MYC'D UP WITH CX LEADERS episode 7: Tara Brady, FVP, director, customer experience
In episode seven of our regular podcast we speak with Tara Brady, FVP, director, customer experience, at Provident Bank, about focusing your CX career on a single sector, and how to hit the ground running in a new CX role.
In episode seven of MYC'D UP with CX Leaders, we speak with Tara Brady, FVP and director customer experience at Provident Bank.
Tara started the newly created role of director of CX at Provident in May, having previously worked in customer experience positions at a variety of financial services firms including Wells Fargo and WSFS Bank.
Among other things, in this podcast chat we talked about the value of focusing your CX career on a single sector, as well as what her priorities have been for the first few months in her new role.
It's important that you come from a view of being almost an anthropologist - so you really have to listen and observe the natural culture of the organisation; partner really, really well with the leadership team and gain their buy-in; and include team members in the process.
Tara, you were appointed first vice president customer experience director of Provident Bank back in May. A newly created position for the bank, and obviously a great sign that they're committed to improving customer experiences. When you start a CX role such as this, which is newly created, is it easier or more challenging to be working with a clean slate - i.e. there's no legacy from a previous CX leader.
The idea of a legacy, I think, can be a little bit tricky to manoeuvre because you have to figure out how to replace that person or do what they were doing or mimic that. So for some, I think they might say the idea of building from scratch can seem daunting. But I'm actually thrilled for this opportunity to build from the ground up, because what this allows me to do is partner with the business line leaders across the organisation, and really immerse myself in the Provident culture, so that we can include everyone from the very foundation of this process, really enable engagement, joint ownership of the process, lots of learning, and overall great process improvement. So I'm thrilled that that we're building from a clean slate.
We've published a few features over the years on MyCustomer that have provided advice for CX leaders, and what they should be looking to implement and deliver and achieve in the first 90 days, the first half year etc, in their roles. What have been your personal priorities in this role since you arrived?
The first thing that I am really focused on is essentially just making connections with my partners. I need to fully understand the current CX culture of Provident Bank so that I can learn the pride points and the strengths of our organisation. And then I'm trying my hardest to be naturally curious about processes, and how we do things today and why we do things the way we do so that I'm dialled in, and I'm listening and understanding and hopefully making really impactful process changes that allow for overall improvement for both our internal customer employees, and then our external customers so that all of these changes or updates or upgrades feel really good to the team members, and they understand why we're doing it. So a lot of immersion. End goal: we want an effective Voice of the Customer and NPS programme that increases customer loyalty. But right now, in this first 90 days, I'm trying to be very mindful, and they're very thoughtful about learning about my organisation and making great human connections.
So, given that, what what advice can you share to professionals, who may be themselves just starting in a newly created CX leadership role at an organisation? Is there anything that you can share from your own experience that moment that that might help them with the task?
I think it's important that you come from a view of being almost an anthropologist, so you really have to listen and observe the natural culture of the organisation; partner really, really well with the leadership team and gain their buy-in; and include team members in the process. So if I come in and boil the ocean and say, 'This is the new way, we're going to do things because this is what customer experience is', the likelihood that I gain everyone's buy-in and get their engagement in the processes is a lot lower, in my opinion, versus understanding their pain points, their bottlenecks, and almost becoming a team member that engages with them and whatever struggles they might be having to create improvements, which feels good. So overall, my advice would be to just be really curious. Be open, right? And just because you might have done something one way in a previous organisation we want to be open to how the organisation moves and thinks and kind of breathes and just be really willing to learn and create within that organisation.
Now you're no stranger to the financial services industry - before Provident, you worked at the likes of Affinity Federal Credit Union, WSFS Bank and Wells Fargo. So presumably, it's been a conscious decision to remain in that sector. Do you think it benefits customer experience leaders to major to focus on on CX in a particular industry? Or do you think that there are CX lessons that can be learned and applied from other sectors?
So first of all, I think this is a great question. I have essentially stayed in banking because I truly love it. I started as a banker many, many years ago, and I found that I find joy in helping people succeed financially. I do believe there are specialty niches in the customer experience world. So if you're dealing with folks finances with you're dealing with their medical or their health or their insurance, right, there's going to be some specific things that have to happen. But I also truly believe that customer experience is a business of understanding people and that cross pollination can be absolutely amazing. I've attended quite a few CX events where I've gotten to hear from other leaders and retail, and makeup and travel in the insurance industry. And what I've learned is that the main goal, and the general principles are universal, when we're dealing with customers. People want things to be easy to do, we don't want to put more work on to our customers, when they do interact, they want things to be helpful. And overall, I think there's some confusion that CX needs to be sexy, and it needs to be really exciting. And I believe CX needs to be foundational. And working in banking and finance, it's very simple to be foundational. People need you to be there when they have an issue or a need when it comes to their money or their finances, and they need you to get it right. So I do feel some of the pieces are cross-functional. I think when you really are delved into any type of sector, and you really understand the business, that there's an improved overall kind of opportunity to really make a great impact.
So given your experience, then what what are the biggest customer experience lessons you would say that you've learned from your time in the financial services industry, that you're able to bring to your current role that perhaps you wouldn't have been able to? If you were new to the sector?
I think the most important thing about banking is that it's deeply personal. And in a very emotional sector of business, right? So human emotional connection and empathy are so important in this space, when you think about the major life moments that you get to be a part of when you work in banking, right, someone going to college for the first time, buying a home, breaking money cycles within their family, right being the first person to have a savings account, or the first person to have credit, planning for retirement or the really deep moments of someone losing a family member and not knowing how to move or manoeuvre through that is such an important part of the business and an understanding how to meet those customers where they are in those very, very life changing and important moments. And sometimes they're cheerleading moments. And we're so excited to be a part of going off to college. And sometimes that customer experience is being there as a shoulder to cry on when someone's lost a loved one and isn't sure how to proceed. The other interesting thing about banking is there's this sense that you should know how to manage your money and you should know what to do and asking for help means that you're not good with money. So there's a stigma around that. That involves a great level of of human connection and trust to get people open and talking about their money and their and their worries and, and what may keep them up at night. So I think those are all really important pieces of working in banking and customer experience, that human connection, the listening the understanding and meeting our customers where they are.
Tara, we always like to ask our guests to share a piece of advice to fellow customer experience professionals that perhaps you've learned during your time in the profession. Is there one thing that you think you've learned, it would have been useful for you to have known when you were first starting out in customer experience management?
So, to pin it down to one thing... It would be that as you become what's considered an SME or a subject matter expert in any type of field, folks assume you know all the answers - and as we've seen over the last few years, customer experience is changing so drastically. So my point of advice would be to be curious, ask a lot of questions, listen, learn, read, listen to podcasts, you know, attend events. Always be engaging in learning something new, and being open to learn new things right because it customer experience is always changing. I think if we're being naturally curious and asking questions and then putting our internal and external customers at the centre of all we do we create advocates for life. So you have team members that want to continue to work with you, you have customers that want to stay with you. And I think that's inspirational when people see that you're in a space that you're continuing to learn and grow and helps them to want to partner with you.
Neil Davey was previously the editor of MyCustomer from 2007 until May 2023. An experienced business journalist and editor, Neil has worked on a variety of newspapers, magazines and websites over the past 20 years, including Internet Works, CXO magazine and Business Management.
Please login or register to join the discussion.
There are currently no replies, be the first to post a reply.