The Relation Between Employee Engagement and Customer-centric

Learn from Anthony Thompson, Co-Founder & Former Chairman at Metro Bank Plc, in this exclusive interview from Customer Experience Exchange for Financial Services, where he explains the relation between employee engagement and customer-centric and give us insight around around customer experience in the financial services.

What part does employee engagement play in becoming more customer-centric? Is it possible to have a great customer journey without employee engagement?

Absolutely not. Critical to any service business are the people who deliver it. In Metro Bank, my 600 colleagues are the people who deliver the service to our customers; they're the ones who give the great experience, day in, day out. There are a couple of challenges around that. The first is how do you ensure that you recruit the right people? So, for us, we talk about recruiting for attitude and training for skills. It's easy to teach somebody to deliver banking services; you can't teach them to want to give great service. So the first thing is about getting the right people.

Then the second thing is about empowering them - giving them what they need to be able to deliver that great experience. Now, you can't prepare them for every circumstance, but what you can do is give them some rules by which they can live. We call it the AMAZE culture, so every person who joins Metro Bank, the first thing they're taught is how to amaze customers. And AMAZE is an acronym - it stands for Attend to every detail; Make every wrong right; Ask if you're not sure, bump it up; Zest is contagious, share it; and Exceed expectations. So whatever the circumstances, however new you are to Metro Bank, you can ask yourself: Am I amazing our customers?

Customer loyalty is becoming an important part of improving the customer journey. How do you turn data into actionable intelligence?

I don't think the question is data. We're drowning in data. There is just so much data. There are conferences every day about big data. Data is not the challenge; insight is the challenge. It's how do you identify the insight - the thing that's going to be really important to the customer - and then action that? Far too many people get tied up in the analysis, rather than in actually saying: What have we learnt that we can really apply that will make this a better experience for our customers?

Consumer choice is at an all-time high. How difficult is it to create long-term relationships, or is customer loyalty a thing of the past?

Well, I would turn that question around and say: Do customers want long-term relationships? Certainly not the way most financial services companies want to create them. For them, a long-term relationship is about extracting as much value from the customer as is possible. That's not a relationship. It would be somewhat one-sided if your boyfriend or girlfriend simply took, took, took from you.

Relationships are about giving and taking, so it's very important if an organisation - a financial services company - wants to build a relationship, that they invest in it. And in Metro Bank, that's exactly what we did. We invested in the delivery of our service, we invested in our longer opening hours, we invested in things for children, and allowing dogs to come in. We invested in all sorts of things that help make it a relationship as far as the customer is concerned.

What are the top three critical success factors in an effective customer experience strategy?

I think it's beyond what's just an effective customer experience strategy; it's what's an effective business? And, for me, businesses are about three, or maybe four, things. The first is having a really clear vision: What is it that you're trying to achieve? Is it a really compelling vision? And you hear so many anodyne statements: We want to give great service to our customers whilst delivering value to our shareholders. Nobody cares. What is it that really, really matters?

In Metro Bank, for me, it was about creating something that would outlive me. It was about creating a monument that I could be proud of, my colleagues could be proud of, and, hopefully, my children or grandchildren could be proud of. Then it's about having a differentiated model - what makes you different from your competitors? Then it's about having a great culture that underpins that model. And then it's about relentless delivery of it, day in, day out, every little detail. It's not doing one thing 100% better; it's doing 100 things 1% better every day.

If you were going to give one piece of advice to a financial service in 2013, what would it be?

Stop paying lip service to your customers and really put them at the centre of everything that you do. Far too many organisations say they want to be customer-centric, but they're really sales-centric. If you are genuinely putting your customer at the heart of what you do, everything you do - your culture, your rewards, your remuneration - will be based around that. You won't be rewarding people just for selling things.