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Citi: putting CX at its heart

Maik Lutze
SVP Experience Design Lead APAC & EMEA
Citi Bank

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After 20 years in digital design and advertising, Maik is now on a mission to make life simpler and banking better.

Eileen Sy Wong
SVP, Experience Strategist
Citi Bank


A digital native, Eileen has advanced from designing holistic UX to being fully immersed in her passion for creating things that deliver true value.

How is Citibank in Asia striving to improve its clients’ banking experiences?


How is Citi positioning itself in terms of digital transformation in the CX space?

Maik: Two years ago, Citi decided to bring design expertise in-house. It’s a courageous move for a 200-year-old company. Setting up mixed teams of financial experts and creatives signifies a fundamental change of how we work, and it’s certainly not an easy undertaking. But we have a lot of dedicated and passionate people on both sides and so we’re already seeing tremendous change.

Eileen: We spent two years trying to understand what customers want. We won’t benchmark against competitors as the landscape is so crowded and there are too many players. As a bigger player, we have to have a bigger vision.

Does CX impact everything you do?

Maik: With design thinking and customer-centric projects, the bank has to fundamentally change how it thinks about creating business – not only how we approach and talk to customers but also what we’re doing for them. Which products are we offering? Why is the offering so complex? Should it be simpler, and what would this mean for the structure of the bank and for revenue streams? These are questions that have never previously been evaluated from the standpoint of customer experience or design thinking.


Are emotion and personality key to building greater customer engagement?

Eileen: It’s not about deliberately creating an emotional connection, but we do focus on the customer journey. Often the strategy is to identify which point is best for delivering value to customers and then stop at products and services. When we do it right, we get that connection. If you’re there at the moment when customers need you, they will always value you.

Maik: I’ve recently started to use the world ‘love’ in the boardroom. It might seem out of context but I do know that no one’s going to extend their relationship with Citi if they don’t feel loved. That part of the equation hasn’t been factored in before because customers have never been so powerful, able to switch providers at the touch of a thumb.

Be there at the moment when customers need you, and they will value you

Design works. Emotions work. There’s no doubt about it. When we make things slightly simpler we see customers responding: their numbers increase along with their happiness. It’s a win-win scenario. For example, we’ve just launched a complete website in Poland and the numbers are already very promising, surpassing the previous website in terms of conversion rates on some products. And customers are telling us they feel a lot better when they use the products. So, these are intangibles that very quickly turn into tangibles.


Can you share some examples where this has been done well in APAC?

Eileen: When we launched Citi Priority two years ago, it was aimed at engaging the emerging affluent class and just included some additional privileges. We’re now rebranding it across APAC to target the middle level, along with a new concept to help identify content that will gauge customers’ needs and gaps. We’ve done an initial study in the Philippines, Hong Kong and Australia to understand what consumers want and whether we should add on more ‘goals’ for them to achieve, or just simplify the whole wealth story for them.


What makes the mapping of the CX journey effective?

Eileen: From a strategy standpoint it varies but, for instance, we can dive into the customer journey of how people manage their money today. Ten people will manage their money in ten different ways, but there will be some touchpoints in common, and this is the point we’ll interpret. It’s better than having 10,000 surveyed as no one’s going to read all that data. A valuable output is one we can plug in from a data standpoint and it fits in the whole system – giving us a single view that covers different products and rewards that we can cross-sell.


What are your personal principles when it comes to design thinking?

Maik: Most people in design thinking have the same principles, but they just put it in different words. The key is to make things simpler and easier but without reducing any functionality. You have to value people’s time and the cognitive load it takes to use something. Personally, I hate apps where you need to tap multiple times to get somewhere or to make something work.

Eileen: Fundamentally it’s all about observing human behaviour, but this is very hard to actually do. People don’t always know why they take out a particular product, or what the strengths of this product are over an alternative. So we need to focus on things that provide more value to customers.

All over Asia the combination of entrepreneurship, possibilities and money have resulted in well-designed companies with great CX?

Can you give some examples of brands you feel do CX really well?

Maik: I really like the food delivery service Grain. It’s a beautiful app, every interaction is very easy. Even the communication with the delivery person is completely different to other companies – it’s not just pure ‘logistics’. Grain understands that for customers every single touchpoint counts.

Eileen: Deliveroo has really impressed me. Even if the rider’s just two minutes late, I’d already receive $10 compensation in my account; it was so seamless I didn’t even realise I’d received it until later. I also like that you can give real-time feedback. Once when a restaurant messed up my order, I got my meal waived and a $25 credit. This truly empowers customers and the credit feels meaningful. However, I don’t think the app itself is very differentiating.

Maik: Digital is great but, at the end of the day, you’re not just dealing with digital but the real world too. All over Asia the combination of entrepreneurship, possibilities and money have resulted in well-designed companies with great CX. There will be huge growth in the next 20 years – just sit back, have popcorn and watch.


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