How Virgin Money's customer feedback strategy helped it top the British Bank Awards
In 2017, I discussed the importance of a solid financial business case for investment in customer experience (CX). As we start a new year and reflect on the performance of the economy over the last 12 months – and look at the uncertainty ahead – this has never been truer.
But how can we really prove the value of CX programmes when not all measures can be defined in solid currency? One of the best ways to understand their full business impact is to look at examples of success.
Virgin Money is a case in point. Serving over three million customers, the company works hard to ensure every customer has a consistently positive experience, regardless of how long they’ve been a customer, what channel they use or what transaction they’re undertaking.
To listen to customers and respond to feedback, Virgin Money runs a wide-reaching Voice of the Customer (VoC) programme covering all products, channels and key stages of the customer lifecycle.
Central to the measurement of the entire programme is a strong focus on action. You might not immediately consider this a ‘solid financial business case’. However, action for Virgin Money can be translated into performance gains based on three areas: increased customer engagement, improved service delivery and better customer loyalty.
Sceptics may argue that these are still not solid financial measures. But Virgin Money demonstrates how increased customer satisfaction and advocacy has helped drive growth and financial performance.
If you’re looking for the nitty gritty, Virgin Money’s 2016 profits before tax grew 33% to £213.3m, gross mortgage lending grew 12% to £8.4bn, credit card balances increased to £2.4bn, up 55%, and retail deposit balances grew 12% to £28.1bn.
So we can see the benefits of a focus on customers, but how has Virgin Money used CX to help deliver this performance?
A focus on action
The key to success has been through its commitment to taking action on feedback, rather than gathering data and placing it in silos around the business – an all-too-common result of many customer experience investments.
Michael Harris, head of customer research at Virgin Money, explains: “We have created a VoC programme that is truly company-wide, covering all products, channels and key stages of our customers’ relationship with us. Embedded into every aspect of our business, we have been able to drive timely and tangible improvements based on the feedback collated via our programme which make a real difference to our customers.”
Detailed analysis of customer insight revealed that customers who knew about the full range of benefits of being a Virgin Money customer available to them demonstrated much higher levels of advocacy.
As a direct result of these vast quantities of feedback, hundreds of change activities now take place across the company every year, each one aimed at specifically enhancing the relationships customers have with the brand.
For example, detailed analysis of customer insight revealed that customers who knew about the full range of benefits available to them as a Virgin Money customer demonstrated much higher levels of advocacy, but some customers had a better understanding than others of what was on offer.
Virgin Money took direct action by training employees and proactively harnessing all online, face-to-face and phone interactions, including the onboarding process and bespoke messages via contact centre IVR. Employees now explain more clearly the exclusive offers and benefits to customers in day-to-day conversations and, wherever possible, rewards are made relevant to the products and services customers have already selected.
Delivering a great customer experience is important to Virgin Money and part of this is ensuring that customers understand their products. The VoC programme allowed Virgin Money to introduce a closed loop process to proactively contact customers who indicated potential understanding issues based on their response to survey questions, enabling help and support to be provided immediately.
Bill Percy, director of customer experience at Virgin Money, says: “This process has received an overwhelmingly positive response from our customers and findings have been captured and fed into improvement plans, allowing even more customers to benefit. We’ve also developed a bespoke Customer Understanding survey for customers, which has already produced a very positive response rate – enabling us to commit to repeating this survey on a regular basis.”
While financial metrics are an important measure for investment, Virgin Money takes a much broader view on the importance of CX.
Take customer satisfaction, where pure measures have increased as a direct result of the programme. Net Promoter Scores (NPS) have increased year-on-year since the programme’s inception, with transactional NPS rising from +51 in 2014 to its highest ever level at +64 in 2016.
Perhaps one of the most striking corporate impacts has been the effect on employee loyalty.
There have also been changes to the way the information is communicated across the business. Given the importance Virgin Money places on customer experience and the clarity of feedback the programme offers, the cascade of insight starts with the Executive Team, before flowing out to other areas of the business. This ensures that the VoC programme is visible at the highest level, and that employees can clearly see the commitment of the senior team to customers, and to the importance of continuous improvement.
Perhaps one of the most striking corporate impacts, though, has been the effect on employee loyalty. Many Virgin Money employees are directly involved in CX through business change teams, tasked with gathering colleague insights and ideas for improving the customer experience.
The results of this are clearly shown in the company’s Colleague Engagement programme, where overall engagement in 2016 was measured at 81%, benchmarking strongly against the UK’s highest performing companies. Once again, there is a clear financial benefit here too: Virgin Money can boast reduced annual staff attrition and average sickness, as well as increased average length of service.
Executed and embedded well, it’s clear that CX programmes can demonstrate much more than a solid financial return on investment. As well as having a measurable impact on bottom line numbers, they can drive equally measurable improvements in the softer areas of culture, employee engagement and customer satisfaction that are all critical to business growth.
They can also affect reputation, something Virgin Money has experienced first-hand with its ranking as the highest rated High Street bank for customer satisfaction at the 2017 British Bank Awards, alongside numerous customer satisfaction and financial services industry accolades.
Whether you’re driven purely by numbers, persuaded by wider performance measures, or simply keen to impress with industry-wide recognition, what more proof do you need to make a solid case for CX investment in 2018?