Henriette Paus is the Head of Digital Customer Experience for DNB, the largest bank in Norway. As a tech-savvy nation, Norway has experienced a highly interesting few years of digital modernisation. In this episode, we explore how the banking industry is adapting too, and what these changes mean for CX at large.
Embarking on its digitalisation journey, DNB recognises the enduring value of human connection, even as physical branches are reduced. They believe in the significance of engaging banking advisors for complex needs and pivotal life situations. To adapt to the changing landscape, the bank also aims to discern between customer journeys that necessitate personalised assistance and those better suited for digital channels. And as it strives to become a data-driven institution, DNB understands the importance of relevance and personalisation in an era of easily replicable banking products.
While implementing new technical capabilities is a monumental task, the true challenge lies in leveraging data intelligently and providing astute guidance to customers through various channels. Therefore, DNB seeks to strike a delicate balance, avoiding inundating customers with irrelevant messages while offering pertinent advice and tailored services.
What can customer experience professionals learn from all this? Well, Henriette reveals a multi-faceted approach to fostering a customer-centric culture within banking, which can ensure an enhanced customer experience.
Starting from the corporate group strategy, DNB’s top leadership emphasises the significance of customers and their preferences. Initiatives are undertaken to instil design thinking and customer-driven business development throughout the organisation – which spreads knowledge and understanding. Concrete actions include the implementation of an improvement portal, enabling employees to report and address customer feedback promptly. Furthermore, employees not directly involved in customer interactions are encouraged to sit with advisors, gaining firsthand insights into customer needs.
Such initiatives promote empathy, holistic understanding, and outside-in thinking, all ultimately benefiting customers by tailoring services to their specific requirements.
This article summarises podcast episode 90 “How Norwegian Banks Are Breaking New Ground” recorded by CX Insider. For more information, listen to the episode, or contact Henriette on her LinkedIn profile.
Written by Marcell Debreceni
Full Episode Transcript
Marcell: If you could interview anyone, who would it be and why?
Henriette: Oh, oh, oh. It’s, uh, dogs. I’m a dog person. We all talk about those interactions we want…
Marcell: But maybe dogs are the key to great customer experience. Hey, everyone. Welcome back to the CX Insider Podcast. Today we speak to Henriette, head of Digital Customer experience for the largest bank in Norway, DNB, who have been at the forefront of digitalisation in banking for years now. And we’ll find out how. Enjoy the conversation. And if you do, why not subscribe to our YouTube channel for CX Insider’s Best Content? And by the way, this podcast is brought to you by ACF Technologies: Global Leaders in Customer Experience Management Solutions. Thank you very much, Henriette, for joining us today on The CX Insider Podcast. It’s a pleasure to have you. To get started, would you like to tell us a bit about yourself, who you are, what you like to do?
Henriette: Yeah. Thank you. Thank you very much for inviting me. Very excited to be here. Yeah, I am Henriette. I am from and live in Oslo. I work in DNB, which is Norway’s biggest bank. It’s a very exciting place to be. And when I’m not working, I spend a lot of time with my family. I have small kids and that takes some of my time as well. But that’s it’s a beautiful mix in the well-known hamster wheel that we all know.
Marcell: Yeah. And so what does your role involve at DNB?
Henriette: Well, I spend my days, I’m, I’m quite lucky. I think myself, I, I manage some of the teams that develop our digital channels. We have been focusing mainly on, on the customer facing digital channels up till now. And we are also about to embark on the journey of modernising our employee channels so that we can manage this more omnichannel customer experience better going forward. So that’s basically what I do. Yeah.
Marcell: Awesome. And that’s what we’re going to be talking about today as well. Just as a little introduction, would you like to tell us about your career journey? What that’s kind of looked like, your story, you know how that led you to DNB.
Henriette: Yeah, sure. I am actually one of the first service designers educated in Denmark back. I was done in 2005, so it’s a few years back now. That was really exciting. But that area was very immature at the time and it was even more immature in Norway I felt, when I came back. So I didn’t practice that right away. I have been working a lot in strategic communications, which I also felt was a very kind of interesting area in the whole digitalisation journey that started back then, that things should be very intuitive for people to understand these all these new services and so on and then also been working with a branding agency in Stockholm. That was a very exciting little step on the journey to really understand the importance of brand and brand perception for customers and potential customers, not the least. And then I started to move more into the digitalisation of services, very much then starting to connect business development with design and into development. So at that point I felt that my background and everything started to make sense. So I’ve been kind of following the whole digitalisation journey like that. And then all of these first jobs I worked as a consultant. So when I’m I started in the in 2017. So that’s kind of the first in-house job I’ve had, which was it was a very nice shift for me to being a consultant is so fun because you get so many different challenges, but it’s really nice now to have more ownership long term ownership to the challenges. So started in the end with getting service design into the bank, actually the more customer driven way of work, and then that was a more centralised initiative back then. And then I’ve had different jobs kind of getting that way of work into the line, into the business units and started more or less what is my job now three and a half years back.
Marcell: I think you told us a story in our initial call about you had like a phone call with DNB where you had some really negative customer experience.
Henriette: It was a weird customer experience in a way, because I’ve been their customer my whole life, basically because my parents have been on that. So always kind of related to the bank. But it was a few years back, I guess it was 7 or 8 years back. My husband and I bought a house and then we moved very much of our banking products into the DNB because it paid off to be kind of what to call it in English. Total. Total customer relationship with the DNB, having all the products. But the funny and the weird thing which really kind of reacted to was that I had to speak to, I think, 5 or 6 advisors so that they got my whole picture or our whole picture like on insurance, on mortgage. They didn’t know about the conversation that I had with their colleague. So that was kind of a weird thing for my kind of customer centric brain that. So you guys actually don’t know that I’ve been in touch with you. Okay. And now working in the I understand why, but that has been with me the whole time that we have to kind of organise better around the customer than we traditionally have done because we want the customers to have many products with us. So yeah, that was one of my own experiences on the other side of the table. That’s great.
Marcell: And then I’m guessing that gave you the motivation to come in and improve a few things maybe?
Henriette: Yeah, yeah. It’s fun to actually be in the middle of that.
Marcell: Now, moving on to our first theme as well. Taking a look at that modernisation journey that you’ve taken the bank on a little bit, I think we should set the scene. So could you give us a rundown basically of what the market looks like in Norway right now? You told us that Norwegians are quite tech savvy anyway, So could you elaborate further on how the country has changed since COVID? How has that been the similar or different at all in Norway?
Henriette: Well, yeah, I think well, we know that Norwegians are quite tech savvy. The real digitalisation journey has been going on for years. I would say at least 5 or 6 like really going on. So I have I’ve also been in conversations with other countries and people with similar roles, other places, which I think really felt that COVID excelled things even more. Of course it did here as well. But for me, it’s very much like people were using their phones and their laptops for everything. It’s also because very many governmental institutions have been on this digitalisation journey for quite some time now. So we’re used to doing much of that as well digitally, which I think we are quite in the forefront, even though that’s not my area of expertise. But I think COVID really changed the table a bit because companies, they needed to be there with digital services, otherwise they didn’t reach any people. So I don’t think that people got that much more tech savvy actually. But I think it really forced the businesses to digitalise their services if they hadn’t already. So that was kind of the biggest change from my perspective. And of course we mean Norway is a small country, but when we talk about digitalisation and to actually excel on customer journey or customer experiences, we compare to Facebook and Google and Apple and the big ones. So we’re not only kind of looking at other peers in Norway or Scandinavia, we really want to be where they are. The big ones are when it comes to customer experience, that’s great.
Marcell: Yeah. And in like a global economy, I think that’s good to look at your competition across the world because with the Internet, obviously your customers are involved with all sorts of things. In the past five years, DNB’s Customer Facing Digitalisation Journey has involved the release and support of mobile banking and new cloud based web solutions, which closely aligns with the general modernisation trend that we’ve seen across the industry. Another facet of this is the removal of physical branches in the face of digital expansion, which obviously raises further questions and consequences. So how are you approaching the future of the physical branch and what will that mean for their customer experience?
Henriette: We have also been one of the banks taking down a number of branches significantly over the past years, but we’re not taking it down to zero and we have a quite extensive number of colleagues who act as banking advisors. Of course, not all of them are in physical branches anymore. Also a lot on the phone and we also have chat and so on. It is something that we really want to keep. We really think that there is value. We know that there is value in speaking to advisors at certain life situations or when you have certain banking needs that are quite complex. But I think we will work mostly so that it’s different that we don’t have that many people in the branches anymore and the dialogue is not happening over the counter in the branches for many of these tech savvy people that I’m talking about. But I think with the advisors that we have, it will probably be a bit different going forward. I think we will distinguish more between customer journeys that really have value in or product areas that really have value in speaking to a person. I mean, we know that young people who start to save for a house, we have special products for that, or they start to Google Mortgage. We know that they really value speaking to someone who can explain and who can hold the hand, you know, because in Norway, very many people own their own house, a higher percentage and than in many other countries. I think we will be better at distinguishing at what products and customer journeys we really want to offer you to talk to us and that other customer journeys or tasks should be done digitally. And we know that many of the customers want to do those more daily things totally by themselves. So I think we will distinguish more, but we will keep having people talking to customers every day. It’s one of our advantages as a big bank. If you compare to many competitors, I suppose.
Marcell: You can’t really replace that human connection at the end of the day. And you mentioned there as well about how, you know, you can tell when kind of younger customers, when they’re searching for mortgages and stuff like that, so you can tailor your products to meet their needs. And that leads on to this idea of data. Data collection. And you’re also striving to become more of a data driven bank, right? So what challenges come with that? And why do you think that having data at the heart of your operations is such a big, important thing?
Henriette: Well, oh, for many reasons. I think it goes hand in hand with how the digitalisation is moving. Of course, it’s becoming more personal, more relevant because of the way we can use data and that goes very much for banks as well. Banking products are really easy to copy, so it is about to wrap it into something that is appealing and it’s very much about being relevant when it comes to banking. So yeah, we are also there right now that we want to become more data driven and it’s a huge part of this whole modernisation journey because one of the things that have been stopping us now is have been our kind of old a bit outdated technical capabilities. So right now we’re implementing new technical capabilities and that’s a big job itself. But I think the real battle will be to use the data wisely and correct when we get there. We are soon there. And of course, that also means that very many of my colleagues will work differently because we have the possibility to have this insight now and to reach the customers in another way. And I think if we go back to the discussion about branches, we don’t even though we have taken down the dialogue with customers over the counters in the branches, we want to continue that dialogue digitally and then kind of this whole personal switch to that and to in time be able to give the correct advice and service tips and so on to the customers when we have them in the channels is something that we want.
Marcell: Interestingly, Henriette has mentioned that technology has been a barrier for their transformation, whereas other commentators might suggest that it’s rather the employee mindset and attitude which holds back digital advancement. Perhaps this is related to the Norwegian market being more tech savvy, as we’ve discussed, but let’s get Henriette’s view on the phenomenon. What’s the real challenge they’re facing here?
Henriette: Oh yeah, And I follow you there. Absolutely. I meant that we are right now in kind of implementing the capabilities, which is a big job itself. But someone say that mean 20% of the answer are the technical capability and 80% is how you exploit them and use them. And I totally follow that one. And that’s also why I mean, we it requires something totally different from us. It’s a fantastic potential that we get this new capabilities that open up a whole new world to us. But if we mean this is for us, it’s about, you know, the right message at the right time, at the right place. We don’t want to bombard the customers with too many of them. We don’t want to be irrelevant. You don’t want to compete with kind of giving you tips about different products at the same time. So so really, I follow that.
Marcell: Do you have any like financial literacy initiatives or focuses that you place on helping customers in that way?
Henriette: Yeah, I think we’ve had many and we have such a creative marketing department in this bank and they’ve done very many different aspects of this. They have, for instance, we’ve seen that so many more men than women invest money in funds and so on. So we’ve they’ve done a really great campaign to increase both to actually to increase understanding and take down the barrier, because there is no reason why so much fewer females should invest money more long term. So we’ve done things on that level. We’ve had cooperation with ghouls that many want that. So that’s not so easy. But we’ve had many things also to educate children, both like more gamification and so on. So we really tried to kind of take that role very seriously. We’re a bank for both corporate and private customers and being the biggest one in Norway, we have a big social responsibility as well on this. And so yeah, I think that’s something I’m really proud of with the bank then. And we try to find, you know, both arenas, but also kind of creative ways to do that, to make banking more interesting and to take down the barrier, to actually understand it better, because we know that many customers don’t understand and it’s for many. I mean, it’s a need to have it’s not that it’s really fun with banking, but it is possible to make it more fun and to take down the barriers. And we have a lot of focus on that. The big challenge here will come once those capabilities are in place. And we are also kind of starting to work with the whole governance and the mindset of our colleagues, because it’s a big shift. I’m really looking forward to it. But then I’m also a bit like, oh, it’s. There are fallpits on this one. We know that. So yeah.
Marcell: So although DNB have removed many branches, they still place a great focus on the human aspect of their bank’s interactions with customers, even to the point of competitive advantage. And at the end of the day, it’s humans who run the bank from the inside out. So the employee experience is also a crucial one. Now please welcome our brand new co-host, Sofie, as she takes over the following questions.
Sofie: Do you think employee satisfaction is enough or do you think there needs to be like a deeper sense of brand pride and ownership for the brand’s values to be realised?
Henriette: I personally really believe in a strong brand for many reasons and that different aspects of that is important. I really think that that goes for employees to mean the thing one does with the brand is to try to build the right values into the brand and the brand perception that that goes very much internally as well. The financial sector is it’s big and it’s an attractive place to be. And we are kind of trying to our former CEO said that we were transitioning from being only a bank and then becoming a tech company with a banking license. So we’ve also got so many new, you know, colleagues that are engineers and developers and so on. We’ve always had them, but we have really gotten very many new colleagues over the past years, and we know how easy the current job market are for them. I mean, they’re so attractive, everyone wants them. So to keep talent, I think to have actually an emotional bond to where you work and the brand you work for is very important to build that pride and ownership and loyalty over time. So we’ve kind of emphasised that a lot, that it’s more than just a place you work. You really we really want people to to feel that connection to the and what DNB stands for and on many levels and we have this initiative also among the advisors just for an example that we call living the brand because I think it matters actually what language, what words they use, you know, really give the customers also that brand experience that we want to have this feeling of really helped me and they are there for me. All the things that we really want our brand to have as a footprint. We need to also spend time internally to give all the employees the ability to actually deliver on it.
Sofie: So how do you implement a customer driven approach across the organisation?
Henriette: Oh, we do that at very many different levels, I would say. I mean, first of all our corporate group strategy. That is, it’s a year old or something that states I mean, it has three main ambitions. And the number one of those three is the customer chooses us. So yeah, focusing on customers and customer experience is not just something we say, it’s something that we really believe in all the way from the top. I think that top anchoring is actually important. So it starts there. And then we have like when I started, I just briefly mentioned it, we had a huge initiative to spread knowledge and understanding of what design thinking and customer driven business development is. So we’ve kind of tried to really get it forward into the entire organisation. And then we have many initiatives that goes on kind of more concrete levels. We have, for instance, something we call the improvement portal, directly translated from Norwegian. We use Workplace as one of the internal channels that we use to spread info and share things. And Portal is really good for all the advisors and others to report in feedback that we get from customers and things that are not working and so on. We get the small things from the customers in that we then can act on and improve.
Henriette: So and also we send very many of the employees that are not in customer facing dialogues and contact every day. They can go and have a sit down with the advisors and actually listen to the conversation so that they kind of the developers, for instance, mean they are actually coding what the customers are using day to day think. It’s very high value for them as well to actually sit and have kind of a look at what kind of issues and questions and things that the customers are calling customer service for. So we try to do this on very many different levels and we think that’s really important because it’s many of us who are not in contact with the customers every day. But we should have a really kind of good understanding of what their questions, how they relate to banking. I’ve said it very many times internally. We know banking too well. We can sometimes kind of underestimate how much the customers understand of complex economical issues and so on. So I would say we luckily we do initiatives on many different levels to become customer driven. It’s easier to say that one are than to be it actually.
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Henriette: I mean, we have Workplace, which is kind of Facebook for companies. So one of the pages is called the Improvement Portal. We want as many inputs to that as possible. So all the advisors know that and it’s a very good link between the advisors and us who are sitting on in the main office a bit too far from the customer sometimes, but to prioritise what to actually do something about because we have so much to do. So having that customer voice and also the voice of the advisors, because if it is really bothersome or difficult for them to do things when in touch with the customers, we need to know so we can prioritise it. So that one has been up, I think it’s maybe four years old now. Those kind of incremental improvements are so important to have focus on, even though we have these long lines with the whole modernisation, that takes much of the effort, the whole way of doing it. Development here has changed as well into the more DevOps way of doing things. So it’s not like we look at things like we’re improving something and then we’re just letting it out there and then we move on to the next application or whatever it is. We really want to follow our solutions closely and to do the changes and really have that DevOps mentality that you build it, you fix it, you run it. All our employees in the bank know how to post on Facebook. It’s either improvement we need to do in the digital channels or in the IT systems or it is processes mean we still also have some manual processes. You know, it’s not all digitalised yet, so it goes along those two lines. Yeah. And then, you know, taking a look at that from the ground up or the little small like quality of life improvements, obviously it’s like a domino effect through customer experience to have the end result as good as possible. So yeah, that’s great. Yeah.
Sofie: So the focus you have on your employee experience, how do you think this can benefit the customer experience?
Henriette: When you manage to be customer driven and customer centric, you get much more curious. I think also, you know, want to understand it from the customer’s perspective and not this inside out banking knowledge. So I think actually, I think that very many people at the main office and other places in the bank should learn so much from the advisors and that group of employees that we have. But I think to have that empathy with the customer needs and to understand that this more traditional way of being organised, not always supporting that the customer have a holistic needs, like the phone calls that I had with the bank back in the time like that, we managed to view customer more holistically and being more curious to understand what the customer actually needs and wants and all that, and also to be more empathetic with with the customer. So I think it really benefits the customers that we try to shift this inside out to outside in thinking in many ways, actually.
Marcell: Thanks for listening. We hope you enjoyed the podcast and if you did, why not subscribe to our YouTube channel for access to full length videos and YouTube shorts? You can also like share and comment on the episode to keep the conversation going and be sure to check out cxinsider.com for more content. Now, if you wish to join our growing community of thought leaders, head over to LinkedIn and follow us at Insider podcast to stay updated. Thanks again. I’ve been Marcell and I will see you in two weeks, but for now, enjoy our Rapid fire questions. By the way, this podcast has been brought to you by ACF Technologies Global Leaders in Customer Experience Management Solutions. Now, we’ve heard one story already, but I’m wondering if you had any other kind of funny or awful customer experiences that you have had as a customer to really just like put you off of a brand or a product or a service?
Henriette: I actually thought about it just the other week that I had a really good customer experience without having almost any interaction with the brand whatsoever. It’s a garage where I sometimes park and first they had this machine that I had to go to and to register my license number, and then I got an app and now it just happens automatically. So it was kind of more like, Oh, I had a great customer experience without being in touch with you guys at all. So that just made me think. We all talk about those interactions we want, but that was actually the best. I didn’t have to do anything. I drove my car and parked it, walked away, came back, took the car, drove home. So yeah, that was more like starting to get me thinking.
Marcell: Yeah, how you can apply that level of seamless touchpoints maybe to banking? That’s interesting.
Henriette: On the bad side, it’s nothing worse for me than if I pick up the phone and call a customer service or something. And then I meet the grumpy person like, oh, questioning a bit like, Oh, are you calling with that? It is nothing worse for me now. I just know that that takes all energy away and that can make me turn my back to, to a company if there is a good replacement.
Marcell: Yeah, I think that’s something everyone can relate to, to be honest. That is not. It’s just not very nice, is it? It puts you off and you don’t want to deal with it anymore. So it’s important for employees and like you said, you know, living the brand and having that customer centric approach, I guess, is a way to try and avoid that. So a bit of a different angle. What is your favourite dessert?
Henriette: Oh. Oh. Oh. Um, I’m a I’m a I’m a sweet tooth. I think, um, you know, chocolate fondant is quite high up there. Nice. The problem is that I’m often too full from dinner to have space for it, but, yeah, that’s. That’s far up there.
Marcell: That’s why you should start with dessert and then.
Henriette: Yeah. Or just have the, you know, the starter and then jump to the dessert.
Marcell: What is your favourite time of year?
Henriette: Oh, it’s, uh, it’s spring. Summer. We have, I mean up in northern Norway the sun is up very long in the evenings in springtime and summer. And I really like those long, light evenings. That’s nice.
Marcell: And the winters can be quite brutal. Yeah.
Henriette: They are very wintry. Very cold. Icy. I like skiing as well, but I live in the city and then winter is not that much fun.
Marcell: So what are your some of your favourite things to do in the summer?
Henriette: Very fond of hiking and running outside in the summer. I have a dog so I am out walking with her a lot and I really, really like that.
Marcell: And speaking of dogs, what is your favourite animal?
Henriette: Dogs. Very easy. I’m a dog person. Always had dogs and always will have. Yeah.
Marcell: So if you could interview anyone living or dead, who would it be and why?
Henriette: I think. I think it would be Steve Jobs. I think his mind is just fascinating. So he’s done huge things which have impacted so many, both directly through Apple, but also that has set the standard for so many.
Marcell: Very much so. Is there any, like specific question that you would want to ask him.
Henriette: Just as a curiosity of how he has emphasised the boxing, for instance, of the products, really picturing how people are getting the box in the hand. They’ve paid much, really, much money for a product, getting that box in their hands. And then they have decided how many seconds it takes for that lid to go off to have to give you the I mean, it’s things on that level and the psychological side of it, which I think is really fascinating. So I would really have liked to hear more of that from him.
Marcell: Yeah, totally agree. Sofie, did you have any questions that you wanted to ask?
Sofie: Yeah. What’s your favorite city in Norway?
Henriette: I’d say Oslo. I’m lucky to live in this favourite city. There’s so many beautiful cities in this country, But Oslo has it all for me. It has the seafront islands and so on, just outside where this building actually. And then we have I mean, the whole city is then also surrounded by really nice woods. It’s a big city in Norwegian context, but it’s not that big. So you can reach all of this within half an hour. You can be everywhere.
Sofie: That’s what I expected you to say, to be honest.