You’re on vacation, it’s time to check out from your hotel and you realize you’ve lost your credit card. You need to check out and continue your trip — so what do you do?
You call Mastercard of course. You speak to an agent and kick-start a chain of events resulting in a new card being printed within hours and arriving in your hands within 24-48 hours.
“It’s like trying to land a plane on an aircraft carrier,” says John Goodwin, Vice President of Customer Intelligence at Mastercard. “You’re trying to catch a cardholder in transit and deliver them a new card within 24 hours.
“It’s these moments that can make or break your customer’s experience. It can be a logistical nightmare, but we’re able to make it happen. It’s so rewarding to come through in those moments.”
These kinds of responses are now commonplace at Mastercard, where the Global Customer Care team goes above and beyond to be the customers lifeline to the brand through service, intelligence and experience expertise. But in 2014 when John was asked to stand up the customer intelligence function, he was faced with a landscape where such an experience might have seemed almost impossible to deliver on.
“There was no centralization or standardization of our customer experience data at all the different customer touch points we have,” says John. “We had some departments who were trying to conduct voice of customer programs through surveys and other feedback, and there were others that weren’t. Our remit was to try and bring that all together and close any gaps. From there we could better understand the customers end-to-end experience.”
The first step was to identify all the touchpoints along the customer journey and bring 35 representatives together from the many cross-functional teams who impact the overall experience.
“We simply started by asking them, ‘What is it that you want to know about your customers?’” he says.
“That gave us the basis to go out and create a standardized framework for customer experience, identifying the KPIs at both an organization level and for individual teams to really look at CX holistically.”
Moving from siloed data to transparent journeys
As they looked at the existing customer data, they were able to demonstrate just how interconnected Mastercard’s touchpoints are.
“We could see how some of the issues within a certain touchpoint weren’t the result of any actions by that team,” says John.
“For example, if we have breakdowns in our implementation or onboarding processes, the issue flows downstream to the customer service or billing teams who then are the ones receiving the feedback even though the issue stems from something early on.”
It’s a case of moving away from thinking in silos and instead focusing on customer journeys and how each interaction impacts the next to create the experience for customers.
That was the start of Mastercard’s journey to formalize their Voice of Customer Center of Excellence program, spearheaded by John’s team with just two dedicated resources in 2016. With a business case proven, they achieved the buy-in they needed to grow their team and gradually expand their program across the organization. By 2019 the team had grown to 14 strong.
Overcoming resistance to the program
The success of John’s team doesn’t mean it’s all been smooth sailing. As any CX practitioner will know, there is always resistance, no matter how solid the business case.
“There’s always pushback,” says John. “I think in this field, you’re always trying to justify the program to someone who doesn’t want to listen.
“When we first got our Center of Excellence up and running – and it was just me and one other at this point – we had to own it and do a lot of trial and error to take it all the way through the process. There was a lot of negotiating about who owns this customer, who owns that customer etc., when in fact we all play a role.”
“I think the key thing is you need to get people accepting of the idea that we’re not just here to present teams with underperforming metrics and give them black eyes —we’re here to really help them improve the experience. In fact, we delivered 41 specific actionable insights last year.”
Even with the program embedded in Mastercard globally, John’s keen that his team sticks to the lessons learned in the early days to continue to keep the whole organization behind it.
“You don’t appreciate it until you have to do it, but communication is key. Communicating up, out, and with customers – you need to be relentless,” he says.
Change the conversation from ‘I think this is what is wrong’ to ‘I know this is what’s wrong with the experience’
“Just from changing the conversation from ‘I think this is what is wrong’ to ‘I know this is what’s wrong with the experience’ we were able to start having real conversations about what to do. That distinction gave us some quick wins early on that we could share.”
Start conversations, don’t rely only on the data
Another important aspect, perhaps a surprising one coming from a man who started his career at Mastercard in finance, is to not get too hung up on the finer points of significance and relevance.
Somebody’s always going to ask for more data
“When you’re starting a program like this, what we realized is somebody’s always going to ask for more data,” says John.
“So instead of trying to dismiss some of our results, on a smaller scale, we said ‘let’s just talk about what they (our customers) are saying’ because it starts to uncover a number of other things. For example, you start to learn whether you need to improve the questions that you’re asking, to follow up with those customers, or introduce things like case management to close the loop with customers.
“If we’re talking about 300,000 interactions that, for example our B2B customer service team has, I’m not going to dismiss only a hundred verbatim responses. I do think there’s something in there that we should know or take a deeper look at.”
Collaborate, don’t dictate
The final ingredient in the team’s success in a few short years was collaboration. Yes, they had the data scientists, the insights and the know-how, but they knew their stakeholders needed to be able to affect change and feel ownership of the program.
A key part of that was having a platform that would give them the flexibility to react quickly to stakeholder input.
“I really think our flexibility drives a tremendous amount of support and trust from our internal business partners. We intentionally include annual review of our program and survey questions with each and they know we will modify our approach when it advances our understanding of CX.”
“This partnership gives us the flexibility to evolve the Voice of Customer Center of Excellence while keeping a certain level of standardization.”
It’s easy to think that creating great customer experience takes an army just to get started, but as we can see from John and Mastercard, sometimes all it takes is a dedicated leader with a small team to bring it life – one step at a time.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Jack leads the content team at Qualtrics, managing a team of writers and editors who eat, sleep, and breathe Experience Management. He occasionally writes too. Before joining Qualtrics, he spent over 10 years working in advertising and journalism.