Westpac New Zealand chats up customers with consistency

Westpac New Zealand worked with Actifio to tap into data sets that would help the bank deliver a consistent customer experience across all of its channels.

A major gripe that Westpac has been addressing through its digital strategy is the disjointed conversations that its customers experience every time they contact the bank, whether through the call centre or in person at a branch, said Anton Aalders, Westpac NZ principal enterprise architect.

Speaking at the Actifio Copy Data Forum in Sydney, Aalders said the bank is focused on being where its customers are, whether that's on email, at the ATM, through online banking, or via SMS.

"Effectively, we want to bring these channels together and actually make it a collective conversation. So we can potentially start a conversation in one channel, and continue the conversation through a different channel," he said.

Aalders highlighted that one way the bank has been able to do this is by delivering the same experience that customers would have in the branch through its online banking platform.

"We're allowing them to do everything they could in a branch online, whether it's applying for a loan, mortgage, a drawdown, a normal transaction where typically they would use to have to come a branch to do they're now doing online," Aalders said.

"It's agnostic to the platform in which it sits on, whether it's on mobile, tablet, or PC; it's the same experience. So it's very customer driven, customer focused, and trying to give them a consistent experience every time."

In turn, Westpac New Zealand claimed that it communicated with 91 percent of its customers during the first half of the 2014 financial year, as well as increasing the average number of contacts per customer per year by 375 percent. Additionally, the company has increased its product sales by 200 percent in 1H14 versus 1H13.

Aalders also acknowledged that another key aspect of the digital strategy is personalisation, and "understanding the customer is not a number".

"They want that communication. They want the same conversation across channels, they want to be able to personalise their conversations with things that are specific and meaningful for them," he said.

"So we have a lot of back-end systems to help bring that together so that customers get a good experience and continue that conversation, whether it's across channels or across devices."

Aalders said that underlying the bank's aim to deliver a continual conversation with its customers is the need to create access to consistent data.

"Everything we release to market and the way we do it is all driven by what the customer is telling us that they want," he said.

"So we have to be consistent with resurfacing reliable data across different channels."

The bank worked with Actifio to deliver a virtualised system that would enable the company to engage with 100 percent of production data sets. Previously, Westpac New Zealand was only engaging with 20 percent of its production data due to the cost associated with using a full copy of existing data. This meant that 80 percent of data was left untested, which Aalders said resulted in the failure of many productions.

At the same time, Westpac New Zealand has increased its agility levels and is now able to deliver new products to market within two months.

Aalders said that the product development previously took the company "months and months, sometimes eight to nine months, and by then, you would have seen someone else gone to market with the same product, or you would've missed the boat completely".