Speaking on the first day of Pegasystems’ PegaWORLD annual customer meeting, Pawel Brzeski, CIO, ING Poland explained how the company changed course in midstream from a more traditional case management initiative to a full-blown customer engagement strategy. Recounting how Pega helped craft ING’s customer experience, with support from the vendor’s technical lead Michal Majcher, Brzeski said that commoditized product necessitated differentiating on service. That wouldn’t be easy, given that having CSRs address clients by name and refer to their contract data is simply table stakes. Game-changing differentiation would require building a conversation based on relevant data in context to the person and interaction, Brzeski explained. I could relate having flown down to Orlando for PegaWORLD from two intense days of meetings in New York with my Insurance & Technology and UBM Tech colleagues about our new strategy. Like insurance, B2B media has faced economic challenges and customer service challenges created by new technology. Where we once sent out a paper document monthly and hoped for the best, today we must engage our audience in a relevant conversation in a timely and constant manner.
Conversely, ING, just like B2B media brands, has to not only deliver new capabilities, but must undergo often difficult culture changes to create a customer culture. Why is this so difficult? Because it implies a shift from a respectful but tacit relationship with the customer to an active and solicitous one that aims to anticipate the customer’s needs. In addition to the difficulties of building those outward-facing capabilities and institutional habits, the age of customer engagement also implies an internal ethos of customer engagement with employees. Companies that expect their associates to buy into customer engagement must themselves engage in the same spirit with their employees – or they can expect cynicism and low morale.
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Brzeski acknowledged as much on a slide detailing ING’s strategy and customer experience. Last but not least on the list was a heading that read, “Organizational development: motivating and engaging our [home office] staff.” When questioned by the session moderator – yours truly – about the objective of that item, Brzeski explained that ING believed that an effective customer engagement strategy must extend to staff.
Working from highly motivated customer-facing employees, ING is on the verge of launching a customer experience aimed at driving a lifelong customer experience. Working from a “Financial Doctor,” concept, ING provides needs-based financial counseling and sound advice so that they feel secure. “It should come naturally for a family to have a financial advisor – just like having a family doctor,” Brzeski explained.
The insurer’s strategy also attempts to establish a customer community that it calls the ING Society, which enables members to easily contact each other to share and receive advice. This aspect of the strategy presents a degree of risks, in as much as potentially disgruntled customers could spread discontent. Brzeski explained that his team persuaded reluctant colleagues of the value of such capabilities through the success of earlier efforts to engage with customers, e.g., with social media. “They have seen that these things have worked, and trust us that certain other developments are necessary and inevitable,” he said. ING also identified operational efficiency as a major goal of the business process management-driven customer engagement initiative. But far from avoiding doing more than was strictly necessary, the concept was one of leveraging operational and technical developments to optimize processes in order to bring even more and better services to clients – as well as better working conditions for advisors and colleagues, according to Brzeski.