Liz Stephen, VP of customer engagement at Doxim interviews Doug Graham, CIO of Commonwealth Credit Union about the value of omnichannel customer communication



An Interview With Doug Graham, CIO Of Commonwealth Credit Union

The Value Of Omnichannel Customer Communication - A Credit Union’s Perspective

Doxim recently co-hosted a webinar with American Banker, featuring Doug Graham, Chief Information Officer at Commonwealth Credit Union.

The topic was: How to build a framework for omnichannel customer communications. 

As part of the webinar, I posed a couple of questions to Doug, whose insightful answers about omnichannel customer communication are worth sharing.

Elizabeth Stephen Posing the question

Doug as a CIO, how do you define “digital transformation” and what does it mean for Commonwealth Credit Union?

Doug GrahamFor us, digital transformation means creating a digital experience that gives a member that lives 100 miles from our nearest branch the same products and services that are available to a member that lives 100 yards from a branch.

It means giving our members control over how they do business with us. It also means bridging all channels together, so the member can change their communication channel in the middle of a meeting or transaction if the need arises, and still receive a seamless experience.

Finally, it means minimal clicks with maximum results. Our goal isn't just to go digital. Transformation is not successful if the outcome is a digital platform that is difficult to understand or use. That misses the point. Our goal is to use digital technologies to extend our relationships in the communities that we serve.

Elizabeth Stephen Posing the question

Given the current digital transformation landscape, what do you see as the key area where financial institutions can focus time on, right now, to really transform?

Doug Graham

I feel that the best solutions begin with infrastructure. When Covid became a reality for us, our members first turned to our call center. The spike in demand overloaded our circuits, resulting in dropped calls and long wait times.

Fortunately, we were in the process of converting to a new phone system that utilized new infrastructure. We immediately changed our project plan to become much more aggressive in the deployment.

Before conversion, we experienced hundreds of missed/dropped calls on our peak business days.  Since the conversion, we have been operating at 50% capacity with no dropped calls. A solid infrastructure is what allows our remote workers to be truly productive.

Our infrastructure enables video conferencing and online meetings (both for staff and the members that we serve) that are clear and realistic and video teller sessions for members that provide them with a personal experience without personal contact.

If you deploy the best products and services in the world on unstable infrastructure, you can expect those that you serve to become frustrated and seek a better experience elsewhere.

Elizabeth Stephen Posing the question

What should CIOs think about and plan for, in order to truly change customer communications?

Doug Graham

Communication is the foundation of everything.  I live by the rule, "it doesn't matter how well you say it - all that matters is how well they hear it.” 

Effective communication requires practice and daily effort. You can't give a customer a stack of documentation and expect them to go home and read it.  You can't read it to them and expect them to listen.  But, if you take the time to explain it to them on their terms, you can change the relationship.  

We have to create environments that welcome comfortable communication and collaboration on both sides of the table (be it digital or in-person).

Elizabeth Stephen Posing the question

We know that banks and credit unions have challenges with data residing in many disparate systems. These systems typically do not speak to each other and are managed by different groups within the organization. How do you create an actionable digital transformation plan for customer communication that affects real change now for the customer and isn't dependent upon a core system change, that we all know is a multi-year initiative?

Doug Graham

This is a huge task and it will look different for each organization, depending on how diverse systems are.   Technically, our goal is to create a data warehouse that can receive data in the same manner as various ad-hoc systems. The idea is to bring all data into one source, so it can be seen by all users within the same context.

The technical changes, however, must be supported by champions within the organization. We have formed committees and counsels to perform data governance and determine objectives for the new system and what we hope to accomplish overall as an organization.  This is allowing us to learn what the same data means to various teammates and the value that it holds for them.  From those conversations, we hope to create a collaborative strategy that helps us to not only improve the member experience but the staff experience as well.

Elizabeth Stephen Posing the question

Given the amount of work required to get data to the point of this single profile view, how do financial institutions create a framework that will drive progress in this area?

Doug Graham

This is a huge challenge for financial institutions - but it’s a cultural challenge, rather than a technology one. Getting the right data to feed our communication strategy means creating a new culture and a new environment that provides easy ways for business units to communicate and collaborate, concerning goals.

Organizational leaders have to promote the idea that failure is ok, as long as we fail forward. Those same leaders have to also help individuals and business units find their value in what they can do next, instead of what they have done in the past. Only then can we centralize data and look at it without siloed agendas.  In the absence of a culture change, business units will continue to seek out ways to make data fit into their silos instead of the organization’s strategic plan.

Elizabeth Stephen Posing the question

Let's focus on the CX for a moment. Everyone talks about making decisions with CX as the main driver. Yet we all know when it comes down to it, cost-cutting always wins. How do you make progress towards a true omnichannel experience when you have to reduce expenses, especially now?

Doug Graham

First of all, you have to understand that you can't buy your way into an extraordinary experience for those that you serve. If you had unlimited funds, purchasing the best products from the top-rated provider in that area will not guarantee an extraordinary experience for all.

An experience is personal and emotional.  There is an old saying that says, “People will forget what you say and they will forget what you do, but they will never forget the way that you make them feel.”  

Every institution has to first answer the difficult question of “how do we want to make people feel’. Once you have your goal in mind, determine how much you can invest in the venture and then look for the products and partners that can help you deliver that extraordinary experience within budget.

The top provider isn’t always the best provider. The best options for products and partnerships are those that align with your well thought out values and goals.

Elizabeth Stephen Posing the question

What has Commonwealth CU put in place to deliver on the omnichannel customer journey promise? How did you choose the tools that you are using? Why did you choose Doxim?

Doug Graham Answers

We began by determining what we wanted our omnichannel experience to feel like. CCU’s common purpose is “Bettering lives through our passion to serve”. That common purpose came into existence because we realized that we are at our best when we are in front of each other and the members that we serve.

We look for the partners and products that best fit into our objective, rather than just looking at the top-rated provider or who someone else is using.  We see every smartphone and tablet in the world as a potential CCU branch.

Our goal is to deliver an omnichannel solution that gives those that we serve a full service, extraordinary experience regardless of their location and preferred manner of communication.  

Achieving that goal means partnering with organizations that share our values and passion. For those reasons, we have been a partner with Doxim for a number of years.

Doxim shares our commitment to service and seeks to use technology to raise that level of service even higher.  Doxim understands our regulatory requirements and they make our requirements their requirements.

Doxim would like to extend heartfelt thanks to Doug Graham for sharing his insight and experience as CIO of Commonwealth Credit Union.

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Elizabeth Stephen

Vice President, Relationship Management, Aspire CCS

Liz is part of the Aspire CCS team in the US. She has a true passion for helping organizations identify their customers' needs and consulting with them to help fill those needs. Liz has for the past 8 years focused on Customer Communications Management (CCM) and helping clients utilize digital communications to meet their CX goals.

She is a lead consultant, workshop facilitator, blogger, and frequent speaker.

Prior to Aspire, Liz was at Striata, helping customers move to paperless, and then at Doxim as part of the consulting team helping clients advance in their digital maturity and digital adoption.