“Technology, such as AI and bots, will continue to drive operational efficiency and allow us to automate manual, repetitive tasks. But there are limitations of a technology-centric approach in creating the most optimum customer experience – human capital matters just as much.”
FST Media: Empathy holds a particular importance in ME’s customer experience journey. How does ME maintain customer empathy in today’s increasingly digitised interaction model?
Purcell: Creating real customer connection doesn’t come from a single team working in isolation. It’s the result of embedding an empathetic mindset throughout the entire organisation, which ME has successfully done by setting out the four customer promises below:
- Know me: see people, not PINs
- Know more than me: make lives better with brilliant banking
- Don’t bullshit me: be real
- Make me smile: make our customers fall in love.
These customer promises allow us to differentiate ourselves and display empathy at every customer touchpoint. In particular, employing the customer promise ‘don’t bullshit me’ in all our correspondence to customers ensures that we are upfront and use plain English, communicate details in an easily digestible way, and empathise with the customer by putting ourselves in their shoes.
FST Media: In light of the Hayne Royal Commission, what lessons can ME take away from these findings and how can it leverage these learnings to improve services for customers?
Purcell: The key consideration that emerged from the Royal Commission is how an organisation balances the needs of customers with other stakeholders like shareholders. For ME, which is owned by industry super funds, this balance is enshrined in our core purpose of helping all Australians get ahead, and it guides all our business decisions. We have a customer experience department and customer advocates throughout the bank to ensure that our core purpose influences decision-making throughout. It’s also about building and maintaining a culture that puts customers at the heart of everything we do. This approach has stood ME in good stead and the Royal Commission has just confirmed that this is the right approach.
FST Media: What are ME’s digital priorities over the next 12 months?
Purcell: ME has just finished replacing its core banking platform, which has been a multi-year project. Now our focus is on our customer-facing digital channels, continuing to enhance our online banking proposition, removing friction from our customer journeys, and allowing customers to self-serve via online channels, which will reduce the need for phone calls or printed forms. We’ll also be focused on payment technologies and getting ready for open banking.
FST Media: What limitations does technology have in delivering superior service to customers? Could this be overcome with developments in artificial intelligence (AI) or further advancements in online service platforms?
Purcell: Technology, such as AI and bots, will continue to drive operational efficiency and allow us to automate manual, repetitive tasks. But there are limitations of a technology-centric approach in creating the most optimum customer experience – human capital matters just as much. I think it will take a while before AI develops the same level of empathy, creativity, and ability to context switch in the same way that humans have.
FST Media: Where do you or the executive team seek inspiration for ME’s digital transformation projects?
Purcell: One of our company values is ‘Stay Hungry’, so we are encouraged to keep looking, keep learning, and keep growing. We do this both personally, but also by committing time as an executive team to visiting other companies or arranging for entrepreneurs across multiple industries to spend time talking to us about their approaches, successes, and lessons learned. People are so generous in sharing their experiences and I always feel invigorated after these interactions.
FST Media: What existing technology would you like to see play a more prominent role in banking over the next few years?
Purcell: Artificial intelligence will continue to play an increasingly important role in banking, with Gartner having forecast that more than 85 per cent of customer interactions will be managed without a human by 2020. The reality is that most customers want to self-serve online in most instances and AI will continue to help them do this quickly, easily, and with less friction.
FST Media: As a challenger institution, what is ME doing to outgun the growing fintech threat and outmaneuver the big four?
Purcell: We don’t see fintechs as a threat – partnering with fintechs aligned with our values will help us drive innovation. At the same time, ME stands apart from both fintechs and the big four because we believe it is important to give customers the option to bank with an organisation aligned with their interests, particularly in the current environment.
ME was created by member-owned industry super funds to be a fairer home loan lender, and our benefits still go back to the industry super funds who own us – the very same ones that look after the retirement savings of more than seven million Australians. At this time, with trust in financial institutions at an all-time low, we believe our founding ethos and core purpose to help all Australians get ahead places us in a good position.
FST Media: What digital project have you been most proud to implement at ME and why?
Purcell: We are rolling out a robotics program across the bank after a successful proof-of-concept with a robot that we’ve affectionately named ‘Sheldon’, after the Big Bang Theory. This program really excites me, as the robots have the ability to simultaneously provide value to our customers and our people, as well as drive operational efficiency. It’s so good to see the impact that these robots can make – for instance, the proof of concept involved the process of ordering a ‘past statement’. We’ve reduced the time it takes to do this process from around seven minutes to 30 seconds. This offers a much better experience for our customers and our people.
FST Media: What do you foresee as the definitive game-changing technology for financial services over the next 18 months?
Purcell: Open data and open banking are likely to play a highly prominent role in the financial services industry in the next 18 months. Some will see it as a challenge, some will see it as an opportunity, but ultimately the customer will be the winner, which is a great thing.
FST Media: What are you hoping delegates will take away from your presentation at the 2018 Future of Financial Services conference?
Purcell: I am hoping attendees will come away from it recognising the importance of embedding customer experience throughout the organization, and at every customer touchpoint, instead of leaving it to one business unit. It’s notoriously hard to stand out in the homogeneous and highly concentrated financial services industry, but I hope attendees will see that breaking out of the mould – as ME has done in the banking industry – is a good thing.