While many companies pour money into IT systems as a way to improve customer service, one of the country's largest has complemented their huge digital investment with an initiative which is a little less reliant on technology.
Keen to boost satisfaction levels among clients of its business banking division, National Australia Bank (NAB) has installed large whiteboards that help staff track the progress of loan applications and other files. The status of each file is noted on a ticket and moved through a diagram of the associated workflow.
Dubbed ‘customer experience boards’, the wall-sized devices allow all staff in NAB's business banking centres to clearly see how customer files are progressing and where processing delays might be occurring.
Cindy Batchelor, Executive General Manager, NAB Business, says the boards have helped to improve customer service levels across the bank. "It helps to ensure that, no matter where they engage with us, they will get a consistent experience," she says.
Working with consultants from KPMG, NAB also developed a playbook that details how the boards should be used and the processes to be followed within each business banking centre. Batchelor says the document acts both as an operating manual and a cultural guide that spells out what is expected of both staff and leaders.
She says that, while there was some resistance to the approach initially, staff understand the goal and can see it is strongly supported by senior NAB management.
"With any change there is a cultural challenge, particularly when you have people who have been in the business for a very long time and are very capable in their roles," she says. "Not everyone jumps on board, but the important thing with this piece of work is that it was leader-led. They held people to account that this is the way we were going to do things to improve the customer experience."
Since the boards and playbook were deployed, the time taken to process a client file has dropped from 10 to 5 days on average. Depending on complexity, some are processed even faster. Batchelor says the processes are constantly being reviewed in an effort to improve these times even further.
To augment the benefits that flow from the customer file tracking system and playbook, NAB has also invested in more high-tech additions to its service offerings. In July last year, the bank launched a new online loan service called QuickBiz that can provide a business customer with an unsecured loan of up to $100,000.
NAB is the only Australian bank to offer an unsecured online lending tool without a third party referral involved. Sophisticated algorithms within the tool automatically assess a customer's credit worthiness and make a decision without the need for human intervention. Funds can be in the customer's bank account in less than 24 hours, once application contracts are signed and returned
"This is the sort of technology we want to invest in for our business customers so that speed to decision is quick and time to cash is quick," says Batchelor. "It's about trying to get access to credit for customers more quickly so they can grow their business."
Earlier this year, the bank also unveiled its Enhanced Lending Application (ELA) application that pre-assesses business customers for loans of up to $2 million. ELA removes much of the cumbersome paperwork and processes usually associated with loan applications and allows a business customer to be confident they can have access to funds when required.
In September, NAB also launched a so-called ‘digital virtual banker’ for its business customers. An automated chat bot, the virtual banker can answer some 200 questions about basic banking tasks and issues, removing the need for a customer to interact with a contact centre.
Batchelor says the bank will continue to seek new ways to improve service levels through the use of both analogue and digital techniques. Feedback is regularly sought from customers about their interactions with the bank and any ways in which they believe processes could be fine-tuned to make them more effective.
This article by Ian Grayson was originally published by the Australian Financial Review as part of their Special Report on The Age of the Customer.