Wells Fargo’s Mission to Make Banking More Human

How can a bank become “more human”? And how, exactly, is Wells Fargo doing it? Customer-driven leaders like Robin Beers are key to fulfilling that mission.

Charles Trevail

CEO at C Space

As I began my conversation with Robin Beers, I had to address Wells Fargo’s recent issues, and their need to rebuild trust.

Robin is Head of Customer Experience Insights for Wells Fargo’s commercial banking business. As you may well know, Wells Fargo is dealing with the aftermath of a scandal within its retail banking business that has left many customers angry. She says that regaining customer trust is something that all Wells Fargo employees are forced to confront – and are committed to rebuilding – even though they were not involved at all.

“Many of us on the inside were just as surprised and saddened as our customers were,” she tells me. “We’ve been confronting the facts and the fallout…Our whole mission is to make this a more human organization…We want to make it right.”

That last point really struck me. How can a bank become “more human”? And how, exactly, is Wells Fargo doing it? These were some of the questions I asked Robin for the latest episode of my Outside In podcast.

The 164-year-old Wells Fargo is no small operation. Today, one in three North American households are its customers. “We’re re-establishing and rebuilding trust one customer at a time,” Robin says.

Customer-driven leaders like Robin are key to fulfilling that mission. Her expertise has become even more essential as Wells Fargo works to regain trust and continues to improve the banking experience. Her priority today is the same as it has always been: to get employees in every department to adopt a customer-centric mindset. One in which they discover better banking solutions through design thinking techniques, iteration, and an ongoing dialogue with customers. This, she says, will help mitigate risk, save time and resources, and increase customer loyalty and employee engagement.

“We do not know the answers to future problems,” Robin admits. Instead, you must “learn your way into the answer.” Sparking curiosity and imagination in employees’ minds is a process of “conscious collaboration” – multidisciplinary teams are encouraged to ask questions and to always push the limits of what they think they know about the business and its customers.

“We really try to meet internal clients where they are and get involved with them at whatever stage of the product development lifecycle that they’re in,” Robin says. It’s an approach she calls “integrated insights,” which aims to tell a complete customer story through a synthesis of all kinds of information, including ethnography, behavioral data, and other quantitative and qualitative methods. It brings customer data to life – making it feel “more human” – for stakeholders. In turn, that creates urgency to act because it engenders an emotional connection to customers and introduces diverse perspectives when framing and solving a business challenge.

At every step, three simple questions guide Robin and her team: “What? So what? Now what?” This helps them to evaluate what they learn, understand what it means in terms of assumptions, and what – if any – changes should happen next. “All the researchers who work within the customer insights group are trained as consultants,” Robin says of her team. “Research isn’t transactional…it’s the start of a conversation.”

In practice, that conversation takes many forms. For example, her team holds regular advisory councils with customers and host what she calls “pop up usability labs” several times a year to gather iterative feedback. In addition, team members will often spend three or four days at a time with customers in the field to understand how they approach and manage their finances, and how that affects their lives and their business.

Robin believes the customer experience is key to fulfilling the bank’s “more human” mission. Ironically, technology is vital. “Essentially we’re a technology company inside a bank,” she says.

She inserts customers into the product development process as co-creators and not just as a feedback mechanism. Robin places a lot of importance on getting customers involved early and often through things like prototyping and usability testing. “We don’t do surveys” she says. “We make something….And we put it in front of people and say, ‘What would you do with this?’”

Robin sees customers as partners in Wells Fargo’s endeavor to always be improving the banking experience. Because, ultimately, people value brands that don’t just make promises, but that actually act on them. That’s what it means to making banking more human.

You may be interested in:

Branding with Soul: Q&A with Tina Sharkey, co-founder & CEO, Brandless

Branding with Soul: Q&A with Tina Sharkey, co-founder & CEO, Brandless Tina Sharkey is an entrepreneurial force. Since the days of the dial-up modem, she has been building communities, companies, and brands “with soul.” Today, she’s co-founder and CEO of Brandless, a...

Tom Siebel: What Exactly is Digital Transformation?

Tom Siebel: What Exactly is Digital Transformation? Subscribe to the Outside In podcast: In the corporate world, it’s evolve or die. Since 2000, 52% of Fortune 500 companies have either been acquired, merged, or gone bankrupt. Tom Siebel believes digital...

Customer Values: Q&A with Peter Fader, Professor of Marketing, The Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania

Customer Values: Q&A with Peter Fader, Professor of Marketing, The Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania Peter Fader has written two books, both with “customer centricity” in the title: Customer Centricity and The Customer Centricity Playbook. You’d think...

Research experts even more vital in big data era

Research experts even more vital in big data era

by James Gordon
Raconteur

For companies to add value through data science, they still need market researchers to interpret the “what” from the “why”. C Space Regional CEO, EMEA & APAC, Felix Koch provides comment.

The Collaborative Advantage

The Collaborative Advantage7 Ways to Combine Big Data Methods with Active Customer Collaboration The huge promise of Big Data also lies in its biggest limitation. There’s a temptation to think that companies no longer need to bring the active, knowing, feeling human...

Customer Inside: A Practitioners Guide to Online Communities

Report Customer Inside: A Practitioners Guide to Online Communities C Space partnered with the Market Research Society (MRS) and 130 client side practitioners to explore & understand how to get the most out of online communities (and the agencies that run them)...

Kate Tellers, The Moth: Principles of Great Storytelling

Kate Tellers, The Moth: Principles of Great Storytelling Subscribe to the Outside In podcast: Stories are the great unifier. When told well, they create a powerful connection to the human experience. No organization knows this better than The Moth. Since...

Peter Fader: Customer Centricity is Not About “The” Customer

Peter Fader: Customer Centricity is Not About “The” Customer Subscribe to the Outside In podcast: Wharton School Professor of Marketing Peter Fader sometimes wishes he never used the words “Customer Centricity” in his first book, Customer Centricity, and...

BAT companies prove the case for customer-centrism

BAT companies prove the case for customer-centrism

by Felix Koch (C Space)
Campaign

Alibaba, Baidu and Tencent have built multi-billion dollar businesses by putting the customer—not the advertiser—at the centre of their thinking, and Western platforms should take note.

Jonah Berger: Social Influence and Word of Mouth

Jonah Berger: Social Influence and Word of Mouth Subscribe to the Outside In podcast: How does anything become popular? And what are the influences that dictate our decisions -- whether we’re conscious of it or not? Wharton School Professor Jonah Berger is...