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How Wolters Kluwer Financial Services builds a great B2B customer experience – an interview with interim president Pete Koehn

KOEHN_WebsiteImagine a former accountant leading an organization that helps banks manage regulatory compliance.  You might picture a reliance on financial facts and figures making it unlikely for a customer experience program to take root. If so, then you clearly haven’t spent any time with Wolters Kluwer Financial Services.

Pete Koehn is interim president of Wolters Kluwer Financial Services’ Risk, Originations and Compliance business unit. Prior to this position, he served in both finance and operations. But both led him to appreciate the role of engaged customers and employees, and of their dual role in driving results.

Wolters Kluwer Financial Services has been growing rapidly, with some of that growth through acquisition. Shortly after Pete stepped into his current role, his Senior Director of Professional Services Darin Byrne approached him about how customer experience practices could help alleviate any customer service disruptions, while paving the way for even greater growth.

His initial response?  “My immediate question was, ‘Is this a real discipline?’

Darin, a CXPA member, assured him it was, sharing maturity models and best practices, and Pete quickly bought in. Since that time, “We’ve used customer experience as a mantra – let’s understand the voice of the customer. With customer experience in mind, we’ve made changes that have really helped us with this overarching idea of getting our business to act as one.”

Three of those key changes they’ve made are in the area of structure, governance, and culture.

Structure

The first big change was to their sales organization. “We have three business units each with a separate set of products. But sometimes those products overlapped in a market, and our reps were approaching the same customers with different solutions.

“So we made a big change. All of our sales reps are now able to sell all of our products together. That is a major change culturally, aligning the whole organization behind this customer focus. We can talk to customers about all of our capabilities at once.”

Governance

Wolters Kluwer Financial Services’ customer-focused effort is driven from the top. “Silos can be impediments and can create inefficient organizations. To help manage our silos we focused on governance. First, we have one person who oversees our customer experience. You can’t make headway without somebody who can provide the day-to-day focus on your customer experience, and so we now have that.

“But one person alone can’t do it. So we have cross-functional governance to make sure we have impact across the organization. Having everybody at the table in monthly discussions about the customer experience, working through our maturity model, is where we can break down those silos.

“Our governance team is at the highest levels – the people who report to me. These people meet monthly, mapping processes and experiences, and sharing the results. So, it’s more than just a touchy-feely thing. It’s a program, and we run it as a corporate program.”

Culture

You might not picture banking compliance as an emotional issue, but Pete would strongly disagree. “They’re nothing more emotional for most people than their family and their finances. That’s a big deal. And we help ensure their banks and credit unions are compliant and solvent.

“We view our banks’ customers – our customers’ customers – are part of our value proposition. We want to ensure that their customers are taken care of. And that’s emotional – it’s peoples’ livelihoods that we’re helping to protect.”

Story-telling is critical to culture-building. “Facts and figures are great – I’m a financial guy at heart. But even when reporting the numbers, it’s all about the story behind them. People are people, and they have a need to connect.

“We capture quotes that people say about us, and put them on the walls. And we have a red London phone booths where employees can pick up a phone and listen to customer conversations, and hear what they’re saying.  I also love photos of customers – using our systems, wearing out t-shirts. It humanizes the customer experience and makes it real.”

Advice

“First, what I didn’t realize is that this is a discipline. It’s not just words and fluff.  There’s training behind it, there’s processes that can be implemented. There’s journey mapping on how you view the customer. There’s a lot more to it than just talking about it, and it can align your teams to think about that experience from the lens of the customer, and can help you break down your silos. It’s really helped us think through that.

“To start, I would look for a well-regarded internal champion with an interest in improving the business from the lens of the customer. Tap them on the shoulder and equip them with executive leadership and support, and that will get things started in the right direction.”

Why is doing this so important? “We really see customer experience as an opportunity for differentiating ourselves. By improving our customer experience, not only will our customers be more loyal, but we’ll also be able to have greater impact on their business.”

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