Chief experience officers put the customer first

When a customer filling out an online application for a financial product finds the process to be simple and seamless, there’s a good chance they have Derek Corcoran to thank.

Corcoran is Chief Experience Officer at Avoka, a company that aims to turn browsers into buyers through a digital sales enablement platform that removes common points of frustration and friction for the customer.

Derek Corcoran

Derek Corcoran

Avoka’s offerings are based on the notion that people want the financial product they are applying for, but something stops them from completing an application. Avoka examines various parts of the customer’s journey, from the data entry required to if the customer can easily cross between mobile, tablet or desktop, all with the goal of increasing customer acquisition and reducing abandonment.

Customers who use Avoka’s platform are provided with detailed analytics so they can tell where their customers are abandoning applications and can tweak accordingly.

As companies increasingly realize the benefits of focusing on customer experience, the role of chief experience officer – a person dedicated to improving each customer’s journey – is vital.

“Having the role I have, it almost gives me permission to challenge everything,” Corcoran said. “I put the customer hat on and say ‘let’s look at this from the perspective of the customer.’”

Recently, Corcoran worked with a consumer finance company that offers personal loans. Improvements are often small, but they quickly add up. Instead of showing a dropdown list for a question about what gender the applicant was, for example, two buttons showing male or female were added in order to make the question easier to complete on a smartphone.

Little changes to the application helped the company boost its completion rate, from 36 per cent to 50 per cent in four weeks, Corcoran said. If customers are successful, revenue growth will follow.

“We were looking into everything we could possibly do to draw effort out of the customer experience. It delivered a significant positive impact,” he said.

Corcoran looks at the effort a customer goes through when applying for new products from a bank or credit union: what questions are being asked? How is that information gathered? Is every step in the process mobile friendly? Can photos of documents be uploaded, rather than numerous details inputted separately? Corcoran uses those details to collect a “transaction effort score,” to measure the effort a customer must go through.

“What we’re trying to do with the effort score is come up with a measure of the friction in the customer experience. It’s not a vague term or concept, it’s an actual number, and we can focus efforts on reducing it,” he said.

Improvements are also made by looking closely at analytics to see where customers are quitting the application. Fixes are sometimes simple, such as placing questions in a different order.

avokaCorcoran describes a prospective customer sitting down on their couch, with their computer, to fill out an application. If a question asked early on requires information the person doesn’t have on them at that time – maybe it’s a number on their driver’s license, which they left with their keys by the front door – people are more likely to abandon the application.

“If someone clicks ‘apply now’ for a financial product, they’re generally interested. Next you’re going to ask questions, and however hard we make that, that’s what contributes to abandonment,” he said. “The fact banks and non-banks are accepting 70 or 80 per cent abandonment rates, that’s not necessary. If they focus, they can improve.”

Corcoran sees his role of Chief Experience Officer as having three main components. First, he needs to understand what the best practice is for customer experiences in each kind of transaction Avoka helps clients with. Next, Corcoran consults with clients to make sure they understand best practices. Finally, he makes sure Avoka is capable of delivering those best practice to clients, which he does by working closely with Avoka’s product team.

The products Avoka offers allow for analytics, to measure where customers are abandoning applications or which parts are causing confusion and leading to error messages.

“We’re doing it on the basis of what’s actually happening, as opposed to predicting,” he said.

The role has evolved over time, Corcoran said.

“Lots of what I was initially doing was conceptual. It’s evolved to be data driven. We have data to support the advice and recommendations we’re giving people.”

Corcoran thinks his role will continue to change, as the industry evolves.

“I think the next evolution will be around personalization,” he said, describing how a profile could be built based on a person’s browsing behaviour, so that when they begin filling out an application information that is already known about them appears or does not have to be entered in.

“Being able to personalize the in-application experience, and also what happens next, are some of the areas we’re looking into. That’s the next horizon for us in terms of improving,” he said.

In the meantime, he will continue to draw any extraneous effort out of a customer’s experience.

“Lots of people talk about wanting to put the customer first, but my role in the organization allows me to make sure people are doing that,” he said.

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