two areas – responding to customers who appeared in need of help and monitoring/sentiment analysis.

The key success here for me has been our ability to reach out to customers who are clearly distressed and need our help but may be unable to find out how to do this.

A great example recently was the launch of Apple Pay where customers were asking on social media how they could get their card into Apple Pay. We were able to step in and respond straight away ensuring the customer was able to do what they wanted to do.

As a senior team we all receive daily buzz reporting which is a great insight channel when we launch new items or indeed when things go wrong and we can monitor the impact they had and learn from them.

We are still at the early stages with social but, as we explore different segments to our customer database, it's becoming ever more important as a key customer profile.

Take millenial’s for instance, there may be some in this population who would rather communicate via social than on the phone or indeed email.

We are learning everyday and using that to build our future plans. 

Are there plans to develop the customer experience in terms of building a seamless transition between the offline and online customer journey?

We already have a joined up approach between digital and phone-based interactions. We have key insights designed around this such as the number of calls within two hours of a digital interaction.

This allows us to see how well the digital channel contains customers i.e. could the customer do the thing they wanted to do themselves and if they couldn’t did they ring?

On the reverse, our contact centre agents know when a caller may not have been able to do what they wished online. This also allows us to utilise our highly skilled agents to provide insight on why the customers chose to call.

Similarly, the agents have visibility of whether the customer is registered for digital services and so can bring that in to the conversation with a customer.

Are there any areas you feel that MBNA can still improve its insight?

I think there are always areas we can improve upon, particularly as new technologies change inherently how customers interact with us.

If you’d asked me 18 months ago I had no awareness of Apple Pay or Samsung Pay which both have the potential to radically change our industry. They also provide a new set of data points which we previously didn’t see.

I think the key focus we have is similar to other organisations and that’s to turn the large amounts of data we have and collect into real time actionable insight.

For us that could be determining how we turn say our digital data into insight for our fraud or credit risk peers to better make real time decisions. 

Do you run into any problems when proposing digital reforms in terms of adhering to banking regulations?

We have a great working relationship with both our legal and compliance teams and they get heavily involved in any project very early on so we don’t experience problems when it comes to our change agenda.

We’ve also been heavily feeding into the FCA on their call for innovation and smarter communications papers so that we can try to share our thoughts on where regulation could prevent future activities we feel are in the customer interest.

The regulators themselves face a very similar challenge to us all, which is how to stay on top of technological and customer trends and ensure customers are still being treated fairly and being protected.

Equally being a US based organisation we have to adhere to the OCC and Federal Reserve and so I meet those regulators frequently to share our digital plans and provide updates on key metrics. 

How does localisation fit into your development? Despite the name, how do you strive to appeal to non-American territories?

It’s simple really. Whilst we are fully owned by BoA, we trade in the UK solely as MBNA when it comes to our credit card business.

All our employees are UK-based – and all new customers must have a UK registered address.

So these days we are basically 100% British as a credit card brand. As we invest further, we will increase awareness of our brand and its personality.

Ben Davis

Published 2 October, 2015 by Ben Davis @ Econsultancy

Ben Davis is Editor at Econsultancy. He lives in Manchester, England. You can contact him at ben.davis@econsultancy.com, follow at @herrhuld or connect via LinkedIn.

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Comments (1)

Roy Cowup

Roy Cowup, Inspector at Infinity Investment Plan

Good stuff, Ben.

This is a great insight into digital transformation and MBNA’s role in fulfilling customer’s expectations and demands.

I really liked the 3rd and 4th question you asked from the digital team Head Chris Woolnough. One of the oldest sayings in business is “you manage what you measure”. This is when the idea of measuring customer satisfaction was developed. Thus, data and customer insight holds great importance in developing customer experience. Good point you raised here. Similarly, the concept of digital transformation is also worth- considering in this post. True digital transformation programmes must start with the right type of discovery activities.

Thanks!

over 2 years ago

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