As CX leaders and in our own lives, we’ve seen that sometimes, finance companies can be a little late to the customer experience train, so I think you’ll enjoy today’s conversation, as I speak to Samantha Paxson, Executive Vice President and Chief Experience Officer for Co-op Financial Services. Samantha shares how she’s used her communications and marketing background to unite leadership across silos within her organization to provide a more efficient and unified customer experience. I think you’ll also find value in the conversation where we touch on the importance of emotional intelligence and how that plays a role in clearly and effectively communicating the needs of the business.
Co-op Financial Services is as a nationwide credit union network supporting their members of small financial instututions, credit unions, and community banks with industry-leading ATM, digital payment, security, and marketing.
1 – Look Deeper than Surface-Level Metrics
When starting out in her role as Vice President and CXO, Samantha spent a lot of time with the sales team at events and quickly learned from them that the Co-op’s products and services weren’t up to par with customer needs. Even though the company introduced a number of digital solutions, they hadn’t actually aligned their end-to-end operation with how they were delivering. Essentially, their digital experience wasn’t matching the offline experience. Customers received a fragmented experience that was the result of internal siloed work.
Samantha realized that even though their metrics were telling them that sales were good, and business was fine, they didn’t fully understand that the end customer wasn’t completely satisfied. Co-op Financial is essentially a B2B, to C company. For Samantha and her team, the question they had to ask was, how do you maintain relationships with your customers, with 20th-century technology and thinking? They set out to understand the full assessment of problems silo by silo.
2 – Connect ROI to Growth
Samantha enlisted the help of her user experience team to put together a comprehensive audit. They needed to gain a deeper understanding of what the experience was like for customers. Through her previous experience, she already understands the importance of product strategy and end to end delivery, so she knew that CX has to influence and sit side by side with operations in order to affect those processes.
Partnering with the CIO, Samantha was able to integrate operations with technology in order to proactively design the end to end delivery and business model. Why partner with the CIO? Because she wanted to work with who was going to be impacted the most by the changes to come. Samantha knew she had to operationalize the work, and that this work needed to be collaborative. While conducting research to understand what was really happening with customers, she also worked with sales and relationship management leaders to pull together qualitative and quantitative data, sales numbers, and at-risk clients.
Samantha presented her findings to the CEO and executive team through a visual deck, in a way she knew her audience would be receptive to. Since her audience was math-focused, she included the numbers that they needed to see but presented in an emotionally sensitive way to convey that some of their decisions may not have been the best business decisions. She understood how important it was to not offend her audience, but for them to understand that there needed to be a change. She essentially showed them: gaps in the current state, where the pain points are that the customer is experiencing – and then asking, how do you shift processes to link them together to have an infrastructure that will match up to what the company does in terms of product and strategic development. This process took a year.
3 – Be a Partner and Unite Your Departments
As most leaders know, it’s easier to get the work done when you have a team that trusts you and believes in the work you’re doing. Samantha had this knowledge and spent time with her teammates sharing how they would get the work done and showing them how their work fits in with the work of the other teams. It’s critical that different departments understand how all of their roles come together to support the united vision.
Samantha spent time interviewing the different team leaders to understand their business needs and goals so she could work to bring it all together. Collaboration was important to getting the work done, as was showcasing that as the CXO, she wasn’t there to condemn anyone or department, she was there to help.
What do you Know Now That You Wish You Knew Then?
- Customer experience isn’t about just coming up with personas and the needs by persona; I wish I had known that sooner. It was a false start. Doing a user experience audience was really the secret sauce for giving us the roadmap for what we needed to do.
- I can’t share enough the importance of building strong relationships and helping everybody understand over-communicating and having your teammates understand what you’re doing and what’s in it for them all the time, person by person, function by function. Also, synthesizing and poking holes in that synthesis over and over again to make sure you got it right.
- I think fear is the kryptonite of growth. Be confident and go find the space between functions and go seek out the problems to solve and people will come with you.
About Samantha PaxsonAn accomplished speaker and thought leader, Paxson founded CO-OP THINK, an innovation content platform empowering the evolution of mission-driven financial services.
Over her twenty year career, Samantha’s focus has been on the intersection of technology, purpose and experience to evolve the organization and meet the needs of the market. She believes in intraprenuership: innovating on the space between functional areas, by brokering tight relationships and strategies between a network of teams – transforming the organization for ongoing algorithmic improvement across the ecosystem. Samantha is the founding editor of THINK Review. Her work has been covered in Huffington Post, Inc, Forbes, Entreprenuer, Nasdaq, CIO.com, U.S. News & World Report, Women Worldwide and the Amazon Best Seller: “How To Launch A Brand”. Featured speaker at events like Digiday, PayThink, CHLA, Momentum, THINK, USC Silicon Beach.
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