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Citi Lives Banking So Customers Don’t Have To

The following is based on Outside In, the customer centricity podcast.

At one time or another, businesses have made assumptions about what’s best for their customers. Put into practice, however, the result is often wasted time, resources, and money on taking a well-intentioned approach to solving the wrong problem.

That’s because assumptions made in an organizational echo chamber are often incorrect – or, at best, one-sided solutions that make sense for the business, but not for customers. The most successful companies employ a smarter approach. They tap into a wide array of perspectives – including the customer’s – to think differently and discover the most valuable and viable solution.

This is how Citi co-creates and innovates new products and services. For example, Quick Lock, a recently launched feature on the bank’s mobile app lets customers “lock” and “unlock” their card on the go. “We had a hypothesis that the most important thing to a customer when they need to replace their card when it’s been lost or stolen is getting a new card in their hand,” explains Alice Milligan, Chief Customer & Digital Experience Officer for Citi’s Global Cards business, during a conversation on the Outside In podcast. “What we found through research and co-creation was the most important thing for them is ensuring no one else is using the card they lost.” Since launch less than a year ago, Citi’s customers have completed one million locks and unlocks so far using this feature. Without hearing from customers, this idea might never have surfaced.

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Citi is a 200-year-old financial institution but it needs to operate like a start-up with the constant disruption across the financial services industry. Alice says Citi is “embracing the change” and she points to companies like Google and Amazon as examples. “They are disrupting the expectations that our customers have around simplicity, ease-of-use, security, control – all of the things that are really important to a bank customer.”

In a sense, digital experiences like Quick Lock are a product of raised customer expectations no matter the industry. Alice and her 400-person team work tirelessly to meet them. In just one year, she says there has been an 85% increase in new features to the Citi mobile app, including industry-leading features such as the ability for customers to dispute a charge, track a replacement card, and scan a new card to activate.

Today, banking is about creating a simple yet elegant experience that fits seamlessly into people’s lives – accessible anytime, anywhere. As Alice puts it, “I live banking. [Customers] don’t want to.”

Designing simplified banking happens faster when customers are involved throughout the entire process. “We have developed a culture of test and learn,” Alice explains. “Learn fast, see what works, roll it out, and if it doesn’t work then shut it down.”

Broad ownership and accountability gets employees more deeply invested in seeing the world, and the business, from the customer’s perspective. “I do believe that customer experience is everybody’s responsibility,” she says. “It should be in the DNA of an organization.”

Alice makes it a habit to act as a Citi customer – to use the products and services her team works on every day. Other Citi employees are encouraged to do the same; they provide her team with regular feedback about the experience. “If you don’t feel good about your products and services, your customers aren’t going to feel good about them,” Alice asserts.

When asked about her proudest moment at Citi, Alice doesn’t hesitate. “The way that we’ve changed how we do business,” she says. Alice attributes much of her team’s success to setting a vision around customer centricity and the customer experience, and having the right people – including senior leadership – on board to turn vision into reality. She says success comes from “finding people in the organization – whether they’re internal or people who you recruit from outside – who are really believers, who embody [the vision], who are passionate about it.”

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