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Obsession with the customer experience is driving ATB’s digital efforts

Publish date: 08 July 2021
Chris Turchansky, Chief Experience Officer at ATB, outlines how the bank’s unique KPI puts the focus on the customer.
What does digital mean for your institution?

How we defined digital prior to the pandemic and how we view it now is probably a little bit different. For us, digital now just works into how we interact with our client. It has a place in all products and services that we deliver. Five years ago digital was maybe, not necessarily the exception, but not as integral. Now, it’s simply how we need to deliver products and services, whether that’s digital in our in-branch experience or someone who is dealing with us purely digitally over online and mobile.
What were your institution's digital priorities prior to the start of Covid and how have these priorities evolved since the start of the pandemic?
The biggest thing that has evolved is the need to do everything faster. This need to accelerate has been our biggest evolution. If you look at what we were trying to accomplish pre-Covid - expanding how we were delivering our services through a more integrated digital experience - we were trying to bring more digital onboarding properties online, enhancing the digital experience through our mobile and online applications, with new feature functionalities and ways to interact with the bank.
With Covid and more people dealing with us digitally, what we needed to do was accelerate our entire digital journey. As a result, we have overinvested discretionary capital to try to help us accelerate. We have looked into a number of the pandemic solutions that we have done with the Canadian government and moved them up the chart and made them digital as well.
Which channel(s) is a priority for digital investment? (e.g. Mobile app, social, online banking, chatbot, text chat with agent, IVR, ATM, Branch, voice in Contact Center)
Mobile is a key channel for us, with a lot of work going into enhancing the mobile channel. At the same time, we haven’t abandoned online. One of the things we have seen is as we are working from home, people are using online more than they were before because people are sitting on their computer all day.
Chat has been something that we are continuing to move forward – can we improve the online experience with chat bots? From an IVR perspective, we had made investments prior to the pandemic so that hasn’t been as big of a priority. We have spent a lot of time discussing the role of ATM’s and for us, we see a short to mid-term journey that we have to continue, ensuring that we have the right ATM offering and network, but also looking at their role in our strategy in the future.
Which customers are becoming the most "digital"? Which interactions are hardest to digitize? (e.g. complaints, problems, advice, new mortgage)? Do you have a plan to bring remaining interactions to digital?
Leading into the pandemic, our mindset was that younger generations were more digital and that was where we were going to see the most digital adoption. Which is absolutely true, but we have seen the way Baby Boomers have embraced technology and that has caught us all a little bit off guard.
In terms of digitizing transactions, as transactions go up in complexity, they become harder to digitize. Complex advice is really difficult to digitize, for example. It has lots of
permutations and combinations, so we have found digitizing that to be harder than some other areas.
What benefits are you looking to generate from customer facing Digital initiatives (e.g. improve self-serve rates, nudge customers to cost effective channels, modern feel, marketing and brand, customer intimacy)
We have declared what we call the “Era of the client.” The first metric we look at is customer experience. Enhancing the client experience is the cornerstone of what we are doing: clients are demanding more digital experiences so enhancing that experience becomes the first measure that we examine. The benefit we are trying to generate from going digital is about improving digital interactions with the bank. The cost savings part of that is an important added benefit.
What are the top issues customers face when interacting with you digitally? Have these changed with Covid?
We would have had a number of clients that were accustomed to high personal touch. To switch to a more digital experience, that was a big change. Another issue customers have faced as their digital usage increased is the number of cyber threats or bad actors has simultaneously increased. So, we have had to make a concerted effort to stay one step ahead. This has meant more cyber security features which have sometimes been difficult to bring to the market in a frictionless way.
In a more straightforward way, with Covid we haven’t been able to sit across from someone and explain this is how you use this tool. The challenge has been “How do you create something that is super simple for them to use and understand?”
Have you found that the more "digital" a customer is this improves customer loyalty and profitability?
We have absolutely found that the more engaged and the more digital channels in which a client engages with the bank, the higher the retention and loyalty. We use an internal metric called “Customer Obsessed Index” and when that increases, it corresponds to profitability. Clients that engage with us digitally and on an ongoing basis are more likely to have multiple products. There is definitely a correlation between engagement and loyalty and profitability.
What are the barriers to customer digital adoption? Have you invested in customer digital adoption initiatives? What were they?
Pre-pandemic, it would have been people choosing to engage with us digitally, the types of campaigns we would have supported would have been just average. With the number of people needing to deal with us because of the pandemic, we made a really concerted effort in three main areas:
- How do you engage with us digitally? How can we help? When you get stuck what does that look like? This component has revolved around education.
- Cyber – making sure it’s safe, that they feel safe, and a great degree of comfort.
- Awareness of the tools themselves and what you can do with our tools.
Does your bank have the required digital skills amongst existing staff, or have you had to recruit for these skills?
We had undertaken a transformation effort putting us in a far better position than three years prior. So, we had a lot of existing skills among our staff. In an ideal world, we would have been further along. We weren’t exactly where we needed to be.
Our transformation meant we needed to recruit new people and train people. One of the interesting things we found during the pandemic was that it has been hard to retain some of our top product and technology talent for the simple reason that they could work for peer technology companies from right here in the province with everyone working from home. The fight for technology talent became global pretty quickly.
One other thing that doesn’t get talked about enough is: “Did our front line have the required digital skills to engage with clients?” Often, we only look at whether we had the digital skills to build tools, but a big thing we focused on is training the front line to make sure they have the right skills to help clients adopt digital.
Have you considered partnerships to accelerate time to market for digital initiatives?
Yes absolutely. We have spent a lot of time the last couple months looking at possible and required partnerships. As we look at the next phase of our transformational journey, we are having a lot of really good conversations around which strategic partners we will need.

What is your planning time horizon for Digital initiatives? (e.g. 1 year, 3 years?)
For our business plan we look at things over a two-year period. We break it down into quarters and six-month segments. But we have also set out a 10-year strategy; outlining what we need to look like in 10 years. When you’re looking that far out there is obviously a lot of flexibility along the way but we are putting stakes in the ground and then working backwards. A major objective for us in 10 years is the digitizing of complicated advice. Creating expert advisory powered by AI will become really important, so how do we develop the strong data foundations to transform into predictive and usable data to allow our team members to provide great advice. We are looking to augment our experts instead of turning everything over to technology.
On the other side we are looking at how to create a platform that transitions into a marketplace; what does that look like? And what products and services do we need to have on there?
How do you demonstrate an ROI in digital? How is your bank defining digital success?
The Customer Obsessed Value (COV) takes into account customer obsession which is similar to the typical Net Promoter Score with some slight nuances. But we combine that with the economic data that we have on individual clients to create this value metric. This helps guide us as we build things out, so that we aren’t just looking at lowering costs but putting the customer at the center of everything we do. That is a real key measure for us.