The 2021 Customer Experience Culture Index

01/27/22
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Author:Michael Ruckman & Alexey Veretenov

The second year of the CXCI study came with great anticipation and has already proven to be a valuable tool to improve the quality of customer contacts in banks.


For the second year, the Senteo team performed field research on the quality of customer contacts in bank branches. This year included 778 visits to bank branches from 82 banks in Moscow, Kiev, and Minsk. The findings are quite interesting and, honestly, a bit disturbing. In the age of digital transformations, agile teams, and a relatively firm understanding that corporate culture is important, how can front line culture in bank branches be so inconsistent and generally poor? It seems that all of the attention and resources have gone to building technological infrastructure and agile product teams, and banks may have forgotten the importance of human contact in building customer-centric business models. However, now more than ever, the human is very important for the quality of customer relationships.

With all of the self-service functionality available today, most people can do just about anything in their bank without needing to involve humans, but when they do really need a human, the actual contact is often underwhelming and sometimes downright frustrating. People visiting a bank branch today are most likely there because they have some need (a question, an issue, a complaint) that they were unable to resolve through self-service channels. As well, in most cases the customer will have tried to resolve their issue through one or more self-service channels and/or the call center before going to a bank branch. As a result, the level of competency, understanding, empathy, and efficiency in any bank branch should be consistent with the potential seriousness, scope, and context of the contact. However, with 778 mystery shopping visits and a detailed scorecard, we recently found a significant gap in what should be expected and what is actually found in most bank branches in Moscow, Kiev, and Minsk.


We now know that the measure of the quality of customer contacts has a direct correlation with price sensitivity and customer loyalty. The analysis of volatility in customer contacts is possibly the most valuable element for bankers.


From 2007-2012, Senteo published an annual Customer Experience Index (CEI) that became a standard ranking for banks in Moscow. In the absence of other indicators, our annual CEI provided stimulus for many lively discussions with banks and even became a Strategic KPI for many banks. The five key measurement areas (Brand, Communications, Environment, Offering, and Culture) provided an overall picture of how each bank was experienced by customers. Over the course of 5 years, the research and corresponding work and advice for clients had a significant effect on the level of development and overall market maturity, and the results were noteworthy.

In 2019, we considered a re-launch of the CEI and studied the current level of development in the market. We found that Brand, Communications, and Customer Environments are roughly consistent with a generally accepted market standard (considering several understandable deviations from global best practice). The general banking Offering as well has reached an established market standard and in some cases is more advanced than generally accepted industry best practice. As a result, we concluded that we would not find sufficient differences between competitors to justify an easily understandable ranking in those areas. However, there is one area from our original ranking that remains an issue and also exposes significant differences among competitors. Front line culture is the one element in the original five that has actually developed at a much slower pace over the past eight years.

As a result of these findings, we adapted our CEI scorecard and added more detail specifically related to front line culture and the quality of contacts with customers, and the new Customer Experience Culture Index (CXCI) was launched. From December 2019 to March 2020, we visited bank branches 330 times from the 32 biggest banks with a branch presence in Moscow. What we found in some ways was not surprising, but many things were quite surprising considering the context of the current competitive landscape along with the growth ambitions and fierce competition among some of the major players in the market.

Throughout the course of 2021, we had numerous conversations with banks on the topic of the quality of customer contacts. In reality, the Customer Experience Culture Index as a tool has already become a new influence on the quality of customer contacts for bank customers in Russia. We hope the 2021 CXCI will expand this influence to Ukraine and Belarus and even beyond in the years to come. This research was not designed to create scandal or conflict, and we have no intention to make anyone look bad. We do, however, hope that this type of research provides a reminder that human contact is important in developing and managing customer relationships, and the culture of front line personnel and the quality of customer contacts is of significant importance even in this digital age.

Note: Due to the pandemic, extra care and caution was used during the mystery shopping visits to protect the mystery shoppers and bank employees. None of the mystery shoppers that participated in the study contracted COVID -19 during the study or within the period immediately following their visits to bank branches.

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