In Their Own Words

Customer experience means vastly different things to different people so Eric hits the road – polling attendees at the Consumer Bankers Association’s annual conference. In this episode, practitioners and industry professionals weigh in on their customer experience initiatives, biggest CX challenges, and more.

Hear from:

Jackie Buonassisi, VP of Omnichannel, US Bank

Gavin Geraci, COO, PNC Business Banking

Phil Leininger, Head of Omni Channel Sales and Service, USAA

Andrew Domino, COO, Bridgeforce

Robert Lamb, Customer Engagement Manager, CDW

Tony Warden, Head of Loan Resolutions, TDECU

Peter Ungerleider, Senior Manager, FI Consulting

Phil: 00:02 Customers want things now. They want them right now. They want it on their terms, and they want it on their channel.

Eric: 00:09 Welcome to the Finance Frontier. I’m your host, Eric Hathaway.

Eric: 00:15 Today we’re kicking off a new series of episodes on customer experience in the world of finance. We’re going to look at what’s right, what’s wrong, and what we can expect in the future as banking becomes more and more digital.

Zoot: 00:28 The Finance Frontier is brought to you by Zoot Enterprises, a global provider of advanced decision management solutions for the financial services industry. Learn more at

Eric: 00:47 Customer experience is an extremely broad topic, and one that many people can get pretty emotional about … especially if you have a bad experience. A lot of times, we in business think that because we’re consumers ourselves, that we should be able to design good customer experience … and it should just happen. But in all reality, it’s much more difficult than you think. Many banks and other financial institutions are getting it right. But some are still struggling to find their way.

Eric: 01:17 I wanted to hear stories from the trenches. So while I was at the Consumer Bankers Association Annual Conference, I was able to talk to a number of leaders, bankers, and consultants about the state of their customer experience initiatives.

Eric: 01:30 I’m excited to share their answers with you. Especially immediately after our conversation with the CEO of the Consumer Bankers Association himself, Richard Hunt.

Eric: 01:39 To start things off, I spoke with Phil Leininger, who’s the head of on the channel sales and service at USAA. You heard from him at the beginning of this episode as well.

Phil: 01:48 What we’re really looking to do is understanding the full power of the mobile device. It’s not just an app. You’ve got a camera on that; you’ve got a location device on that. You’ve got the ability to do multimedia through videos.

Phil: 02:02 So pulling all those media sources together, starting at the top of the funnel with marketing, moving all the way through … whether it’s a dispute or a claim or some kind of a fulfillment process … We want to use the power of the whole phone across all of our other channels as well.

Eric: 02:19 I love Phil’s point about using the power of the whole phone. Really using all the channels and the technology available to them.

Eric: 02:26 I was reading an article the other day that made the point: Digital is not slowing down. But analog and human scale are picking up as people demand experiences that are deeper, more engaging, and more meaningful. It really resonated with me.

Eric: 02:39 I asked Phil to speak a little more about the integration of all of their channels: digital, as well as non-digital.

Phil: 02:46 USAA’s interesting because we don’t have a branch network. Everything we do is direct to digital. This last month, we had 72% of our transactions were actually completed on mobile.

Eric: 02:57 Wow.

Phil: 02:57 Another 18% were completed on And then about 7% in IVR, which leaves only about 3 or 4% that were completed on the phone channel.

Phil: 03:08 The way we look at it is that we actually use a matrix where we look at high emotion, high complexity issues and transactions that need to be dealt with. We really reserve our phone channel, our human interactions for those high-complexity, high-emotion situations.

Phil: 03:24 What we’re working to do really hard is to automate as much as possible, so that customers don’t even have to do a transaction at all. But when they do, we want it to be simple. So we use mobile for the simple and easy; low-complexity, low-emotion.

Eric: 03:38 If what Phil’s talking about sounds like a lot of work, that’s because it is. But study after study shows that that hard work pays off.

Eric: 03:46 Banks that are classified as leaders in customer experience typically have a higher recommendation rate, a much higher share of deposits, and a greater likelihood that customers will increase their portfolio of new products and services from their bank.

Eric: 03:59 On the other hand, financial institutions that let their customer experience decline, risk losing up to a whopping 12% of their share of deposits¹.

Eric: 04:08 One make-it-or-break-it customer experience situation happens in the call center. I asked Robert Lamb at CDW to weigh in on some of the highs and lows that he has seen while consulting with organizations, both large and small, on their call center experiences.

Robert: 04:24 I’m seeing folks that are looking at digital and trying to see how they might be able to reduce their number of agents, improve their productivity. And seeing whether there might be investments that they can make there that will take away from some of their OpEx.

Robert: 04:36 We’re seeing a lot of those investments in those areas. And frankly, finding those to be relatively successful, but not nearly to the extent that I think most folks are expecting when they start into those kind of initiatives.

Robert: 04:47 They get these grandiose dreams … They’ve got to really be able to take everything and make it completely automated, when that’s not really a realistic expectation, if you want to maintain any type of relationship with your customer.

Eric: 04:59 Andrew Domino, the COO of Bridgeforce, also commented about how today’s increasingly digital landscape has impacted the way that the banking sector has changed. Here’s what he had to say.

Andrew: 05:10 The digital experience and the customers’ demand for being able to interact in their channel, in their time, and at their choice, has really pushed banks into thinking about customer experience in that space, the way the customer thinks about it … not the way that they want to drive it.

Andrew: 05:29 It’s all about meeting your customers’ demands, and doing it in the channel of their choice.

Eric: 05:35 But what about that customer of one experience? Everybody wants to be treated as an individual these days, whether it’s on or offline. We’ve grown accustomed to the experience of from the moment we interact with a company or institution of any sort, that they know who we are, what we’ve done in the past with them, and what their preferences are. That’s a tall order for banks. Here’s Andrew again.

Andrew: 05:57 I think banks would like to go down that road, but it is very expensive. And it is very difficult to do, especially when you’re operating on legacy systems and legacy platforms.

Eric: 06:18 One bank is going full steam ahead despite their legacy platforms. I spoke with Jackie Buonassisi, who’s the VP of Omnichannel at U.S. Bank about her approach to customer experience.

Jackie: 06:29 We’re still working in that space, and trying to bring in as much information as we can without being stalker-like.

Eric: 06:38 Right.

Jackie: 06:41 It’s a balance for … We understand this may be the product you need, but we really want to come in as more of an advisory role than, “This is what you have to take.”

Eric: 06:53 We also talked a little bit about how U.S. Bank is addressing the changing consumer demand.

Jackie: 06:58 I think for traditional banks such as ours, digital experience is really turning banking on its ear. It’s a game changer.

Jackie: 07:09 We’re now having to look at how we can streamline the customer experience, how we can make it simple, easy, really those sound bites … How few clicks you can get through to onboard a customer. It’s the fintechs, for example, are really disrupters in that space for traditional banking experiences, and banking products as well.

Eric: 07:42 Are you feeling like at this point of time, you guys are at where you need to be? Or do you have quite a ways to go?

Jackie: 07:49 We are outsourcing more and more; more solutions. We are adopting agile processes wherever possible. And we are looking at best of breed providers to be able to give that fast, nimble service to our digital customers.

Jackie: 08:08 We have definitely started our journey, but we definitely have a ways to go. When we get to where we think we want to be, we know we’re going to have to go to the next step.

Eric: 08:20 Right.

Jackie: 08:20 So we’re never going to be done with this journey.

Eric: 08:23 This constant journey that Jackie speaks of is one that I think all of us are feeling. Of the 50 largest global banks, three out of four now pledge themselves to some sort of customer experience transformation².

Eric: 08:35 Even among companies identified as leaders in customer experience, only 22% of the leadership say their efforts have exceeded customer expectations³.

Eric: 08:44 But what about risk? Data is great, and we have a lot of it. But acting on that data is even better. But when we’re talking about finance, we have to address the risk side as well.

Eric: 08:55 Peter Ungerleider at FI Consulting spoke with me a bit about one element of risk inherent in changing customer expectations.

Peter: 09:02 With all of these technology investments, it’s making it easier for customers to sign up for new products. But at the same time, it’s making it easier for them to switch to other institutions if they have a bad experience.

Peter: 09:17 One of the things that they need to be thinking about as they do all of this is, a bad decision is a bad experience. And could result in attrition of their most profitable, loyal, prior loyal customers.

Eric: 09:42 It’s no surprise that attrition is a potential risk, especially as banks work to make the customer experience as easy as possible. But what about the deeper implications of customer experience, and the cultural impacts on the banks?

Eric: 09:55 I spoke with Gavin Geraci, who’s the COO of PNC Business Banking. Gavin had a very refreshing perspective on the whole customer experience topic. He talked about how PNC Bank was designed around their internal structure to support the experience they would like to create for their customers.

Gavin: 10:14 Some of it is cultural in terms of how we’ve brought solutions to the market, and how we’ve approached it. And I don’t think we’re alone here … a lot we approached it from an inside-out methodology way of thinking. So we look at our internal processes, what we think is wrong or could be improved. And kind of put that on the market, whether or not it’s needed or not.

Eric: 10:34 Right.

Gavin: 10:35 I think what’s happening, and a lot is to the availability of the data that we have and the insights that we get. Like almost real time, is that outside-in view, which is getting the feedback from the customers, understanding what they actually need, being able to map it out and be able to understand their experience.

Gavin: 10:51 What are they thinking? How do they feel? What are they doing with us? How are they interacting with us? And taking all that and then that influencing what we’re working on and building. That really influences what we’re working on.

Gavin: 11:04 And quite honestly, how we organize around it too, in terms of our product partners, our channel partners, how they work together. That’s, I think, for us, has been a big shift for the industry, I think, too.

Eric: 11:18 One of the things we’re finding with the fintechs coming in to the market, right? They’re changing the game a little bit from a customer service perspective. But they’re also small, nimble. The digital bank.

Eric: 11:29 Are you finding that to be a challenge that you’re worried about? Or is it something that you’re saying, “Hey, we’re pretty well placed in the market. We know our customers”?

Gavin: 11:38 No, I think we talk a lot about it. I think there’s plenty of examples; we partner with them. We have a lot of ongoing partnerships today, because quite honestly, they have some of the technology and capabilities that we as a bank either don’t have or will take us too much time to come up with.

Eric: 11:52 Sure.

Gavin: 11:53 So we’ve learned a lot. I think one of the things that’s valuable, too, is they’ve helped challenge us in terms of how we think of things and how we operate. Because they come from a different perspective; they have different capabilities. Even help challenge some of the culture things. Things that we think we know because we operate the way we do, and do things the way we do because we’ve always done it, and it works.

Eric: 12:13 Sure.

Gavin: 12:14 And they’ve been able to come in in a healthy way, just say, “Let’s take another look at that because it’s evolved, and there’s different ways to do it more efficient and more customer friendly.”

Gavin: 12:25 We don’t view them as competition.

Eric: 12:27 Okay.

Gavin: 12:27 I think it’s just they bring capabilities to the small businesses and consumers that obviously they want. And they found a need for, an unmet need. In the banks, if you’re working with them, they offer the scale, the customer base, and everything that they otherwise might not have.

Eric: 12:58 Finally, one of the things that we don’t typically think about when we think customer experience is collections. But in fact, treating our customers well doesn’t only matter at the front end of the experience, or throughout the life cycle of things going well.

Eric: 13:11 30,000,000 Americans currently have at least one debt in collections4. And one in five Americans will actually withhold a payment after having a bad experience on a collections call5. That’s a big deal. I’ll be speaking with Anthony Warden at TDECU about designing a successful call center experience.

Anthony: 13:29 Of the 1.2 million end-down calls that we get a year, based on my assessment, 25% of those we’re generating ourselves, because we’re not solving the issue on the front end. We’re not solving it the first time. What I learned is we’re not really good at detecting or listening to member emotion, and then clearing that emotion so you can get to what they’re really calling to ask for.

Anthony: 13:56 We’re investing in that performance management framework, what I call a management operating system, building a call model to organize the flow of the call. Both for the lending team, for the generalist team, then arming the managers with the playbook to be able to coach to the behaviors that generate a positive experience for the members.

Anthony: 14:15 We are talking about what amounts to about an 18-month cultural revolution.

Eric: 14:27 We’ve got a lot more for you coming up in this series on customer experience, so stay tuned.

Eric: 14:32 First up, we’ll be speaking with First Interstate Bank, who recently went through a brand refresh to prioritize banking around its customers.

Renee: 14:39 Leadership matters. The message has to come from the top down. We can’t have transformation from a technology perspective without having the leadership buy-in and strategic focus.

Eric: 14:54 That will be next time. Thanks for listening to the Finance Frontier.

Eric: 14:57 Since we depend on listeners like you to help us spread the word, we’d love it if you’d take the time and post a review of our podcast on iTunes. Until next time, I’m your host, Eric Hathaway.

  1. Marous, J. (2018, December 13). Customer Experience has Major Financial Impact for Banking. CUInsight. Retrieved February 25, 2019, from
  2. Maechler, N., Michael, J., Schiff, R., & Smith, T. R. (2018, October). Managing a Customer-experience Transformation in Banking. McKinsey. Retrieved January 21, 2019, from
  3. Pemberton, C. (2019, May 20). Create Powerful Customer Experiences. Gartner. Retrieved June 12, 2019, from
  4. Hall, L., Stegman, E., Futela, S., & Badlani, D. (2017). IT Key Metrics Data 2018: Key Industry Measures: Banking and Financial Services Analysis: Current Year(Rep.). Gartner.
  5. Baer, T. (2018, March). Behavioral insights and innovative treatments in collections. McKinsey. Retrieved September 12, 2018, from



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