A Customer Experience Strategy Begins With a Voice of Customer Programme

Interview with the VP, Global Voice of Customer at American Express about the importance of collecting and analysing customer feedback to optimise the customer experience.

Rick Meyreles is the Vice President, Global Voice of Customer in the World Service division of American Express, where he has global responsibilities for managing the end-to-end voice of customer programme for American Express.

Prior to this role, Meyreles served as Vice President, Consumer Brand Marketing, Consumer Card services, responsible for brand marketing initiatives extending across the US consumer charge and lending product portfolios.

Rick has also held a variety of marketing and business strategy roles at American Express in retail banking, brokerage and financial advice. He has been with American Express for more than 13 years.

Hi Rick, thank you for joining us today at CX Network. What does your role as VP, Global Voice of Customer entail and how does your job impact on American Express’ wider customer experience strategy?

My position and my team sit within the Global Customer Service Operations Division of American Express. Within this division, which we call World Service, we serve the B2C and B2B customer segments of most of the company – about 60 to 70 million customers. These are consumer card members, small business card members, corporate card members, merchants who accept the American Express card and various other products, including gift cards and travellers’ cheques.

My role specifically, and the role of my team, which consists of about 85 customer experience professionals, is to collect and analyse customer feedback across all of the segments I mentioned, globally – we operate in 23 markets around the world – and identify improvement opportunities in the customer experience, particularly as measured by Net Promoter Score (NPS).

Voice of the Customer is a major buzzword within the industry right now. Why do you think it has become such a prominent feature within customer experience?

I talk to a lot of peers and would-be peers are interested in starting customer experience programmes, and specifically Voice of Customer programmes. In my experience over the last 16 years working in this space, what I’ve realised is that Voice of Customer is a natural and intuitive point of entry for companies and teams who are seeking to begin down the journey of customer experience strategy.

And I say that because, generally speaking, most people understand intuitively the importance and potential effectiveness of collecting customer feedback, analysing it to see where there are problems or where there are opportunities for improvement. It’s a very tangible aspect of a broader customer experience programme. And what I find in my work internally as well as speaking with colleagues outside of my company, across industries, is that generally speaking most customer experience programmes begin with a Voice of Customer programme.

Can you give an example of a challenge you’ve faced in your role as VP, Global Voice of Customer and how you’ve overcome this?

I’ll give one example that we haven’t overcome yet, but we’re working toward now and that I’m optimistic we can overcome. I think this is one that every Voice of Customer programme, irrespective of industry or size of firm, faces and that’s around feedback collection.

How do we gather feedback from our customers? The most common way today is to send out a survey through different channels. It might be on the phone, it might be in the form of an email or a text or a web survey, but it’s surveys.

As customers ourselves, we know that we’re inundated with these requests for feedback and we’ve reached a saturation point of survey fatigue. And so what we’re working on is how do we collect feedback in different ways that are less intrusive to our customers? Because what we’re doing right now, what we run the risk of doing, is negatively impacting the very customer experience we’re trying to improve by continuously asking our customers, what do you think of me now?

Solving that will require some innovative thinking, something that I know a lot of customer experience professionals are thinking about. How we get smarter and leaner about collecting feedback, more targeted, I think will be a big challenge for all Voice of Customer programmes in 2016.

Wavering trust is very much a topic of conversation right now within the financial services industry. What do you believe that key steps are that companies should be taking to ensure they either gain or regain consumer trust?

I think two things, and they really go hand-in-hand, are transparency and simplicity. Across industries, we need to do a better job of being more transparent in how our products work, how our billing works and simplify how customers use our products and the information that we convey.

Are there any differentiated ways in which American Express engages with customers, to encourage ongoing loyalty and turn them into true brand advocates?

Yes, there is. We have a philosophy and a strategy that is branded as Relationship Care®. At its essence, Relationship Care is about treating each interaction with our customers as an opportunity to deepen engagement and form relationships, as opposed to treating each interaction as a transaction and an opportunity to reduce expenses by getting off the phone as quickly as possible.

Underlying this ethos, or philosophy, are a number of important principles when it comes to serving our customers, which I do believe differentiate us from our competitors as well as help us be among the world’s most respected service brands, which is an aspiration for us.

One of the principles is to measure and reward based on the Voice of the Customer. Another is to organisationally revere the frontline employees. And another is to empower employees, particularly those frontline employees, with capabilities and policies and procedures that enable them to effectively serve our customers. Those are some of the points of differentiation.

Finally, can you tell us about a time where you, or American Express, went above and beyond to deliver a memorable customer experience, either to an individual or a group of customers?

One of our employees, Maliva, received a call from a distraught Card Member in Australia who had just been assaulted and his American Express cards had been taken. The Card Member, who had been running to find safety, was out of breath as he spoke on the phone.

Maliva told the caller to not worry about the cards as she had invalidated them immediately. She was more concerned about the Card Member’s safety. Frantic to find a safe place, the caller kept Maliva on the phone, so she assured him she wasn’t going anywhere and asked him if he could provide her with information about his surroundings. The Card Member was crying and was unable to provide Maliva with any details.

While on the call, she reviewed the account and was able to determine the hotel where the Card Member was staying. Suddenly, the call disconnected. Maliva quickly called the hotel and explained the situation to the front desk clerk, who immediately invalidated the Card Member’s room keys in case someone tried to access his room.

While trying to reach the Card Member, Maliva reached out to Premium Global Assist who contacted the Australian Consulate and the authorities. Finally, Maliva was able to reach the Card Member, who by this time had been running for 45 minutes and was completely out of breath. She explained that she contacted the hotel and that he should return there as soon as possible.

When the Card Member arrived at the hotel, he was advised that everything had been taken care of for him.

That is a really great example of an empowered frontline employee making a real difference to a customer, thanks so much for sharing it and for this interview!