Over the last few years it has become clearer that maintaining a happy and engaged workforce can also result in competitive gains in the market - not only because of the cost of staff churn - but because organizations are beginning to realize that ‘happy employees equals happy customers’.
PTSB - one of Ireland’s leading financial services organizations - is one such company to take this on board. It has adopted an Experience Management (XM) strategy, implemented new software to measure its approach, and as a result has seen employee Net Promoter Scores (eNPS) increase by 19 points.
That jump is made even more notable given that the score rose during both the COVID pandemic and a major acquisition - two highly disruptive periods that required significant organizational change.
Putting XM at the heart of how it operates has also driven greater connection with PTSB customers and deepened the brand’s understanding of that relationship across all its 98 branches, according to Customer Experience Manager, Sarah Cashman.
Cashman says that this has required a conscious effort on PTSB’s part to recognize that both Customer Experience (CX) and Employee Experience (EX) are inextricably linked. This will also be a priority for the 330 new staff that it wants to fold into the organization as part of the recent M&A activity, she argues:
PTSB employees now get to use dashboards that show in real time what both they and their customers feel about how we’re delivering for them both. As a result, on a daily basis employees see the result of their hard work because they can see the changes in the metrics as we all move forward.
Her fellow leader of the XM improvement work - the organization’s Head of People Experience, Karen Hackett - adds that the approach has also led to improved front-line contact center and branch engagement.
And this is not just talk, PTSB’s is investing heavily to make this plan a reality. So far, it has invested €5 million into customer research and the development of a new visual identity, customer promise and national advertising campaign.
It plans further investment in modernizing PTSB locations, including the Bank’s nationwide branch network, over the next 18 months.
The rebrand is also drawing on a recent overall €200 million investment in technology and digital capabilities to enhance customer experience on its online banking platform and digital app.
A rich history - and a new future
Headquartered in Dublin and formed by several historic mergers and acquisitions, PTSB has roots that date back to 1816.
The Irish government owns the majority (57.4%) of its shares.
In July 2022, it acquired €6.75 billion of Ulster Bank’s entire retail, SME, and asset finance business in the Republic of Ireland. Now responsible for an extra €500 million worth of finance agreements and around 18,000 new customers, this meant significant change management implications.
Previously known as ‘Permanent TSB’ (since 2001), in October 2023 PTSB became the new official name of the combined operation.
This rapid change was the background for Cashman and Hackett’s attempts to use technology to help smooth the transition for all stakeholders.
However, Cashman says that the company had started to explore use of tools for better tracking CX well before the Ulster Bank move and rebranding occurred:
We began our customer experience research in earnest about four and a half years ago, when both the PTSB senior leadership team and the CX team that I work in recognized the importance of detailed customer feedback in improving our customer center culture.
This led to work on gathering data to baseline the experience the brand was offering on a day-to-day basis. The CX team then started to weave that data and insight into the business to put the customer at the heart of all the decisions and choices that it was making.
It also wanted to arm PTSB’s business leaders with the information they needed so as to consider the view of the customer when making short, medium, and long-term decisions. Or when fixing existing - and designing new - customer journeys.
However, she also wanted to share these insights with other PTSB business units as key drivers of the organization’s overall evolution.
This is when the idea of really investing in the EX side of the PTSB equation started, says Hackett:
We have a rich but complex history, as we were formed by all kinds of banking, savings, and insurance entities over time and over the whole of the island of Ireland—deep roots and great DNA, but it is a bit of a ‘smörgåsbord.’
So, we started to look at the experience of our colleagues and how we could use that rich heritage to better elevate the bank and drive greater connection with our customers.
Eventually, this led to engagement with PTSB’s chosen technology for all its CX and EX work - Medallia. The platform claims to offer a way to track sides of the experience equation and offers various means gather views on delivery and share updates on progress.
For example, says Hackett, on the EX side, that means an internal PTSB site where her team regularly publishes the top three things that it’s working on, as well as the suggestions that colleagues are bringing forward to mediate them:
This is a very interactive tool where I can talk about my problems and you update me about how things are going—a way for me to talk to the bank, essentially.
The same is now happening on the CX side, says Cashman:
My team’s primary focus is to measure our customer experience with the bank, bring the customer's voice to life within PTSB and ensure our customer has a seat at the table. We couldn't do any of this without our voice of the customer platform and our technology partner in all this.
The software became part of the PTSB CX and EX story in 2020. Since then, new IVR journeys for telephone bank users have been created based on customer data.
Extensive PTSB employee training and coaching has also been rolled out—focusing on empathy training, as that had surfaced as a key customer request.
All in all, a number of internal processes and app functionality improvements have been made based directly on feedback.
While emphasizing this is a journey not a destination, for Hackett this fusing of customer and employee experience has already more than proven its worth:
It can be very hard to put a business case together for improving customer experience, because a lot of the time it doesn't necessarily stack up in terms of value to the bottom line.
For sure, there are cost savings in terms of fixing broken processes and removing paper, this is not all about value - though we can say things like being proud to work for PTSB has gone up 10.6%.
And if your people are prepared to go 10% extra, that means you're going to have a bottom line increase at the end of the day.
On the CX side, adds her colleague Cashman, collected data has led to improvements and investments in the branch experience, including the use of staff iPads, focused training, and consistent communications. Hackett concludes:
Ultimately, this is about consistency of behavior in dealing with customers and colleagues.
We want both our customers and colleagues to believe in what we do. And if we do that consistently, we'll then be more profitable.