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In the eyes of potential customers, ABN AMRO is the number one in the WUA online orientation study of taking out a mortgage, as well as in the study of taking out a loan. This interview is a chat with Jan-Pieter Schrier, e-commerce director at ABN AMRO. About maintaining speed, fail-fast principles, winning and team empowerment, the digital exemplary role, sales and service growing towards each other, and a future full of FinTech and robots.

Jan-Pieter Schrier, congratulations on winning these WUA studies. How important is it for you to be the best in the digital arena? What is the role of having a winning mentality in this?
“This is the third time we’ve won a WUA study, thus creating the impression that we are extremely keen to win here, and of course that’s true. However, our primary focus is to serve the customer to the best of our ability. Winning over customers: that is in fact the most important task we face here at ABN AMRO. I think that if we do this very well, we can eventually beat our competitors.

“Winning is nice, and we want to win from the perspective of doing well for the customer. What I’m looking for, is people who are very motivated to participate in this ‘race’. People who really go for it, who want to put down real results for the customer. In my opinion, you could call that a winning mentality!”

What is your approach, what is going so well? What could other digital leaders learn from your approach?
“I think our biggest success factor is that we work in a very decentralised manner. We try to put as many responsibilities ‘low down’ in the team, i.e. close to the people who do the real work and who are very close to the customer. And those teams, we empower them to really make their own choices. We try to put the responsibility where it really happens. We work with multidisciplinary teams, so our digital professionals sit around the table with colleagues from other areas of expertise, and together they can immediately get everything they need in order. That’s very powerful in terms of execution strength and agility.

“Of course, we remain a financial service provider, so we have to deal with certain frames. But within those frames, we go all-out on testing! And we do that according to the fail-fast principle. Not that that failure is a goal in and of itself, but speed really is a goal. And then we have to hope that we don’t make too many mistakes. I don’t mind if that does happen, by the way. As long as we can maintain the executive power.”

From a consumer perspective, there shouldn’t be a difference (anymore) between service and sales. Are you able to break through the silos at ABN AMRO, or: are you planning to do so?
“We’ve been making huge changes here for quite some time now. In digital banking, at least, service and sales are on the same level. Our main goal is NPS. It doesn’t really matter to us whether a customer recommends us because they were able to buy a product in a perfect way, or because they applied for a new debit card digitally in a brilliant way. To us, what matters most is the fact that they recommend us. Our main goal is to help our customers get one step further digitally in what they are trying to do. Their recommendation is basically a result, so our actual aim is: how do we help the customer to get a step further each time? That can be achieved with both sales and service. With our web shop teams we have two objectives of the same level, in the area of service and in the area of commerce. They are both of equal importance.

“We translated the NPS objective into Customer Effort Score (CES) ourselves. We have done so because we believe that CES is more actionable within the digital domain, so that provides us with a lot more feedback about where we can really make changes. Which processes do customers get stuck on, what do they think is complicated? Based on that CES, we have formulated commercial targets as well as service targets.

“Sales and service are very close together. If someone who has a mortgage with us wants to do some building work, is making that possible with a construction depot service or is it sales? If someone who has European cover on their travel insurance goes to America, and as they get off the plane we send them an alert: ‘Attention, please enable your World cover’, is that sales or is that service?

“We are very close to the other channels here: there is a lot of interaction with the contact centre and the branch network. When we are helping the customer get a step further digitally, at a certain moment an appropriate next step could be to visit a branch, or to make a phone call with the call centre. And this applies vice versa. If there’s noise there, or if it isn’t properly aligned, this is reflected in the NPS…”

What is the role of customer research and customer focus in your daily work and with the teams you are responsible for?
“For us, it isn’t so much about customer research. What it’s all about is a feedback loop. The voice of the customer leads us. That’s where it starts. The customer tells us whether we’re doing things right or not. And it’s up to us to decide how we gather this information. The most obvious way is Analytics, everyone uses that, but aside from that we also use feedback from other channels and we use more qualitative questionnaires that we offer on the site. Of course we also use the WUA benchmark, and we have our own UX Lab where we test various things. In practice, we try to keep all doors and windows open in order to listen, feel, and experience what the customer is thinking as much as we can.

“Every day during performance meetings Analytics are discussed. Of course that’s more customer behaviour than direct customer feedback: you don’t get a picture of what consumers or customers really think, but you do see that certain steps they take end in a certain place, or that funnels are performing less well than before. Another thing that comes up in our performance meetings as a topic is once again CES: What percentage in your store has completed their task, and how many people thought that task was easy or difficult? In addition, we have closed feedback loops within our branch network, where branch staff do call-backs for customers with whom there has been a lot of contact to ask what they thought of it and what we could improve on. If they then get feedback about the digital service delivery, that feedback is passed on to us.”

What KPIs do you use for digital, which knobs do you usually twist in order to excel digitally?
“We use NPS and CES. In order to make it actionable, we translate the latter into a CES for service and a CES for commerce. The CES for commerce focuses on helping the customer to the best of our ability when they apply for a new product, the one for service focuses on helping the customer find a solution to a service question. And of course, there are many derived indicators and KPIs that contribute to a high CES and NPS…”

What are your biggest digital challenges for 2017?
“In 2016 we won four first prizes with WUA over a relatively short period of time. In my opinion, that is indicative of the growth and development we are going through. In addition to the feedback given by consumers in your studies, we also see in other areas that things are going pretty well for digital banking at ABN AMRO.

“If things are going well, this will naturally be in the spotlight more, and you’ll get an increasing number of people who find it interesting and who also want to something with it. I think the biggest challenge for 2017 is to ensure that we maintain the high speed at which we make beautiful things for our customers, and to stay really focused on the customer. Eventually, ‘digital banking’ will of course become just ‘banking’. It is going to be one big mix of everything. Before all this becomes a reality, I feel that with an extreme focus on digital, we can make great strides. We are on our way to the top, how do we continue this growth? How do we ensure that next year we will be having multiple winner’s interviews with WUA again?

“What I do not want, is that the inclusion of the rest of the organisation comes at the expense of focus on the customers and on e-commerce. So how can we properly unite those worlds? It’s about choices, allocation of resources, attention. The fact that I consider this to be a challenge has to do with the phase we’re currently in. Because: I feel that we have an important exemplary role towards the rest of the organisation, and I would like to include everyone in the change.”

What digital innovations are you currently working on, and what developments are on your roadmap?
“We are continually working to improve the service delivery for the customer in the digital domain. Innovations that jump out are Tikkie and Grip: paying through WhatsApp and a more complete overview of your expenses. This is where we’re expecting a lot to happen over the coming period.

“Something I am very excited about, but which probably doesn’t classify as innovation, is the remote advice we deliver through a video solution. We’re ahead of the game with this, a customer can get advice anytime, anywhere, whatever way they wish. At the same time, this presents the challenge to get all customer contact channels and possibilities in sync so that customers get a truly seamless experience. That is extremely complicated.”

What do you think will be The Next Big Thing in digital in your market and focus area?
“Whilst you might have previously described financial services as stable and calm, there’s a lot going on right now. Developments in FinTech follow each other in quick succession, there are new entrants to the market, new ways of financial service delivery, large out-of-sector parties entering the world of finance… There really is a multitude of developments, which have a lot to do with new technology. What truly is The Next Big Thing, I don’t really know. What I do know, is that in these exciting times, as a bank we need to be ready to help our customers to the best of our ability, for example with a seamless integration of various contact channels. This will certainly be a topic right now, and in the coming years!”

What is your ultimate goal and dream in the business area?
“Soon, everything will be technology, everywhere. My dream is to really help customers along, with the aid of technology. How do you ensure that technological developments or possibilities that seem extremely complex remain extremely simple to use for a customer? How do you give a customer control and grip in a world that is constantly changing? How do we uphold the human dimension at a time when robotics is taking off? It is a tension field and an intersection I like to get involved in, and where I like to take the lead with the ultimate goal of customer satisfaction!”