The Customer Confidential Podcast
A lot of people might think of a job in the credit card business as dry, the sort of job that you avoid talking about at a cocktail party. My guest on the latest episode of the podcast, Luis Angel-Lalanne, vice president of customer listening for American Express, could probably duck the topic if he wanted to.
“I used to be a yacht designer. That sounds a lot cooler at a cocktail party,” he says. “But I always follow up by saying that what I do now is actually more interesting.”
In fact, he’s been doing it for nearly 20 years, and if you’re wondering why Luis thinks his career in credit card services presents more interesting design challenges than yachts, he can tell you in one word: competition.
“The competition is so intense and so good—really high-quality competition—that you've got to be on your game. You've always got to be thinking ahead to what comes next.”
Luis’s team runs Net Promoter surveys in every market where American Express operates, but in this episode, he explains how they go far beyond the mechanics of simply providing scores and the drivers behind them. “We try to move beyond just managing an efficient machine and make sure we are the customer champion and we are advocating for the customer.” That can mean, for example, combining Net Promoter data and other American Express operational data and performing a regression analysis to uncover linkages that might affect customer experience, but would not otherwise have been apparent.
In the excerpt below, Luis explains how American Express uses and interprets customer feedback, empowering their employees to provide better service.
Rob Markey: Amex was one of the earliest experimenters with the sort of early version of Net Promoter before we were even calling it Net Promoter.
Luis Angel-Lalanne: So we've been at this a long time, but I know that the focus of the team before I joined was really about expanding it to all the different kind of tentacles within the operations team. It seemed—watching my peers work on that from the outside—like a little bit of hand-to-hand combat every time you want to launch a survey in a new market or new functional area. It was incremental work. And so that took, I think, years for the team to get it rolled out everywhere for every function and every market, creating that culture that “This is our No. 1 metric that we care the most about.”
Rob Markey: And talk about that metric for a minute. You guys called it RTF?
Luis Angel-Lalanne: Yeah, Recommend-to-a-Friend. But it is the NPS measure. So we've been using that and satisfaction surveys together and in different combinations of weighting over the years, but using what we call RTF, or Recommend-to-a-Friend, using that at the front line has been kind of core to our servicing culture probably since when it first rolled in in 2005. And I always think that's been a real strength of American Express. So when I moved into this role, I didn't have to fight for attention, I didn't have to convince anyone that what I was doing was important and worthwhile.
Rob Markey: They were getting the feedback pretty immediately, right? Like even back then, if I was a CCP, a customer care professional, and I handled a set of calls today, and then maybe requests for feedback emails or whatever came out over the course of the next 24 hours, and then the customers might respond 24 hours after that—I would see those responses almost right away.
Luis Angel-Lalanne: Yeah, we've got a long history of taking the responses and pushing them back to our front line, and they get to see the full raw response, so they don't just get a score. I mean, they obviously get the score. But they get to see how the customer answered every each and every question.
Rob Markey: I want to spend a minute on this, because it's best practice, but there are many, many organizations that still don't do that. So talk a little bit about the philosophy behind that, and what you believe it gets you, to hand that feedback in its raw form to each individual at the front line.
Luis Angel-Lalanne: A couple things. I think it makes it real for people in that there's a real customer saying it, it's not just a number that feels disembodied. Our team leaders are using it for coaching all the time. That becomes kind of a coaching moment, which is really important, and obviously they both see the impact of that event. They're still using it day after day. I mean, I still get emails occasionally from someone in the front lines that, “I don't think this is my survey, it’s a he and I'm a she,” etc. And obviously, we don't want any mistakes like that. But…
Rob Markey: But that's evidence that they're actually looking at it.
Luis Angel-Lalanne: Yeah, I take that as a positive when that comes. I'm glad you're reading it that carefully. I'm glad you're not just looking at the score and moving on with life, that you're reading the comments and you notice that. I always take that as a good thing.
Rob Markey: Well, I think we all like to know that we've done a good job and it's really affirming. You know, AmEx is good, somost of the feedback I assume is quite positive, and it just feels good to come in each day and say, “You know what? I did do a good job. That was a good call. I'm so glad to hear that customer showing gratification for having had a good experience with me.”
Luis Angel-Lalanne: Yep, definitely.
Rob Markey: You also aggregate that, and you sort of stare at the feedback in total and do some analysis against it. How does that work?
Luis Angel-Lalanne: A couple different ways, you know, we've got dashboards that are available to all, a couple thousand users across our servicing network. And we make aggregate raw data available. So if you're the leader of the center in Mexico and you want to slice and dice by like, I've got some new manager; let me go see how that manager is performing. I probably do not have your staff hierarchy built into my reporting. You've got the raw data. You can go recreate that report for yourself. So we want to make sure, at every level, we're being transparent and people have access to the data.
So that's kind of the first effort for us to make sure it's out there, people are taking ownership of it. They don't have to come sit and knock on our door for every little piece of data they need.
Rob Markey: So it's a self-service kind of environment. Some people call this “democratizing the data.” You make it available.
Luis Angel-Lalanne: Yeah, and then my insights teams are really meant to answer questions that you can't answer from just filtering and slicing the data. So if you want to merge the customer feedback with operational data that's not in a dashboard, that's where my team gets in….One of my favorite things to do is when we build regression models to understand at a rigorous mathematical level what's driving satisfaction. When we do that, we can learn really interesting things, go back to our frontline folks and say, “We put 20 variables into this regression model, a quarter of them are customer profile, a quarter of them are operational, a quarter of them are product. And you as the leader of 300 people at a call center, you can't directly influence a product, but at least now you know how the product’s influencing your score. And you can indirectly [influence that product], when you're meeting with your peers in the Marketing Group. So that's the kind of work I really like the insights team to focus on.
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