Commonwealth Bank of Australia is using Pega to aim for millions of personalized experiences

Profile picture for user ddpreez By Derek du Preez August 20, 2020
Commonwealth Bank is one of Australia’s ‘big four’ banks and is using Pega’s platform to deliver personalized messages to its customers, across all channels.

Image of Commonwealth Bank of Australia logo
(Image sourced via Commonwealth Bank of Australia website)

The Commonwealth Bank of Australia (CBA) is one of APAC's largest financial institutions, with more than ten million customers, 876 branches and close to 2,500 call centre staff. Over the past four years the bank has been on a journey, using Pega as a platform, to build out a customer engagement engine that delivers personalized messages and support to all of its users, across all channels.

Andrew McMullan, Chief Analytics Officer at CBA, joined the bank four years ago, where part of his role was to better deliver CBA's customer relationship banking capabilities. He said:

CBA knew that it needed to connect some of its data, technology and people that serve customers together in a much better way.

We wanted a really well orchestrated data layer with the decision engine sitting on top of it, orchestrating all of the conversations that we have with customers across all of the channels that they use. Building a central layer that allowed us to truly understand the full relationship with the customer and make sure we were talking to them about the most important conversation based on everything they were doing with us across all the channels, at any moment in time.

CBA started this back in 2015 and sent a small team to spend a few months with their frontline colleagues in a single branch, to really understand the types of conversations that the bank should be having with its customers. As McMullan puts it, the team wanted to understand the conversations that "would make the customer smile". This work resulted in just 30 conversations that could be coded into the engine, which were then optimised and delivered to customers. He said:

As we got much better at that and we had the feedback loop with the frontline colleagues, they were telling us that all of the conversations were landing really well with customers and we started to roll it out across the branch network.

The way that the engine works is if the customer uses the app, for example, that makes a call to the customer engagement engine to say ‘this user is logging in, what's the next best conversation we have available for them?". That returns a result in milliseconds.

As you navigate your way through the mobile app and the experiences that are in there, each time you do that, that will make a call to the engine and will return the next best conversations and different assets we have in the mobile app. The same goes for the online banking service or if you call us or if you're in the branch.

CBA now has the number one internet banking and mobile app in APAC with more than 7 million digitally active customers.

Personalized services when in crisis

Over the years CBA has evolved its engine and developed more data models in conjunction with Pega, to roll out more accurate messaging for its customers, across all channels. However, one area of pride for McMullan and his team is the work the bank has been able to do in moments of national crisis, supporting CBA's customers.

For example, at the start of the year Australia experienced one of its worst wild bushfire seasons, where the fires burned almost 20 million hectares, destroyed almost 6,000 buildings and at least 34 people were killed. As the situation worsened McMullan and his team were able to quickly put together an emergency assistance package for CBA customers and use data to target users that were impacted by the rapid spread of the fires. He said:

It proves what can be done when you've invested in technology to help your people serve customers when they need your help most. In under two hours we put together the emergency assistance package, got a team together and for the postcodes that were affected that first morning we were able to get messages out to those customers that we had a package available.

We just continued to build that out and as the fires moved down the coast, we were tracking a lot of the real time data to make sure that we were updating all of those postcodes into our system. We wanted our customers to know we were there for them. We contacted over 220,000 customers at that time and we used all our channels - we made calls, we sent emails, we pushed out messages in the app based on their preferences for channels.

Similarly, during the COVID-19 pandemic CBA has been working to support customers where necessary. Part of this has been putting emphasis on its ‘Benefits Finder' product which collates 269 benefits that Australians are eligible for, but may not know about, but also just providing information to customers about the changes in government guidelines. McMullan said:

A couple of weeks back it was a bank holiday in Australia and Victoria had just announced that they were going to do a press conference and were seeing a second wave. We really wanted to be able to get messages out to our customers in Victoria and update them on any changes to the criteria there. We moved from stage 3 to stage 4 lockdown and to support our customers in that we had a bunch of information available and that day we were able to launch conversations with all of our customers across Victoria to let them know that there was information available for them.

When we started the journey and we were maybe a year or 18 months in, we were releasing maybe once a week. As COVID-19 kicked off in Australia, the team told me that in the first four or five weeks we had over 50 releases, so that we were talking to all of our customers about the most important thing to them based on where they were, what products and services they had with us, those that needed help and had asked for help.

For ‘Benefits Finder', what we've seen is that the usage has grown by 500% in the last couple of months compared to at the start of the calendar year. And we've worked out that over the last 12 months we've put over $153 million back into the pockets of our customers. A lot of the benefits we have added recently have been to help customers that may have lost their job as a result of COVID-19 or have been impacted in some way by the pandemic.

Benefits and business case

CBA's business case for investing in the customer engagement engine and use of data to improve services is not only derived from improving business performance, but is directly linked to the satisfaction of customers. McMulland said:

We've measured everything as we've started to build this out. It was really important that as we built it and as we scaled it we were making decisions based on what the data was telling us was working and what customers were liking. I'm very happy to share that as we monitor all of our conversations, the vast majority of all the conversations we have with our customers are service based, so helping customers avoid late payment charges or fees or fraud alerts - and our customers give us really positive feedback that they feel that we are on their side.

The customer satisfaction and our net promoter score significantly increases when we are having our next best conversations through the customer engagement engine.

McMullan said that CBA is using this approach to really try and understand every single customer and their circumstances as best it can. And whilst it's early days, CBA has a goal of achieving true personalization of services for each interaction with a customer, across all channels. He said:

We still think we are only at the beginning of the journey. Working with the team at Pega, we started with a small number of models, but we have almost 400 in production now. There's still so much more that we want to do so that we are much better at personalizing every single interaction that our customers have across every asset that they use to manage their products and services.

We do not want to be an organisation that has one app that is used by seven or eight million customers, we want to have 8 million versions of a personalised app for our customers so that they feel we understand who they are and what they like.