A Customer-First Approach to Digital Transformation

Pundits warn that the financial services industry is ripe for disruption. The challenge comes in bridging the gap in service delivery and customer expectations. Here’s the math, according to the IBM Institute for Business Value:

  • 62 percent of bank executives believe they deliver excellent customer service. But only 35 percent of customers agree.
  • 45 percent of bank executives believe they provide personalized service. But just 30 percent of customers agree.
  • 96 percent of bank executives believe their customers trust them more than non-bank competitors. But just 70 percent of bank customers agree.

But poor service doesn’t have to be the default in financial services. Sunsuper is a case in point. Sunsuper is a multi-industry superannuation fund, serving over one million members. Based in Brisbane, Queensland, Australia, this public offer super fund ranks among the top ten companies of its kind in Australia.

I wanted to hear firsthand how Sunsuper’s IT and business leaders used Appian to bridge the service gap. So, I sat in on a financial services breakout session called: Transforming to Customer First. It featured Jen Reynolds, Senior Project Manager at Sunsuper. I came to hear a customer success story. And I wasn’t disappointed.

Early in her presentation, Reynolds focused on how Sunsuper used the Appian low-code digital platform to significantly reduce operational costs and transform to a customer-centric enterprise. Midway through her remarks, Reynolds half-jokingly mentioned that she was eager to get her hands on the latest version of Appian. In the meantime, she said that her team has introduced an omni-channel contact center, using their existing Appian platform.

“We’re working on a number of processes,” said Reynolds, “including a customer dashboard that will tie together all of our data threads. And drive member and employee engagement.”

Reynolds also talked about lessons learned from her Appian experience, like embedding the idea of “customer first” in your culture. She said that it’s not enough to just talk about the customer experience.

“At Sunsuper, we actually changed our Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) from efficiency to customer satisfaction KPIs . That was very important to us. But you must also prepare for the paradigm shift between IT and Business. In general, business users blame systems. They’ll say that the systems don’t do what they want them to do…” But we got business involved in the design process early, to make sure that we were meeting their expectations. This is how we ensured that business was more engaged throughout the build cycle,” said Reynolds.

From a process improvement standpoint, Reynolds suggested thinking about digital transformation in terms of what it means for your customers. This approach could open up more opportunities for process improvement than you might otherwise find. In the Q&A portion of her presentation, Reynolds warned against underestimating the integration challenge. Being able to quickly bring together legacy systems and new systems is a critical success factor. And it’s something that should be puzzled out as soon as possible.

Gartner predicts that through 2020, silos of customer engagement will be one of the top three leading causes of customer dissatisfaction for enterprises across all industry segments, including financial services. But Sunsuper took a different approach to business app development.

“It’s really hard to overcome data challenges during the build cycle,” said Reynolds.  We dealt with that issue in our design sprints. We were solution agnostic. We still had design people helping us figure out our data requirements. Basically, they helped us determine the data we needed to meet the expectations of our customers.”


Roland Alston