This post is from our podcast with Dominic Venturo, Executive Vice President and Chief Innovation Officer for US Bank. At US Bank, he leads a team of visionaries who see potential in emerging technology or business models and adapt those to fit customer needs as they understand them today or how they envision them in the future. Mr. Venturo is frequently featured as a keynote speaker at industry conferences. He has 26 years of experience in product development and management, commercial risk management, commercial lendings, and sales management. He has been with US Bank for 16 years.
Dominic Venturo has been a career banker ever since he graduated from college. For the last 10 years, he has had the opportunity to lead the innovation team at US Bank. They started out as a relatively small experiment in applied design thinking and prototyping and early product development. He began doing that about 10 years ago and spent a long time early on looking at customer journeys and understanding how customers go about their daily lives.
One thing that Venturo and his team discovered early on was applying ethnographic research and other journey mapping techniques to better understand how our customers and everyday humans think about their jobs to be done. This led to them thinking more about what customers think about and trying to see through the customer’s lens. They realized that customers think about things in terms of goals, dreams, desires, jobs, and business.
Now, 10 years later, they are a team of 35 that is focused on emerging markets and technology, longer term product development horizon opportunities, and working with business lines to integrate those things into the next generation of product and service grid maps.
The banking industry seems to be an industry that tends to chase innovation as opposed to leading it. However, Venturo has found success in heading innovation in the industry. He said that in the US, the banking industry is fairly large and diversified in terms of the number of institutions and products and services. However, when the digital movement began in the late 1990s, the banking industry began to see a lot of really good innovation in the industry, such as improvements in ATM network operations for example.
Dominic Venturo’s mission is to improve customer experience through innovation. The way he sees it is to look for interesting problems to solve, such as things that will make it easier for customers to do business with US Bank. He said that it can be the mode in which a customer is able to interact with them or it can just be what they do behind the scenes to make things run more smoothly and with less friction.
Venturo said that the banking industry is starting to see some early promise in the field of Natural Language Processing. At US Bank, they have enabled all 3 of the major voice platforms, and they are the first to do that. Venturo and his team found that there are some cases where customers want to be able to just get some very basic info in a real time way and the voice space is a method to do that. He said that it is pretty limited in its capabilities but that all of those interactions help us understand what the system isn’t able to do yet, which helps speed product development and future development. He added that they are also finding out that the environments in which people want to be able to interact with them might be different from what they originally assumed.
Venturo discussed that voice is becoming an even bigger deal nowadays and mentioned the example of Google making calls. He said that when you look at the ability of a computer to be able to understand the context of that conversation and respond appropriately with things like behavioral cues or conversational dynamics that make the conversation even more natural. You can then take the same technology and apply it to text, which makes chatbots easier to understand and interact with.
Both chat and voice channels are improving with new technology, but some people prefer voice over text and vice versa. Venturo said that this is not a generational thing but a contextual thing. For example, if all you want is a simple answer, then text is more efficient than voice. If all you are looking for is a confirmation or an address or something, text works well. However, if there is something that needs to be emphasized or detailed, voice works better.
Venturo added that when you can save a lot of time by texting or instant messaging instead of sending long emails or having long phone conversations, there is an opportunity there to spend more time on things that matter. He then said that at US Bank, one thing he and his team consider when trying to improve the customer experience is figuring out the type of interaction each customer wants because all customers are different.
He commented that they receive millions of calls from customers only wanting to know the balance in their account, even though that information is available digitally. These people don’t care about calling and talking to a human. They just want their balance in a quick and easy manner. However, if they have a customer that doesn’t usually call actually call the company, they should maybe assume that the customer might be having a big problem, so a real person should answer the call.
In 2013, Viacom established that millennials hate banks and that they would rather do banking operations with anyone other than any of the 10 top banks in the US. They would rather use Apple, Amazon, Square, or Paypal, for example. Venturo said, however, that this has changed over the past five years.
He said that part of the reason for the initial perception was that those apps/services were less about being a bank and that those technology companies had solutions that did things extraordinarily well from a user perspective. They were good at meeting customers where they were and allowing customers to do business in an environment that was important to them.
Because of this, those tools took off and became the expectation. In most cases, within that time frame, the top 10 banks did not have these features that customers wanted. Over the past 5 years, data breaches have happened and caused expectations to change, and now banks are seeing major growth in that market segment.
We then asked Venturo why it is that we naturally prefer to use Venmo or Cash App as opposed to Zelle and whether he thought this is because of social proof. Venturo replied that when we look at the space, there are a few things to consider. Zelle is fairly new, and its growth has actually been incredible. It is the solution to a problem and allows real time availability to funds, which is something that really matters to customers.
Venturo added that he, in his department, is doing a few things to listen to the speed of change and listen to the expectations clients are looking for, and discussed which channels he is using to be able to listen to the voice of the customer. He explained that they have their own customer experience group and voice of customer work that comes out of there that helps them see how things are being perceived by customers.
They also look on social media and see what people are saying and commenting about US Bank as well as their competitors. This gives them the listening edge to see what the customers’ attitudes are about what they are saying about US Bank.
In addition, another tool they use is working with the call centers and looking at the feedback they are getting, whether it be complaint trends or issue trends. For example, when people travel, it is not uncommon that they might run into a problem with their card not working due to the fraud department declining a legitimate transaction. This tends to upset customers, so one thing US Bank did was to collaborate internally with their technology partners to enable their app, with customer permission, to keep track of the device’s location. This then affects the way the fraud department looks at the risk scoring of those transactions and improves authorization experiences.
Venturo believes that the big next field is anticipating what it is they want to do next. He said that the way the banking industry serves customers today is very much reactionary - if you want to know something they have an answer, but what about the future when they have the ability to anticipate because they know you from your data and behavior and the way you interact with them. He believes that this will lead to big things and will make things be helpful instead of responsive.
When anticipating customers’ moves, you have to have access to a lot of their personal data, but Venturo said that customers just don’t want to be a target. For the most part, as long as you are using the data for the customer’s benefit, they tend to be okay with it. He said that this does vary and depend on many other things, though, such as personality type. He added that whether or not you have been a victim of a data breach, your perspective is very different. If nothing has ever happened, you might have an unrealistically positive view about the likelihood of something actually happening. As Venturo said, “Our experience frames our expectations.”