I had the pleasure of speaking with Bob Buiaroski, the SVP of Manulife, a leading Canadian-based financial services group that serves millions of customers in 22 countries and territories world-wide. With a background in business and technology, Bob is an extremely senior executive leader with many years of experience leading and guiding not only what goes inside of an organization, but also in how he tells the customer story and engages leaders in a graceful way.
CX is particularly valuable in the financial services sector because of its impact on trust. A recent report from Edelman highlights how important trust is, noting that there’s a delicate balance that needs to be maintained between the use of technology and human touch. Bob explores this concept with us well, as we chat about the incorporation of robotics to improve employee and customer experience. From talk to action, and culturally changing how an organization delivers its customer experience, Bob has been instrumental in embedding CX in Manulife’s culture.
Turn Your Ad Hoc CX Culture Into One That’s More Deliberate
When Bob joined Manulife as the SVP of CX, the role already existed but was not entirely defined. This is not uncommon for some of the leaders who are stepping into a role that previously existed. Many times, these new leaders are becoming change agents who later define their own roles, as Bob did. Prior to him joining, CX was done in an ad hoc way, which tends to be more reactive than proactive, and it wasn’t ingrained into the DNA of the organization.
Bob’s goal at Manulife was to make people think and be more aware of what they’re doing and how it affects the customer. As many previous leaders that I’ve interviewed have mentioned, Bob spent time listening to a lot of different people within the organization: the front line staff, team leaders, peers, and the CEO. It was important that he collected this data so he could validate some of his working assumptions with actual data.
Bob realized that as an organization, there were some fundamental things missing in terms of influencing employees and customers to change at the core. This had to do a lot with leadership and how they were understanding customers at Manulife. CX needs to flow into the everyday work, and it wasn’t at the time.
Is Your CX Making a Noticeable Difference to Your Customers?
It’s important to get feedback from your staff regarding how the CX implementation is affecting them and what they’re experiencing with customers. Bob’s frontline staff started to feel jaded by all of the changes that were happening at Manulife and it seemed that externally, customers and advisors didn’t notice much of a change either.
How did Bob change this perception? He made an impact by being very clear around exactly why they’re doing what they’re doing for CX, which at the core, is to reduce the effort that Manulife customers need to go through to conduct business and the effort that employees need to go through in order to make it happen. He wanted to breathe life and energy back into what was being done for the customer.
Tactics to start building an internal foundation of customer understanding:
- Tackle feedback coming from frontline staff. Bob captured the sentiment of the people, where they’re at, what they’re saying, and what feedback everyone could relate to. This method gave him credibility.
- Delivery matters when sharing feedback. When presenting his feedback to leaders, it was important to do so in a conversational way. To Bob, sharing feedback through slide presentations wouldn’t be relatable to his audience. He wanted to have real, human conversations in these meetings.
- Ground customer feedback in real stories. Turning feedback into storytelling allows you to make the feedback even more relatable and personal by grounding it in customer experiences. Bob created life moments for the customers and shared that with the team.
- Turn customer stories into a maturity map. In a sense, Bob used the customer life stories as a maturity map to let everyone know where Manulife is in terms of the CX work being done.
5 focus areas to build upon while improving customer understanding:
- Understand the customer and provide an optimal experience. Focus on creating a design that’s optimal for the customers rather than assume everything has to be digital, or everything has to be traditional. Be specific around what makes a difference to the customers. When you understand the customer, you can design and define things that are relevant to them and can engage the organization in a way where things are relevant to them.
- Metrics are key. Focus on customer effort as a way to have an impact on the customer that’s beneficial to the bottom line.
- Make things relevant and keep people informed. This is cultural around front and back office – making sure that the back office knows what’s happening with the front.
- Create customer advocates within the organization. The customer advocates get to the core of what Manulife should stand for and created an app to help escalate customer issues and concerns within the organization. The app allows customer advocates to log customer issues as they arise and is transmitted to a continuous improvement area. Employees feel proud knowing they can further help customers.
- Leverage robotics and tech to help employees be more efficient. Bob brought in robotics to take away some of the mundane day-to-day work that employees were carrying out so they could focus on the work that really makes a difference to customers.
Implementing your CX work through this lens will help you create change within your organization that will make a big and noticeable difference to your customers.
What Do You Know Now That You Wish You Knew Then?
- The thing that I know now is that as a person, I’m very much glass half full and I’m an eternal optimist and while that creates fantastic momentum at various times, not everyone is in that space all the time. So, as a leader or as a person willing to make a change, understanding the change agenda for people and respecting where everyone’s at, at different points is really key. That’s something that I’ve learned in a lot of ways, the hard way, over many years of delivering transformation programs. It’s just you can’t go in there with an assumption that everyone’s mentally as ready as I might be personally to embrace change.
About Bob Buiaroski
Bob is an experienced C-level executive (Chief Operations Officer, COO), Global Head of Service / CIO (Vodafone) and Managing Director (Capita O2, John Lewis) with expertise in delivering high performance, capability development, service excellence and business transformation in complex technology and service-led environments.
Bob is adept at balancing commercial, technical and operational needs in the context of a wider corporate strategy to achieve growth across global regions.
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