Hatching a Customer-Connection Plan

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g Tell us about your organization. Egg is an online bank, one of the largest--if not the largest--in the world. It was set up in 1998, from Prudential at the time. [Egg is now owned by Citigroup.] We first started out with savings accounts, then moved into the credit card market. It was essentially the first online-only Internet bank available at that time. It's now coming up to its 10th year.
g What problems were you facing? We have a really healthy email list for our customers, who are used to using email as their preferred means of communication with us. We were looking for a supplier that we could use to build and send out a lot of our customer surveys. Confirmit was seen as more than just a traditional research tool--it's more a customer management tool and customer reporting tool, instead of just sending out surveys. We said, how can we use this more intelligently and cleverly to make the most of each relationship? One of the Holy Grails for a lot of businesses seems to be getting customer data inside daily briefings...instead of having a quite dry, but useful, quarterly or monthly debrief from a research agency. It meant so much more to have real-time customer responses, verbatim, a day later. With Confirmit, you get insight back quickly into customers' daily lives.
g How did the implementation go? We started with a small pilot and built from there. We had an initial partnership where we integrated internally. Initially, we kept it small-fry; we only had one person using Confirmit and now we have six people using it. We had permission to play with it and to try and design something that the business really needed at that time.
g What have been the main rewards? It really annoys me when you have call centers that focus on number of calls per hour. That's fine, but you need a balance. Someone might not be selling as much, but the customer experience provided is great. How do you measure experience real-time? With Confirmit, you can have a much more rounded opinion of what customers are saying, what customers are doing. Now, customers are used to this being the way we work. They know that when you join Egg, you're going to get a chance to voice your opinion--and more importantly, it's read and acted upon. If there's a measure of dissatisfaction, it's acted on normally in 48 hours or 24 hours. Once you set that standard, people always want to respond to the survey. Some of the response rates are up to 20 percent--compared to the industry standard of 2 or 3 percent--and 5 percent for some of our annual surveys.
In the early days we had a lot of customers who were in--or potentially going into--deep financial trouble. On the original surveys we didn't put a limit on the "verbatim" box, and we used to have essays from customers telling us their life story. There were some real heart-wrenching stories. One customer had lost her husband recently and didn't get her insurance claim. I couldn't imagine her having the time or inclination to speak to somebody over the phone, because it would have taken an hour, so she used the survey as a kind of vent. After that we rang her back, got into a dialogue with her, and tried to help her out as much as we could. That was escalated to the heads of departments and used in workshops, and I think that was a real turning point for me: I realized that we were onto a system and a process that worked for us and our brand.
g What are your plans for the future? There's still a long way to go. We've just been piloting call monitoring systems on Confirmit, overall real-time reporting for everyone on the system. Also, banks have so much data--arguably too much data--so the question is, how do you make sense of that and design a system that can automate that for you, instead of endless decks and reports? That's something we're investigating. There are plans to integrate more consistent measurement through the Web site, which is something we don't do enough of.

Five Fast Facts
g Age of the initiative?
Two years.
g Who was involved?
Myself and the customer experience team, a total of six or
seven people.
g Best idea?
To integrate Confirmit into daily measurement, instead of more strategic monthly, quarterly, or annual measurement.
g Biggest surprise?
That customers still keep on responding! It's doubled our response rate over what we would get from a normal monthly or quarterly survey.
g Biggest CRM mistake made?
We didn't have clear sets of questions we wanted to ask at the beginning, apart from "How satisfied are you? Did you get your query answered?" Over time, we learned to get more experience with that and brought in external people to help.

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