Award Winning CX Leadership in Banking, with Mark Slatin – CB58

Episode Overview

Mark Slatin is the Director of Client Experience for Sandy Spring Bank. They won CX Innovation Awards in both 2015 and 2016, so he seemed like a great person to bring on and discuss what he’s doing with his team — and how/why.

About Mark

Mark Slatin Jeanne BlissMark leads the client experience efforts at Sandy Spring Bank, the oldest and largest independent Maryland-based bank. He leads the Client Experience Leadership Council, a cross functional team of senior leaders who design, build, and implement strategies to deliver remarkable client experiences for clients consistently.

Sandy Spring Bank received the 2015 CX Innovation Award given to the top 5 organizations globally by the Customer Experience Professionals Association.

He serves on the CX Strategy Team with the CEO and CIO who craft the long term plans to create a client-centric culture bank-wide. As the key strategic initiative, the client experience drives sustainable growth across all of Sandy Spring’s business units.

In his prior role as a management consultant, Mark led engagements with senior executives in banking, insurance and employee benefits, IT integration, Internet start-ups, promotional packaging, software, manufacturing, commercial real estate, office and technology supplies, systems furniture and others.

As a member of Trusted Advisor Associates – he was among a select group of consultants licensed to deliver programs based on best-selling author Charles H. Green’s books The Trusted Advisor and Trust-Based Selling.

During his 13 year leading a sales organization at OfficeMax, his enterprise team consistently ranked among the top performing groups nationally.

He serves as an Adjunct Professor at Loyola University in Maryland teaching a graduate course on the Client Experience to MBA students. He holds a Bachelor of Science in Marketing from the University of Maryland, and a MBA from Loyola University.

“How do we drive consistency?”

Mark believes this is the ultimate question he was brought in to solve. Many of us in this work probably feel this way.

He recognized initially that he lacked expertise and didn’t completely know the goals/targets the overall bank was shooting for. He RFP’ed out to some industry experts, and they brought me in for an engagement around the five competencies. I loved working with Mark! He was a great student of customer experience and formed/understood what the work needed to be.

After my engagement rolled off, he continued to engage the leadership team around the importance of this work. He was fortunate that his CEO “got it” and there was a high degree of trust/latitude at that level, although Mark notes that the other six executives weren’t necessarily understanding what exactly CX was and how it would benefit the overall bank.

How to engage the other senior leaders 

  1. Meet with them — breakfast, lunch, happy hour, whenever.
  2. Get to know them.
  3. Understand their goals.
  4. Know what they are judged and bonus’ed on.
  5. Develop clarity and a shared vocabulary insofar as you can.

As this is happening, realize that you will get multiple answers from different people — and even multiple answers from the same person. This is important to remember and not acknowledged enough: everyone will always say they have “the client/customer No. 1” but their muscles are developed around their particular silo and their execution/incentive points.

“Everything we’re doing is change management”

Mark tells a story around the 16:00 mark about a time he “stepped in it” early in his time at Sandy Spring. He wanted to do journey mapping with another senior leader, but he hadn’t defined it well enough for her. When it was presented at a senior meeting, she pushed back and wanted to know why her silo was going first on the journey mapping. The relationship suffered.

“Everything we’re doing is change management,” Mark notes (I agree), “and no one is really great with change, ultimately.” The important lesson here: process, action items, and deliverables are fine. But you absolutely need to build the relationships and context, or else the process won’t mean/amount to much.

CX Meeting In A Box

They actually created a physical box. Here it is:

CX Meeting In A Box

There are 12 tabs (one for each month) and it covers such topics as “What is net promoter score?” and other CX topics. Over time it’s migrated away from a physical box and towards the Intranet, but it’s still an effective learning tool. Here’s how one of the tabs might look:

CX Meeting In A Box 2CX Meeting In A Box 1

One positive of Meeting In A Box was the collaborative element. He worked with L&D and HR to develop some aspects of this; CX and L&D typically don’t work that closely together in orgs, so this is very beneficial. Plus: because they did a physical asset (the box), people wanted to engage and didn’t want to throw anything away, etc. When you present it via a platform, it’s easier for people to ignore or think it’s “another thing they have to manage.” But a physical asset…

“The Year of Empathy”

Start by watching this video:

We know from research that increased empathy is tied to revenue growth, and there’s some belief that empathy might be the next great management trend (following two other ‘E’ words, execution and expertise). They defined empathy (with help from Brene Brown), put it on cards, did empathy videos/skits (the above is an example), and crafted five steps to becoming more empathetic. This helped them win the 2016 CX Innovation award. (I was not working with them at the time they crafted this idea.)

An important tie here is that Mark works for a bank. Those are high-stress environments. How do you show empathy when someone is screaming at you about their wire not going through? It can be complicated. One way they developed empathy was to have cross-functional team meetings — and, amazingly (this is what tech has done to work), people who had worked together 10 years and only interacted over email were meeting face-to-face for the first time. Simple idea, but a brilliant one. It helped people learn new strategies and connective elements.

The Pay-It-Forward Question

What do you know NOW that you wish you knew THEN? 


  • After you build out a new infrastructure or strategy, eventually you hit a plateau. You need to think about this question: “When that time comes — and it invariably does — what are you going to do about it?”
  • Celebrate the success: Make noise about other people doing the right thing. No one else is going to do it. It’s important to recognize others. Gratitude at work matters a lot.

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