Why does a major financial services organization view customer experience as central to its digital transformation? In this episode, Beth Johnson, the Chief Experience Officer of Citizens Financial Group, explains how they build brand loyalty by using technology and data to understand and meet customer expectations.

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Beth Johnson is Chief Experience Officer (CXO) of Citizens Financial Group, Inc. Johnson leads an organization focused on improving the customer experience by advancing the bank’s overall capabilities in customer analytics and digital. Specific areas of responsibility include digital experience design, enterprise customer analytics, customer experience, organizational transformation, brand and advertising, communications, and payment strategy. She joined Citizens in October 2013 as head of Corporate Strategy.

Transcript

Beth Johnson: When we took a look at how Citizens was going to grow over time, it was going to be through building capabilities to deliver excellent experiences to our customers.

About the Chief Experience Officer role at Citizens Financial Group

Michael Krigsman: We're speaking with Beth Johnson. She is the chief experience officer of Citizens Financial Group. Beth, tell us about Citizens.

Beth Johnson: Citizens is one of the largest and oldest financial institutions in the United States. We are a full-service bank. We're about $180 billion in assets, so we're quite a large financial services company.

Michael Krigsman: You are Chief Experience Officer, which is kind of an unusual title. Tell us about that and tell us about your role.

Beth Johnson: When you think about banking, it's kind of interesting. Our product is really money. But it's very hard to differentiate, from a product perspective, for any length of time, or differentiate with things like pricing.

We know that what our customers really value is experience, so we launched the team. I launched in the role as the chief experience officer to really build those capabilities.

It includes leading our digital transformation – and I know we're going to talk about that soon, our digital team – as well as our data and analytics (which is a critical component to any digital transformation), marketing, and some emerging enterprise payments work (to kind of think about that industry), as well as agile transformation (kind of the how we deliver all those capabilities for our customers across our different business units).

What is customer experience?

Michael Krigsman: The thing that I found fascinating about your role is the fact that you combine digital transformation and customer experience together. But let's parse this. Why don't we start with customer experience? What does that mean for you?

Beth Johnson: For me, it is all about delivering for the individual against their need and having deep understanding not necessarily of what customers say their needs are but what their needs are based on how they behave and how they act. Then designing experiences around that.

We've invested in things like human-centered design capabilities, influenced by our digital capabilities, but really to get at that. How do we understand what our customers need, what they need throughout their lives or their business lifecycles, and how do we make sure Citizens is there to be that trusted partner over time for our clients and our customers?

Michael Krigsman: Beth, then the components of customer experience, how do you define that, and how do the pieces fit together?

Beth Johnson: We think about it in a couple of different ways. As I said, I think there's some sort of just tactical understanding of customer needs.

How do we make sure we have the listening posts in place? We are a net promoter score shop. To have listening posts to just hear, day in and day out, what our customers are thinking about Citizens. Then how do we get that information into the hands of our front-line employees if they are dealing with customers, into our product leads if they're designing new products, our experience owners who we have who are helping to design experiences for those customers, so we have a pulse on our customers at all times?

We've invested in tools to do that, like a mobile app internally that we branded Citizens Listens, to be able to listen to our customers. But it's much more than that.

On top of it, it is then those deep design capabilities to think about how do we help get into the nitty-gritty, whether it's digital transformation or new technologies, or training in our branches, or in our content development efforts for commercial bankers around M&A. How do we make sure we have the knowledge we need to know that what we're developing makes sense?

CX strategy and creating a positive customer experience

Michael Krigsman: A big part then of what you're doing, it sounds like, is gathering feedback from the customers and then developing mechanisms to bring that back inside the organization so that you can then adapt accordingly.

Beth Johnson: I think that's right. For an innovative company like ours, which we strive to be and we have a goal around innovation, it's both understanding those needs and getting feedback, but then having the deep test and learn capabilities to see, is it resonating, is it working? When we develop a new technology or new digital capability, do we find that our customers are actually using it, that they're embracing the technology, that it's making them feel more comfortable in their day-to-day financial lives?

I often use the saying, "People think about money, and we think about new technologies. We think about the use of data and analytics to know our customers."

You always hear the buzzword "hyper-personalization." But when it comes right down to it, money is a really personal and emotional thing for our clients, whether I'm a small business owner, I'm really proud of what I've built, and I want to make sure I can sustain it; whether I'm a customer, I'm thinking about my child going off to college, and how am I going to afford that.

We really try to focus on the fact that money is really personal and emotional for our customers. How do we develop all of our ecosystem and all of our experiences around that fact so that we can help them in their day-to-day lives and in their financial lives, over time, when it matters?

Michael Krigsman: Is there a difference between the online experience and the retail experience from this perspective of placing the customer at the center and really understanding the customer?

Beth Johnson: No. It has to be across channel.

I think about digital as one component of that customer experience. There are times when customers want things to be fully digital. Often, that's in their transactional needs.

It's super easy to take a picture of a check and not have to go into the branch, if I'm just looking to deposit a check I happen to receive.

But then there are times when I want that deep advice. We use the "my child going to college" example. I want to talk to someone to say, "What are my options? How do I think about this important investment? How do I save over time for it?"

We see our branches, our digital channels, and our contact centers all playing a sort of symbiotic relationship on how they think about serving those customers across channels.

Michael Krigsman: What about developing the business processes and the technologies that you need in order to weave this together to create that seamless continuum that you've been describing?

Beth Johnson: That's really why we embarked on our agile transformation (two years ago) is to make sure. We changed the lexicon, for those of you who know a lot about agile. We have experience owners versus product owners with that exact intention in mind.

Something like personalized insights that come in our mobile app are actually being delivered through a team that has people that are branch-focused and have grown up in that environment throughout time. We have customer experience designers. We have digital designers. We have a real test and learn capability. We have analytics because, to know insight about you, we actually have to be able to look at some of the data and what we see happening so that we can cross-channel as we help you with those insights.

I think a really good example of it is Citizens launched what we are calling Peace of Mind (this year). That's really about, if you overdraft, if you have that mistake, Citizens gives you 24 hours to be able to repair that, to transfer money from one account to another, or have something come in so that you don't actually have that oops that so many of us don't like (if you think about that experience).

That's a completely cross-channel experience. You're able to move money (either digitally or go into a branch and do that). We send you a text alert that says, "Hey, Beth. Did you know that you over-drafted?" and, therefore, I have this time to move money before anything happens to me. I get an alert in my mobile app. If I call the contact center, they'll say the same thing.

To me, digital transformation, or that customer experience, is weaving everything together there. I use this example because I really like it. I also call it the "Beth doesn't like to be stupid" example.

The money is emotional, and the money is personal side of that is, I'm a banker. I was a math major in training. I consider myself to be pretty good with my finances, so I feel dumb if I overdraft. Maybe it's because my husband moved money the day before. Then I'm just mad at him, right?

What this enables me to do is have an experience where I don't actually have to have that happen. I know Citizens has my back, and they have it in a digital transformation way, but it involves all channels and all capabilities.

Customer experience and digital transformation initiatives

Michael Krigsman: You now mention the term "digital transformation," and so where does that weave into this?

Beth Johnson: I mean think about the way we operate in our daily lives. Digital transformation has happened whether we like it or not.

We spend two hours a day, on average, on that mobile device that each of us has. We do more research than ever before (when we're going to buy something) because it's easy to get content and knowledge and understand it digitally.

We're able to streamline processes because we don't actually have to manually move paper from one place to another. We can do it through digital channels.

To me, digital transformation is just about acknowledging the way these new technologies have impacted and changed our lives and enabling us to do things no matter what channel it is.

What we're doing now is digital transformation. We're on a Zoom call from different locations talking to people all over the country.

It's acknowledging that, and that's why I think it is the customer experience and just ensuring that we use digital transformation to have better experiences for our customers.

Foundations of customer experience strategy at Citizens

Michael Krigsman: Let's jump to a few questions. I love taking questions from the audience. The audience is such a smart audience. We have a question from Elezar, and Elezar says, "What do you feel are the top three ways that help Citizens meet its customer goals on a high level?" So, the top ways that the activities you're engaged in are really supporting what your customers are fundamentally trying to accomplish.

Beth Johnson: I think the first thing is this feedback loop systems that we started to talk about at the very beginning. We've invested in the ability to put in place listening posts (across both our commercial businesses and our consumer businesses) to know how our customers are feeling based on how they're interacting with us and be able to adjust on the fly.

Our head of wealth, for example, has a tool where, daily, he'll get comments from customers to pop up on his mobile app. It is digital, in a way. And he can hit a button and directly reach back out to a wealth advisor to say, "Hey, you need to follow up with this," or "Great job." But it's super simple tools, and it's directly based on what we're hearing from our customers. I think that's critically important as I think about learning from our customers.

I think the second one I think about is really investing in the capabilities to do robust A/B testing and learning from our customers every day. We've built (three or four years ago) what we call Green Pixel Studios – you probably see the green behind me. Citizens' color is green – which is our design studio.

We're able to think about how do we develop solutions for our customers that are laser-focused on a customer problem, then test it in the lab, then test it with panels online, and test before we build, so we're really efficient and focused on the customer. We've even invested in a lab (in the building I'm in here) in our consumer headquarters in Massachusetts so that we can bring customers in and test and learn from them. That's a critical component of how I think on that customer transformation.

Then the last piece we've really invested in is the insight side. Customers, we are finding today, are just overwhelmed with information.

There is a stat that customers now – consumers, all of us – have to make 35,000 decisions a day. Just let that sink in for a second. On average now, in the U.S., a consumer is making 35,000 decisions a day, whether that's in their business life (and they're our business customer at the time) or at home.

That cognitive load is only increasing. What we found is we needed to invest in tools – that's really on the analytics side and the data side – to be able to offer those insights that make it easier to make some of those simple decisions, so that cognitive load just decreases.

It's such a silly little simple one, but one for me that was a surprise and delight. I'm a power user of our own tools. I just got a little alert that said, "Hey, your refund has been processed."

I didn't even remember necessarily that I had sent something back, but you know we all order online. I sent something back. To immediately know it was there in my bank account, I didn't have to think about it. I didn't have to check on it. It's those little insight tools and that insight and personalization, we're finding, is really powerful.

Michael Krigsman: Really understanding what customers want at each point in their set of interactions with you in that customer journey, and then trying to be responsive to that. That's another way of saying that.

Beth Johnson: Well, that's at the highest level, right? I think you always have to be really thoughtful on what customers want.

By the way, sometimes we don't know, which is why you can't just say ask customers, "What do you want?" You actually have to observe them, test, and learn from them by how we behave as people versus by necessarily what we say we're going to do as people.

How to improve phone-based customer service?

Michael Krigsman: We have a question from Alex Forbes who is complaining, in general, about phone-based customer experience and, in general, how terrible it is. He's wondering if Citizens is doing anything just to help the customer experience for people who have an immediate concern.

Beth Johnson: There are two ways to answer that question. The first is, absolutely. We're always investing in tools for our contact center agents so that they can be more responsive to our customers, to make it easier to answer questions, to do it faster, to make it available to do things with chat instead of necessarily having to wait for a live agent. That could be live chat or a chatbot that's digitally enabled. I think it's critically important to think about your contact center as an important way that our customers interact with us.

Then I'd say the longer-term thing is what we're really trying to focus on is understand why do people call our contact center, and how many of those things should be done through digital channels simply, so that they don't need to call, and so we can reserve our agents for those conversations that are a little bit trickier or when our clients really need us, so we can get to them faster, we can spend more time, and do it efficiently because we've taken some of the noise out of the system on things like (the classic one) online password reset.

You'd be shocked at the number of people who call, even though we do have the capability. They call to reset their password. We want to make sure our customers know they can do that digitally, and free up that time for our agents on other things.

Customer experience and the metaverse

Michael Krigsman: This is from Anshuman Das who asks, "Do you have any thoughts regarding customer experience using the metaverse?"

Beth Johnson: One of the things my team tends to look at here on innovation. We get lots of conversations right now on the metaverse. Crypto is the other, I think, hot topic.

When I think about the metaverse, I think it's going to be an area to test and learn. Some other financial institutions have already made investments.

We are starting to think about how should we be facilitating experiences in the metaverse. Should we be dipping our toes in to understand different interaction models and what interaction models financial services should play? In fact, just yesterday, our CFO actually asked someone on my team to come back with a proposal on exactly how we'll do that.

I think it's got to be top of mind for everybody because we just talked about how much time our customers are spending online. If that becomes Internet 3.0, and that's in the metaverse, we better understand how Citizens should play a role in that.

Trust is the foundation of customer experience

Michael Krigsman: A question from Twitter. Arsalan Khan asks, "What do you think about trust? How do you create trustworthy customer experiences?" It's an interesting question.

Beth Johnson: I think you've got to know your customer. It's such a buzzword to use the word personalization right now, but I think trust is about knowing your customer, what their needs are, being personal to them, and then being with them in good times and bad.

We actually saw all of our customer experience scores go up during COVID, and that was because we supported our commercial clients. We talked to everyone. We supported our consumers with Internet hubs. We built that trust because we stayed with them in a cross-channel way during a difficult time, as well as in the good times.

How do you measure customer experience?

Michael Krigsman: We have a question from Viraj Shah, who actually works for CXOTalk. I'm delighted he's watching. He says, "How do you measure customer experience?" It's a great question.

Beth Johnson: We measure it in several ways. I said earlier we do use Net Promoter Scores (NPS) as a fundamental tool to understand what our customers are thinking about us.

For those of you who don't know, that's the likelihood to recommend question, so would you recommend Citizens to a friend or colleague. Nine to ten is a promoter. Zero to six is a detractor. The net score is you take the promoters minus the detractors. We use that tool extensively.

Then we also look at the outcome metric. Are we growing our customer base? Are they doing more with us? Are we seeing them stay with Citizens and voting with their wallets?

I would say we use both that NPS score as well as these outcome metrics to measure customer experience.

What are the challenges of digital transformation?

Michael Krigsman: This is from Vincent Tran who asks, "What are the challenges you see for Citizens as the world and as banking embraces an evermore digital approach to anything?" I think it's the challenges associated with digital transformation, ultimately.

Beth Johnson: I think the biggest challenge is cultural. How do you make sure that people in the organization, that you combine the best of digital capability and learning, bringing in that talent from the outside with people who have been in banking for a long time, and really drive a culture of innovation, a culture of test and learn, and a culture that understands data and analytics? Because digital moves fast, we've got to be focused on how do we innovate, how do we keep adding to those experiences for our customers, how do we compete with new entrants that might be coming into our space but don't have the trust – going back to our comment – that we do as a bank.

We're constantly looking at training, culture, and capability. HR has become one of my best friends, as we think through this transformation, in a way I actually hadn't thought through two years ago (before we embarked on some of our changes).

Michael Krigsman: HR has become your friend, and I'm assuming that that implies the importance of talent in what you're doing.

Beth Johnson: Yeah, we are absolutely in a war for talent. There's no question that, in the capacities that I have on my team and that we're driving for transformation, they're industry agnostic.

We've got to be able to attract the best and brightest digital engineering talent, product ownership in the digital space, social media, whatever it is we're thinking about in this organization. We need to do that because we're innovative, because these people like to build stuff, because we're building things that are highly relevant for our customers and cool.

We've got to do a lot of training. We've got to do a lot of different tools and tricks to really have an organization that's a talent magnet and that we can keep folks excited about their careers over time.

How do digital transformation strategies and customer experience come together?

Michael Krigsman: A big part of digital transformation involves changing processes, rethinking the job descriptions. That of course weaves in the talent aspect that you were talking about earlier. Can you connect the dots for us between customer experience and this aspect of digital transformation: rethinking processes, rethinking business models, rethinking roles, things like that?

Beth Johnson: The way we approach it is we launched what we call really our agile transformation, which I talked about as the how, which is sort of innovative, engaged talent as a component of that. We talk about it as a modern operating model.

It really starts with that deep customer experience, what problem am I trying to solve, but then how do we bring together (in pods) that can test and learn (based on that) towards a specific outcome, solutions for our customers? That could be a product-oriented person. It could be a process engineer, as you mentioned, Michael. How do we stream the processes? It could be a digital engineer. It could be a marketing person.

A great example of that for Citizens is in our home equity business. We've launched (this year) what we're calling our Fast Line.

Home Equity Fast Line, that's essentially enabling you to do a home equity loan in under 10 days, and the industry is around 35. If I want to remodel my kitchen, I want to start tomorrow. I don't want to start 35 days from now while I get that home equity loan.

That takes all those components. It takes a really deep understanding of the analytics. I have to rethink my pricing models. I have to rethink my processes in my backend versus my front-end and how I underwrite. By linking it all together in these cross-functional teams towards that common outcome is how we've approached it, and that's really the foundation of our transformation.

Michael Krigsman: I just want to remind everybody, subscribe to our newsletter, hit the subscribe button at the top of CXOTalk.com, so we can keep you up to date.

Okay. We have a question from Anne Jung. She says, "How are you differentiating Citizens from some of the challenger banks and FinTechs?"

Beth Johnson: Our customers still value that holistic approach to banking that we just talked about, so that ability to be there during the good times and the bad. We've proven that, that trust factor that we just talked about, without saying, "Trust me," because that never works.

Then being able to really think about when are those in-person interactions really important. Nobody has really cracked the code in the U.S., whether our commercial bank or consumer bank, to not enabling those personal interactions when they matter, to be that primary partner for customers.

We really want to weave all that together. Our brand promise is all about that, which is a little bit distinct, is Made Ready.

Think about that as the marathon. We explain it as, in today's culture, you love to take that picture at the end of the marathon where you look great, you look happy, and you don't even look like you ran. But we all know, along the way, there was some pretty ugliness at times, and Citizens is really there for you throughout that time.

We use digital tools and capabilities to facilitate that, but that's foundationally who we are as a bank, which has resonated. We've had really outsized growth over the last couple of years, I think, by sticking to that.

Michael Krigsman: Is it possible to describe the impetus behind this real rethinking that's taken place inside Citizens? Is it external factors and the environment? Is it competition? Is it the need for innovation?

Beth Johnson: I think we foundationally think about it as the need for innovation. But that's, of course, driven by the pace of change of technology, the pace of change of our customers, what's happening with competitors.

This is a market where we believe you have to be innovative, and you have to be using new technologies effectively to compete, but at its foundation.

I believe innovation is all about solving those customer problems, when I say that. That's how it all links together for us.

Role of data in customer experience and digital transformation

Michael Krigsman: What about data? You've described personalization. You've spoken about that. You mentioned hyper-personalization earlier. Where does data fit into your world with this?

Beth Johnson: I almost separate. There's the data. How do you make sure how you're architecting your data across your company to be able to get access to it, have it be clean, have people drive insight from it? Then some of those deep analytics that can sit on top of it, and scaling that. I think both are critically important.

I think we're in a world where individuals or corporations want you to have highly tailored advice to them, and that's about knowing how to use the data effectively to provide really deep insight.

We actually do a customer experience survey each year in banking. By the way, our customers, on the whole, say they're happy to have us use their data if we can do it in a way that's highly helpful to them.

But then the last piece of this, which I always say is the modeling, is almost the easy part. If I know that Beth has a senior in high school (which I do) and that might be going to college, and I have to start thinking about how do I finance that college, I can figure that out pretty easily in our data. But then I have to know how to get that information into the hands of something that will be helpful to me. That's an integration to our mobile app, to texting, to email, to our branches, to salesforce, or an RM can contact me.

You've got to have both the deep information and analytics, but it's got to be piped into your systems so that you can actually do something relevant for a customer with it.

Michael Krigsman: It's not just data for the sake of collecting data, but it's thinking about the data with some endpoint and usage scenario in mind. Is that a correct way to say it?

Beth Johnson: We always start use case and work back. I think that's exactly right. You've got to be focused on what's going to provide the most value to the customer and then go backward.

That home equity example I gave, our Fast Line product, that was all based in the need that that person wanted to do their kitchen in a 7-day start, not in 35 days. But it's really a data and analytics use case on, yes, we needed digital, yes, we needed to redesign our processes, but it's the flowing of the analytics and data across that enables that whole use case.

Michael Krigsman: Arsalan Khan, on Twitter, comes back again. He says, "When you're talking about digital transformation, how do you know when enough transformation has taken place? Is there such a thing as too much digital transformation?"

Beth Johnson: I don't think digital transformation is going to slow down. I do think it's not about the cool technology.

Digital transformation is not about technology. It's about enabling things to happen more effectively or better with less of that cognitive load than without it. I think you're going to continue to see it.

Somebody asked the metaverse question. That's going to be part of digital transformation in the future.

What's interesting, though, is if you look at why people buy (in my business, in financial services), particularly customers. It's not the digital capabilities on the whole. Those are kind of becoming table stakes. We all have them. It's the insights you can put on top of it, or it's the differentiators that you put on top of it.

I think you'll continue to see digital as a tool, as the technology changes. That's what'll differentiate us, as part of these experiences.

How to use personalization to create offers to which customers will respond?

Michael Krigsman: This is from Peter Jones. This is a really, really good one. He says, "We've spent a lot of time trying to figure out how to present the next best offer to get through all of the noise that you mentioned, Beth." He says, "What thoughts do you have on cutting through the noise so the client actually engages and considers the offer?" This is the magic, holy grail question that everybody wants to know. How do you get people to actually listen?

Beth Johnson: My advice would be a couple of things. One, you better have a next best offer generation engine that actually makes it truly a next best offer. And not a next best offer for you, but a next best offer for the customer.

I think that's one. It has to be highly relevant, and it actually has to be surrounded by the content (depending on what that is) that's going to make the customer confident in that recommendation and that it's relevant for them.

I think the second component is having that be multichannel in nature. It may be that I do best when you sort of pop that offer up in the mobile app (when I look at it every day). Michael, you might never go to the mobile app, so I better think about is email more representative to you, or should I have someone pick up the phone and call you with that offer.

I think that's where the nuances come in. It's got to be relevant. You've got to have the surrounding processes around it. And you've got to tailor it to the right channel.

I have seen data, by the way. Too many offers is also bad. If you start to bombard people, then they get overloaded. That doesn't work well either.

Michael Krigsman: Arsalan Khan comes back again. He says, "Okay. Does digital transformation have limits on the kind of data to collect, figuring out which processes to improve or not?" I think what he's getting at here is you cannot do everything in the universe, so how do you figure out where to focus?

Beth Johnson: We do it two ways. We look at what matters most to our customers, so that's where the deep customer research comes in. We focus on those processes.

We haven't talked as much about it. We look at how we drive efficiency because that then enables us to invest in areas of innovation, which we'll deliver for our customers.

For example, in our contact centers – someone asked that question earlier – we look at all the reasons for calling. We have the data to say, why are people calling us? Do we think that's something they should be calling us for? Then how do we make sure we have the digital capabilities (if it makes more sense to self-serve), or we let them know, that they know about it, and that it's truly easier for that capability?

We kind of use either that deep customer needs or we'll look at those operational characteristics to prioritize.

Michael Krigsman: Another question from LinkedIn, this is from Alex Forbes again. He wants to know, "How are you incorporating machine learning into your digital experiences to ensure that unconscious bias is not built into your machine learning models?"

Beth Johnson: It's a very tricky conversation, particularly in banking. Remember, we're a highly regulated industry, so we're very thoughtful about where we deploy our machine learning models and in what ways to ensure that we don't have bias in the system. Then how do we backtest to make sure, where we have deployed, we don't have biases in the system?

Particularly in a bank, there's going to be no black-box machine learning. That's just not a good idea.

But there are ways we can still deploy it. For example, in our personalization engine, the machine can learn whether Beth likes email or Beth likes texts or Beth responds more to something in the mobile app.

Michael, do I like the color yellow versus the color red? Those kinds of things we're starting to deploy to make sure that we're most effective in the way we communicate to the people we communicate to. That's a good use case for us.

In some areas like fraud and collections, we have good ML use cases. But we're very, very careful on that bias question and have processes in place to guard against it.

Michael Krigsman: On this subject of data, what about the privacy aspect? It's so tempting to use that data.

Beth Johnson: Yes.

Michael Krigsman: To do that personalization, and just to push it. How do you put restraints in?

Beth Johnson: We are a highly regulated bank. We take data privacy incredibly seriously, so we have a lot of different systems and capabilities in place to ensure the integrity of our data, to ensure the privacy of our data, to enable customers to understand how we use it.

As I said, what's interesting is many customers don't mind using data if you can provide them something that's valuable for it. But we do have all those systems in place, and we spend quite a bit of money to ensure that we have cybersecurity, data security, teams of people to monitor our usage of data.

How to make customer experience and digital transformation efforts successful?

Michael Krigsman: As we finish up, can you share advice for folks that are looking at this type of digital transformation/customer experience journey, and can you describe what are the factors, some of the factors that make it successful, how to make it work?

Beth Johnson: I think, overcoming the hurdle that they are two different things, and starting with the premise that customer experience journey and digital journey, they're really all one part of one ability to have those great experiences or overcome roadblocks for your customers. That's job one.

Then I would never underestimate – we touched on it during this – the cultural aspects of a transformation like this in companies that aren't necessarily digitally native or new, which is, how do you make sure you instill the police systems, the foundations, the training, the bill mentality, the ability to test and learn, into the ways you manage your people, you motivate, you reward, you compensate? All of those different cultural aspects are really, really important to focus on, to get right, and to invest in.

Michael Krigsman: You mentioned the culture as being maybe the most significant challenge. Why is that?

Beth Johnson: Because it's new, and banks that have been around (in particular) for a long time, sometimes struggle a bit with new. It's an industry that is a little bit slower to change than some others. But I think it's absolutely critical that we do and we acknowledge it.

Innovation is so important in our industry to meet those customer needs. But we have to push the culture to get to that place of innovation.

I think Citizens has done a really good job at it, but you have to be explicit. You have to invest in it. You have to make sure your reward systems enable it. And so that's what's been so critical for us is to make that push towards innovation in an industry that frankly didn't for probably 20 years and now has accelerated with the tools available.

Michael Krigsman: Finally, where is all this going for Citizens?

Beth Johnson: Our goal is to just continue to be the best bank to help our clients through their journey, whether that's a business or a consumer. We want to be the trusted advisor. We want to grow those businesses. I think that's going to enable us to be successful and to outperform our competition.

Michael Krigsman: All right. With that, we are out of time. This has been a whirlwind show. A huge thank you to Beth Johnson, Chief Experience Officer at Citizens Financial Group. Beth, thank you so much for taking the time to be with us today. I really, really appreciate it.

Beth Johnson: Yeah. Thanks for having me, Michael.

Michael Krigsman: A huge thank you to everybody who asked such amazing questions. Now, before you go, please subscribe to our YouTube channel, hit the subscribe button at the top of our website, so we can send you our newsletter. Check out CXOTalk.com. We have incredible shows coming up, and we will talk with you soon. Have a great day, everybody. Bye-bye.

Krigsman: A huge thank you to everybody who asked such amazing questions. Now, before you go, please subscribe to our YouTube channel, hit the subscribe button at the top of our website, so we can send you our newsletter. Check out CXOTalk.com. We have incredible shows coming up, and we will talk with you soon. Have a great day, everybody. Bye-bye.

Beth Johnson: When we took a look at how Citizens was going to grow over time, it was going to be through building capabilities to deliver excellent experiences to our customers.

About the Chief Experience Officer role at Citizens Financial Group

Michael Krigsman: We're speaking with Beth Johnson. She is the chief experience officer of Citizens Financial Group. Beth, tell us about Citizens.

Beth Johnson: Citizens is one of the largest and oldest financial institutions in the United States. We are a full-service bank. We're about $180 billion in assets, so we're quite a large financial services company.

Michael Krigsman: You are Chief Experience Officer, which is kind of an unusual title. Tell us about that and tell us about your role.

Beth Johnson: When you think about banking, it's kind of interesting. Our product is really money. But it's very hard to differentiate, from a product perspective, for any length of time, or differentiate with things like pricing.

We know that what our customers really value is experience, so we launched the team. I launched in the role as the chief experience officer to really build those capabilities.

It includes leading our digital transformation – and I know we're going to talk about that soon, our digital team – as well as our data and analytics (which is a critical component to any digital transformation), marketing, and some emerging enterprise payments work (to kind of think about that industry), as well as agile transformation (kind of the how we deliver all those capabilities for our customers across our different business units).

What is customer experience?

Michael Krigsman: The thing that I found fascinating about your role is the fact that you combine digital transformation and customer experience together. But let's parse this. Why don't we start with customer experience? What does that mean for you?

Beth Johnson: For me, it is all about delivering for the individual against their need and having deep understanding not necessarily of what customers say their needs are but what their needs are based on how they behave and how they act. Then designing experiences around that.

We've invested in things like human-centered design capabilities, influenced by our digital capabilities, but really to get at that. How do we understand what our customers need, what they need throughout their lives or their business lifecycles, and how do we make sure Citizens is there to be that trusted partner over time for our clients and our customers?

Michael Krigsman: Beth, then the components of customer experience, how do you define that, and how do the pieces fit together?

Beth Johnson: We think about it in a couple of different ways. As I said, I think there's some sort of just tactical understanding of customer needs.

How do we make sure we have the listening posts in place? We are a net promoter score shop. To have listening posts to just hear, day in and day out, what our customers are thinking about Citizens. Then how do we get that information into the hands of our front-line employees if they are dealing with customers, into our product leads if they're designing new products, our experience owners who we have who are helping to design experiences for those customers, so we have a pulse on our customers at all times?

We've invested in tools to do that, like a mobile app internally that we branded Citizens Listens, to be able to listen to our customers. But it's much more than that.

On top of it, it is then those deep design capabilities to think about how do we help get into the nitty-gritty, whether it's digital transformation or new technologies, or training in our branches, or in our content development efforts for commercial bankers around M&A. How do we make sure we have the knowledge we need to know that what we're developing makes sense?

CX strategy and creating a positive customer experience

Michael Krigsman: A big part then of what you're doing, it sounds like, is gathering feedback from the customers and then developing mechanisms to bring that back inside the organization so that you can then adapt accordingly.

Beth Johnson: I think that's right. For an innovative company like ours, which we strive to be and we have a goal around innovation, it's both understanding those needs and getting feedback, but then having the deep test and learn capabilities to see, is it resonating, is it working? When we develop a new technology or new digital capability, do we find that our customers are actually using it, that they're embracing the technology, that it's making them feel more comfortable in their day-to-day financial lives?

I often use the saying, "People think about money, and we think about new technologies. We think about the use of data and analytics to know our customers."

You always hear the buzzword "hyper-personalization." But when it comes right down to it, money is a really personal and emotional thing for our clients, whether I'm a small business owner, I'm really proud of what I've built, and I want to make sure I can sustain it; whether I'm a customer, I'm thinking about my child going off to college, and how am I going to afford that.

We really try to focus on the fact that money is really personal and emotional for our customers. How do we develop all of our ecosystem and all of our experiences around that fact so that we can help them in their day-to-day lives and in their financial lives, over time, when it matters?

Michael Krigsman: Is there a difference between the online experience and the retail experience from this perspective of placing the customer at the center and really understanding the customer?

Beth Johnson: No. It has to be across channel.

I think about digital as one component of that customer experience. There are times when customers want things to be fully digital. Often, that's in their transactional needs.

It's super easy to take a picture of a check and not have to go into the branch, if I'm just looking to deposit a check I happen to receive.

But then there are times when I want that deep advice. We use the "my child going to college" example. I want to talk to someone to say, "What are my options? How do I think about this important investment? How do I save over time for it?"

We see our branches, our digital channels, and our contact centers all playing a sort of symbiotic relationship on how they think about serving those customers across channels.

Michael Krigsman: What about developing the business processes and the technologies that you need in order to weave this together to create that seamless continuum that you've been describing?

Beth Johnson: That's really why we embarked on our agile transformation (two years ago) is to make sure. We changed the lexicon, for those of you who know a lot about agile. We have experience owners versus product owners with that exact intention in mind.

Something like personalized insights that come in our mobile app are actually being delivered through a team that has people that are branch-focused and have grown up in that environment throughout time. We have customer experience designers. We have digital designers. We have a real test and learn capability. We have analytics because, to know insight about you, we actually have to be able to look at some of the data and what we see happening so that we can cross-channel as we help you with those insights.

I think a really good example of it is Citizens launched what we are calling Peace of Mind (this year). That's really about, if you overdraft, if you have that mistake, Citizens gives you 24 hours to be able to repair that, to transfer money from one account to another, or have something come in so that you don't actually have that oops that so many of us don't like (if you think about that experience).

That's a completely cross-channel experience. You're able to move money (either digitally or go into a branch and do that). We send you a text alert that says, "Hey, Beth. Did you know that you over-drafted?" and, therefore, I have this time to move money before anything happens to me. I get an alert in my mobile app. If I call the contact center, they'll say the same thing.

To me, digital transformation, or that customer experience, is weaving everything together there. I use this example because I really like it. I also call it the "Beth doesn't like to be stupid" example.

The money is emotional, and the money is personal side of that is, I'm a banker. I was a math major in training. I consider myself to be pretty good with my finances, so I feel dumb if I overdraft. Maybe it's because my husband moved money the day before. Then I'm just mad at him, right?

What this enables me to do is have an experience where I don't actually have to have that happen. I know Citizens has my back, and they have it in a digital transformation way, but it involves all channels and all capabilities.

Customer experience and digital transformation initiatives

Michael Krigsman: You now mention the term "digital transformation," and so where does that weave into this?

Beth Johnson: I mean think about the way we operate in our daily lives. Digital transformation has happened whether we like it or not.

We spend two hours a day, on average, on that mobile device that each of us has. We do more research than ever before (when we're going to buy something) because it's easy to get content and knowledge and understand it digitally.

We're able to streamline processes because we don't actually have to manually move paper from one place to another. We can do it through digital channels.

To me, digital transformation is just about acknowledging the way these new technologies have impacted and changed our lives and enabling us to do things no matter what channel it is.

What we're doing now is digital transformation. We're on a Zoom call from different locations talking to people all over the country.

It's acknowledging that, and that's why I think it is the customer experience and just ensuring that we use digital transformation to have better experiences for our customers.

Foundations of customer experience strategy at Citizens

Michael Krigsman: Let's jump to a few questions. I love taking questions from the audience. The audience is such a smart audience. We have a question from Elezar, and Elezar says, "What do you feel are the top three ways that help Citizens meet its customer goals on a high level?" So, the top ways that the activities you're engaged in are really supporting what your customers are fundamentally trying to accomplish.

Beth Johnson: I think the first thing is this feedback loop systems that we started to talk about at the very beginning. We've invested in the ability to put in place listening posts (across both our commercial businesses and our consumer businesses) to know how our customers are feeling based on how they're interacting with us and be able to adjust on the fly.

Our head of wealth, for example, has a tool where, daily, he'll get comments from customers to pop up on his mobile app. It is digital, in a way. And he can hit a button and directly reach back out to a wealth advisor to say, "Hey, you need to follow up with this," or "Great job." But it's super simple tools, and it's directly based on what we're hearing from our customers. I think that's critically important as I think about learning from our customers.

I think the second one I think about is really investing in the capabilities to do robust A/B testing and learning from our customers every day. We've built (three or four years ago) what we call Green Pixel Studios – you probably see the green behind me. Citizens' color is green – which is our design studio.

We're able to think about how do we develop solutions for our customers that are laser-focused on a customer problem, then test it in the lab, then test it with panels online, and test before we build, so we're really efficient and focused on the customer. We've even invested in a lab (in the building I'm in here) in our consumer headquarters in Massachusetts so that we can bring customers in and test and learn from them. That's a critical component of how I think on that customer transformation.

Then the last piece we've really invested in is the insight side. Customers, we are finding today, are just overwhelmed with information.

There is a stat that customers now – consumers, all of us – have to make 35,000 decisions a day. Just let that sink in for a second. On average now, in the U.S., a consumer is making 35,000 decisions a day, whether that's in their business life (and they're our business customer at the time) or at home.

That cognitive load is only increasing. What we found is we needed to invest in tools – that's really on the analytics side and the data side – to be able to offer those insights that make it easier to make some of those simple decisions, so that cognitive load just decreases.

It's such a silly little simple one, but one for me that was a surprise and delight. I'm a power user of our own tools. I just got a little alert that said, "Hey, your refund has been processed."

I didn't even remember necessarily that I had sent something back, but you know we all order online. I sent something back. To immediately know it was there in my bank account, I didn't have to think about it. I didn't have to check on it. It's those little insight tools and that insight and personalization, we're finding, is really powerful.

Michael Krigsman: Really understanding what customers want at each point in their set of interactions with you in that customer journey, and then trying to be responsive to that. That's another way of saying that.

Beth Johnson: Well, that's at the highest level, right? I think you always have to be really thoughtful on what customers want.

By the way, sometimes we don't know, which is why you can't just say ask customers, "What do you want?" You actually have to observe them, test, and learn from them by how we behave as people versus by necessarily what we say we're going to do as people.

How to improve phone-based customer service?

Michael Krigsman: We have a question from Alex Forbes who is complaining, in general, about phone-based customer experience and, in general, how terrible it is. He's wondering if Citizens is doing anything just to help the customer experience for people who have an immediate concern.

Beth Johnson: There are two ways to answer that question. The first is, absolutely. We're always investing in tools for our contact center agents so that they can be more responsive to our customers, to make it easier to answer questions, to do it faster, to make it available to do things with chat instead of necessarily having to wait for a live agent. That could be live chat or a chatbot that's digitally enabled. I think it's critically important to think about your contact center as an important way that our customers interact with us.

Then I'd say the longer-term thing is what we're really trying to focus on is understand why do people call our contact center, and how many of those things should be done through digital channels simply, so that they don't need to call, and so we can reserve our agents for those conversations that are a little bit trickier or when our clients really need us, so we can get to them faster, we can spend more time, and do it efficiently because we've taken some of the noise out of the system on things like (the classic one) online password reset.

You'd be shocked at the number of people who call, even though we do have the capability. They call to reset their password. We want to make sure our customers know they can do that digitally, and free up that time for our agents on other things.

Customer experience and the metaverse

Michael Krigsman: This is from Anshuman Das who asks, "Do you have any thoughts regarding customer experience using the metaverse?"

Beth Johnson: One of the things my team tends to look at here on innovation. We get lots of conversations right now on the metaverse. Crypto is the other, I think, hot topic.

When I think about the metaverse, I think it's going to be an area to test and learn. Some other financial institutions have already made investments.

We are starting to think about how should we be facilitating experiences in the metaverse. Should we be dipping our toes in to understand different interaction models and what interaction models financial services should play? In fact, just yesterday, our CFO actually asked someone on my team to come back with a proposal on exactly how we'll do that.

I think it's got to be top of mind for everybody because we just talked about how much time our customers are spending online. If that becomes Internet 3.0, and that's in the metaverse, we better understand how Citizens should play a role in that.

Trust is the foundation of customer experience

Michael Krigsman: A question from Twitter. Arsalan Khan asks, "What do you think about trust? How do you create trustworthy customer experiences?" It's an interesting question.

Beth Johnson: I think you've got to know your customer. It's such a buzzword to use the word personalization right now, but I think trust is about knowing your customer, what their needs are, being personal to them, and then being with them in good times and bad.

We actually saw all of our customer experience scores go up during COVID, and that was because we supported our commercial clients. We talked to everyone. We supported our consumers with Internet hubs. We built that trust because we stayed with them in a cross-channel way during a difficult time, as well as in the good times.

How do you measure customer experience?

Michael Krigsman: We have a question from Viraj Shah, who actually works for CXOTalk. I'm delighted he's watching. He says, "How do you measure customer experience?" It's a great question.

Beth Johnson: We measure it in several ways. I said earlier we do use Net Promoter Scores (NPS) as a fundamental tool to understand what our customers are thinking about us.

For those of you who don't know, that's the likelihood to recommend question, so would you recommend Citizens to a friend or colleague. Nine to ten is a promoter. Zero to six is a detractor. The net score is you take the promoters minus the detractors. We use that tool extensively.

Then we also look at the outcome metric. Are we growing our customer base? Are they doing more with us? Are we seeing them stay with Citizens and voting with their wallets?

I would say we use both that NPS score as well as these outcome metrics to measure customer experience.

What are the challenges of digital transformation?

Michael Krigsman: This is from Vincent Tran who asks, "What are the challenges you see for Citizens as the world and as banking embraces an evermore digital approach to anything?" I think it's the challenges associated with digital transformation, ultimately.

Beth Johnson: I think the biggest challenge is cultural. How do you make sure that people in the organization, that you combine the best of digital capability and learning, bringing in that talent from the outside with people who have been in banking for a long time, and really drive a culture of innovation, a culture of test and learn, and a culture that understands data and analytics? Because digital moves fast, we've got to be focused on how do we innovate, how do we keep adding to those experiences for our customers, how do we compete with new entrants that might be coming into our space but don't have the trust – going back to our comment – that we do as a bank.

We're constantly looking at training, culture, and capability. HR has become one of my best friends, as we think through this transformation, in a way I actually hadn't thought through two years ago (before we embarked on some of our changes).

Michael Krigsman: HR has become your friend, and I'm assuming that that implies the importance of talent in what you're doing.

Beth Johnson: Yeah, we are absolutely in a war for talent. There's no question that, in the capacities that I have on my team and that we're driving for transformation, they're industry agnostic.

We've got to be able to attract the best and brightest digital engineering talent, product ownership in the digital space, social media, whatever it is we're thinking about in this organization. We need to do that because we're innovative, because these people like to build stuff, because we're building things that are highly relevant for our customers and cool.

We've got to do a lot of training. We've got to do a lot of different tools and tricks to really have an organization that's a talent magnet and that we can keep folks excited about their careers over time.

How do digital transformation strategies and customer experience come together?

Michael Krigsman: A big part of digital transformation involves changing processes, rethinking the job descriptions. That of course weaves in the talent aspect that you were talking about earlier. Can you connect the dots for us between customer experience and this aspect of digital transformation: rethinking processes, rethinking business models, rethinking roles, things like that?

Beth Johnson: The way we approach it is we launched what we call really our agile transformation, which I talked about as the how, which is sort of innovative, engaged talent as a component of that. We talk about it as a modern operating model.

It really starts with that deep customer experience, what problem am I trying to solve, but then how do we bring together (in pods) that can test and learn (based on that) towards a specific outcome, solutions for our customers? That could be a product-oriented person. It could be a process engineer, as you mentioned, Michael. How do we stream the processes? It could be a digital engineer. It could be a marketing person.

A great example of that for Citizens is in our home equity business. We've launched (this year) what we're calling our Fast Line.

Home Equity Fast Line, that's essentially enabling you to do a home equity loan in under 10 days, and the industry is around 35. If I want to remodel my kitchen, I want to start tomorrow. I don't want to start 35 days from now while I get that home equity loan.

That takes all those components. It takes a really deep understanding of the analytics. I have to rethink my pricing models. I have to rethink my processes in my backend versus my front-end and how I underwrite. By linking it all together in these cross-functional teams towards that common outcome is how we've approached it, and that's really the foundation of our transformation.

Michael Krigsman: I just want to remind everybody, subscribe to our newsletter, hit the subscribe button at the top of CXOTalk.com, so we can keep you up to date.

Okay. We have a question from Anne Jung. She says, "How are you differentiating Citizens from some of the challenger banks and FinTechs?"

Beth Johnson: Our customers still value that holistic approach to banking that we just talked about, so that ability to be there during the good times and the bad. We've proven that, that trust factor that we just talked about, without saying, "Trust me," because that never works.

Then being able to really think about when are those in-person interactions really important. Nobody has really cracked the code in the U.S., whether our commercial bank or consumer bank, to not enabling those personal interactions when they matter, to be that primary partner for customers.

We really want to weave all that together. Our brand promise is all about that, which is a little bit distinct, is Made Ready.

Think about that as the marathon. We explain it as, in today's culture, you love to take that picture at the end of the marathon where you look great, you look happy, and you don't even look like you ran. But we all know, along the way, there was some pretty ugliness at times, and Citizens is really there for you throughout that time.

We use digital tools and capabilities to facilitate that, but that's foundationally who we are as a bank, which has resonated. We've had really outsized growth over the last couple of years, I think, by sticking to that.

Michael Krigsman: Is it possible to describe the impetus behind this real rethinking that's taken place inside Citizens? Is it external factors and the environment? Is it competition? Is it the need for innovation?

Beth Johnson: I think we foundationally think about it as the need for innovation. But that's, of course, driven by the pace of change of technology, the pace of change of our customers, what's happening with competitors.

This is a market where we believe you have to be innovative, and you have to be using new technologies effectively to compete, but at its foundation.

I believe innovation is all about solving those customer problems, when I say that. That's how it all links together for us.

Role of data in customer experience and digital transformation

Michael Krigsman: What about data? You've described personalization. You've spoken about that. You mentioned hyper-personalization earlier. Where does data fit into your world with this?

Beth Johnson: I almost separate. There's the data. How do you make sure how you're architecting your data across your company to be able to get access to it, have it be clean, have people drive insight from it? Then some of those deep analytics that can sit on top of it, and scaling that. I think both are critically important.

I think we're in a world where individuals or corporations want you to have highly tailored advice to them, and that's about knowing how to use the data effectively to provide really deep insight.

We actually do a customer experience survey each year in banking. By the way, our customers, on the whole, say they're happy to have us use their data if we can do it in a way that's highly helpful to them.

But then the last piece of this, which I always say is the modeling, is almost the easy part. If I know that Beth has a senior in high school (which I do) and that might be going to college, and I have to start thinking about how do I finance that college, I can figure that out pretty easily in our data. But then I have to know how to get that information into the hands of something that will be helpful to me. That's an integration to our mobile app, to texting, to email, to our branches, to salesforce, or an RM can contact me.

You've got to have both the deep information and analytics, but it's got to be piped into your systems so that you can actually do something relevant for a customer with it.

Michael Krigsman: It's not just data for the sake of collecting data, but it's thinking about the data with some endpoint and usage scenario in mind. Is that a correct way to say it?

Beth Johnson: We always start use case and work back. I think that's exactly right. You've got to be focused on what's going to provide the most value to the customer and then go backward.

That home equity example I gave, our Fast Line product, that was all based in the need that that person wanted to do their kitchen in a 7-day start, not in 35 days. But it's really a data and analytics use case on, yes, we needed digital, yes, we needed to redesign our processes, but it's the flowing of the analytics and data across that enables that whole use case.

Michael Krigsman: Arsalan Khan, on Twitter, comes back again. He says, "When you're talking about digital transformation, how do you know when enough transformation has taken place? Is there such a thing as too much digital transformation?"

Beth Johnson: I don't think digital transformation is going to slow down. I do think it's not about the cool technology.

Digital transformation is not about technology. It's about enabling things to happen more effectively or better with less of that cognitive load than without it. I think you're going to continue to see it.

Somebody asked the metaverse question. That's going to be part of digital transformation in the future.

What's interesting, though, is if you look at why people buy (in my business, in financial services), particularly customers. It's not the digital capabilities on the whole. Those are kind of becoming table stakes. We all have them. It's the insights you can put on top of it, or it's the differentiators that you put on top of it.

I think you'll continue to see digital as a tool, as the technology changes. That's what'll differentiate us, as part of these experiences.

How to use personalization to create offers to which customers will respond?

Michael Krigsman: This is from Peter Jones. This is a really, really good one. He says, "We've spent a lot of time trying to figure out how to present the next best offer to get through all of the noise that you mentioned, Beth." He says, "What thoughts do you have on cutting through the noise so the client actually engages and considers the offer?" This is the magic, holy grail question that everybody wants to know. How do you get people to actually listen?

Beth Johnson: My advice would be a couple of things. One, you better have a next best offer generation engine that actually makes it truly a next best offer. And not a next best offer for you, but a next best offer for the customer.

I think that's one. It has to be highly relevant, and it actually has to be surrounded by the content (depending on what that is) that's going to make the customer confident in that recommendation and that it's relevant for them.

I think the second component is having that be multichannel in nature. It may be that I do best when you sort of pop that offer up in the mobile app (when I look at it every day). Michael, you might never go to the mobile app, so I better think about is email more representative to you, or should I have someone pick up the phone and call you with that offer.

I think that's where the nuances come in. It's got to be relevant. You've got to have the surrounding processes around it. And you've got to tailor it to the right channel.

I have seen data, by the way. Too many offers is also bad. If you start to bombard people, then they get overloaded. That doesn't work well either.

Michael Krigsman: Arsalan Khan comes back again. He says, "Okay. Does digital transformation have limits on the kind of data to collect, figuring out which processes to improve or not?" I think what he's getting at here is you cannot do everything in the universe, so how do you figure out where to focus?

Beth Johnson: We do it two ways. We look at what matters most to our customers, so that's where the deep customer research comes in. We focus on those processes.

We haven't talked as much about it. We look at how we drive efficiency because that then enables us to invest in areas of innovation, which we'll deliver for our customers.

For example, in our contact centers – someone asked that question earlier – we look at all the reasons for calling. We have the data to say, why are people calling us? Do we think that's something they should be calling us for? Then how do we make sure we have the digital capabilities (if it makes more sense to self-serve), or we let them know, that they know about it, and that it's truly easier for that capability?

We kind of use either that deep customer needs or we'll look at those operational characteristics to prioritize.

Michael Krigsman: Another question from LinkedIn, this is from Alex Forbes again. He wants to know, "How are you incorporating machine learning into your digital experiences to ensure that unconscious bias is not built into your machine learning models?"

Beth Johnson: It's a very tricky conversation, particularly in banking. Remember, we're a highly regulated industry, so we're very thoughtful about where we deploy our machine learning models and in what ways to ensure that we don't have bias in the system. Then how do we backtest to make sure, where we have deployed, we don't have biases in the system?

Particularly in a bank, there's going to be no black-box machine learning. That's just not a good idea.

But there are ways we can still deploy it. For example, in our personalization engine, the machine can learn whether Beth likes email or Beth likes texts or Beth responds more to something in the mobile app.

Michael, do I like the color yellow versus the color red? Those kinds of things we're starting to deploy to make sure that we're most effective in the way we communicate to the people we communicate to. That's a good use case for us.

In some areas like fraud and collections, we have good ML use cases. But we're very, very careful on that bias question and have processes in place to guard against it.

Michael Krigsman: On this subject of data, what about the privacy aspect? It's so tempting to use that data.

Beth Johnson: Yes.

Michael Krigsman: To do that personalization, and just to push it. How do you put restraints in?

Beth Johnson: We are a highly regulated bank. We take data privacy incredibly seriously, so we have a lot of different systems and capabilities in place to ensure the integrity of our data, to ensure the privacy of our data, to enable customers to understand how we use it.

As I said, what's interesting is many customers don't mind using data if you can provide them something that's valuable for it. But we do have all those systems in place, and we spend quite a bit of money to ensure that we have cybersecurity, data security, teams of people to monitor our usage of data.

How to make customer experience and digital transformation efforts successful?

Michael Krigsman: As we finish up, can you share advice for folks that are looking at this type of digital transformation/customer experience journey, and can you describe what are the factors, some of the factors that make it successful, how to make it work?

Beth Johnson: I think, overcoming the hurdle that they are two different things, and starting with the premise that customer experience journey and digital journey, they're really all one part of one ability to have those great experiences or overcome roadblocks for your customers. That's job one.

Then I would never underestimate – we touched on it during this – the cultural aspects of a transformation like this in companies that aren't necessarily digitally native or new, which is, how do you make sure you instill the police systems, the foundations, the training, the bill mentality, the ability to test and learn, into the ways you manage your people, you motivate, you reward, you compensate? All of those different cultural aspects are really, really important to focus on, to get right, and to invest in.

Michael Krigsman: You mentioned the culture as being maybe the most significant challenge. Why is that?

Beth Johnson: Because it's new, and banks that have been around (in particular) for a long time, sometimes struggle a bit with new. It's an industry that is a little bit slower to change than some others. But I think it's absolutely critical that we do and we acknowledge it.

Innovation is so important in our industry to meet those customer needs. But we have to push the culture to get to that place of innovation.

I think Citizens has done a really good job at it, but you have to be explicit. You have to invest in it. You have to make sure your reward systems enable it. And so that's what's been so critical for us is to make that push towards innovation in an industry that frankly didn't for probably 20 years and now has accelerated with the tools available.

Michael Krigsman: Finally, where is all this going for Citizens?

Beth Johnson: Our goal is to just continue to be the best bank to help our clients through their journey, whether that's a business or a consumer. We want to be the trusted advisor. We want to grow those businesses. I think that's going to enable us to be successful and to outperform our competition.

Michael Krigsman: All right. With that, we are out of time. This has been a whirlwind show. A huge thank you to Beth Johnson, Chief Experience Officer at Citizens Financial Group. Beth, thank you so much for taking the time to be with us today. I really, really appreciate it.

Beth Johnson: Yeah. Thanks for having me, Michael.

Michael Krigsman: A huge thank you to everybody who asked such amazing questions. Now, before you go, please subscribe to our YouTube channel, hit the subscribe button at the top of our website, so we can send you our newsletter. Check out CXOTalk.com. We have incredible shows coming up, and we will talk with you soon. Have a great day, everybody. Bye-bye.

Krigsman: A huge thank you to everybody who asked such amazing questions. Now, before you go, please subscribe to our YouTube channel, hit the subscribe button at the top of our website, so we can send you our newsletter. Check out CXOTalk.com. We have incredible shows coming up, and we will talk with you soon. Have a great day, everybody. Bye-bye.