On Empowering Teams and Overcoming Bureaucracy


Jonathan Alloy headshot
Jonathan Alloy

VP for Customer Experience and Innovation Consulting at Publicis Sapient

Episode notes

In this episode of Dreams with Deadlines, Jenny Herald and Jonathan Alloy take a deep dive into the strategy execution challenges that organizations face when implementing a customer-centric approach.

Jonathan Alloy, a seasoned leader in banking and financial services, takes us through the journey of creating a microsite that puts the needs of customers first and the obstacles he faced along the way. Join us as we discuss these challenges and more as Jonathan shares his experience, insights and tips on how to overcome them, and pave the way for true customer-centric innovation.

What you will learn

  • The challenges of implementing a customer-centric approach in a large organization and the strategies for overcoming silos and incentivizing teams to work together
  • The importance of building resilience and pushing decision-making to the lowest possible level
  • The value of creating a clear, actionable plan with options and risk management and the importance of scenario planning, and how to navigate the bureaucratic process
  • The importance and techniques for getting buy-in and alignment from multiple stakeholders and driving customer-centricity
  • Insights on the future of banking and the role of innovation in achieving financial goals
  • The need to reserve capacity for innovation and experimentation.

Show notes

  • [03:20] Jonathan walks us through his background and career trajectory in the financial technology and design thinking industry. He began as a consultant in public relations, then moved to the client side working on environmental sustainability at DuPont and financial innovation and literacy at Wells Fargo. He went on to lead design thinking at Credit Suisse, and now wants to scale it up on an industry-wide basis. 
  • [05:32] Jonathan discusses the issues with the customer experience in the banking industry, specifically with regards to the automated phone systems and the metrics used to measure customer satisfaction.
    • The common experience of long hold times and poor customer service when calling companies, specifically mentioning the banking industry.
    • The reasons behind this experience, such as internal incentives and metrics that focus on the wrong things.
    • How the pandemic has exacerbated the problem and the opportunity for new market entrants to provide better service.
    • The importance of viewing customer service and success as an investment, not a cost, and measuring success metrics such as first call resolution and true customer satisfaction.
  • [10:10] Jonathan suggests that to change the mentality of companies to be more customer-centric, the focus should be on middle management, who can be partnered with to change the company's incentives, investments, and employee treatment in order to improve customer satisfaction and loyalty.
    • Middle management plays a key role in translating strategy into operation plan
    • The importance of changing the mentality internally, especially in customer success and financial departments
    • Focusing on customer delight rather than just getting the last penny out of them
    • The importance of investing in employees, providing living wages and benefits, the right training and technology support to enable them to do first-call resolution
    • The push towards AI and automation in banking and how it should be approached, focusing on the customer's needs and simplifying the process.
  • [14:35] Jonathan highlights the importance of empowering employees in the middle management level to make decisions and aligning their incentives with that of the company's goals, in order to achieve better customer satisfaction and long-term growth, rather than using fear, uncertainty, and doubt to push for change.
  • [21:44] Jonathan discusses the importance of starting with middle management in order to change the way companies operate and become more customer-centric.
    • He emphasizes the importance of empowering employees to make decisions appropriate to their level of authority in order to drive change.
    • Jenny highlights the importance of customer satisfaction and how lost business can occur when a customer has a substandard experience with a company and chooses not to recommend them to others.
    • Jonathan gives an example of how a bank he worked for took a customer-centric approach to their payment products, but faced barriers that were not technological in nature but rather human and business-driven.
  • [25:16] Jonathan talks about the difficulty of incentivizing teams to work together in large organizations where silos and competing incentives can prevent collaboration.
    • He uses the example of creating a microsite for customers to make payments, which crosses different organizational lines and value streams.
    • The main problem he faced was getting buy-in from peers who owned different product P&Ls, as they were incentivized to focus on other things.
    • He attempted to address this by having in-person conversations and acknowledging the reality of the situation, building relationships, empathy and trust.
    • He suggests using quantitative measurements and metrics that account for customer satisfaction and success, and empower people to make decisions appropriate to their level of authority.
    • He also emphasizes the importance of building organizational incentives that align with customer satisfaction and success.
  • [30:40] The conversation is about how to incentivize teams to work together, specifically in the context of a microsite that is customer-centric and crosses different organizational boundaries.
    • The challenge is that different business units are incentivized to optimize spend for the outcomes that they think are most important given their remit.
    • Jonathan shares how he had to sell the idea to his peers who owned different product P&Ls and get buy-in from them.
    • He acknowledged the reality of the situation and built empathy and trust by being honest about what they were facing.
    • He had multiple stakeholders and product owners involved in the project, including product managers and their supervisors.
    • The next step after getting buy-in is to actually build it and sequence and prioritize it across multiple business areas, which poses its own set of challenges such as getting on the release calendars and limited capacity.
    • The importance of scenario modeling to quantify the potential benefits of the project and make it less abstract for stakeholders
    • The challenge of building a new section of the system that is customer-centric rather than product-centric and how it takes time to get approval from senior executives
    • The loss of capacity and engagement with customers due to the disruption of the existing system, which is not built to serve customers but rather internal goals and incentives.
  • [40:11] Jonathan Alloy discussed how he and his team got executive buy-in for a project to make the customer experience more human-centric and less product-focused.
    • He emphasized the importance of understanding the executives' role in managing risk and presenting them with clear, actionable options.
    • He also highlighted the importance of showing how risks will be mitigated and having control plans in place.
    • He also acknowledged the complexity and bureaucracy that can be involved in getting new ideas approved in large companies and the potential for competitors to gain market share because of this.
    • He emphasized the need for companies to reserve capacity for innovation and new ideas to stay competitive in the market.
  • [46:42] This part of the conversation highlights the positive outcome of the project, and that it resulted in the company becoming more customer-centric rather than product-centric.
    • Jonathan also discussed the importance of considering the customer experience when implementing new technologies like AI and chatbots, and how focusing on cost savings alone can lead to a poor customer experience.
    • He also talked about how innovation in customer experience can come from outside of large financial institutions, and how empowering employees to make good decisions on behalf of the business can lead to great solutions that serve the customer experience.
  • [50:54] Quick Fire Questions for Jonathan:
    • What’s your Dream with a Deadline?
      • Jonathan Alloy's dream with a deadline is to drive a race car as he has never done it before and thinks it would be an amazing experience.
    • What do you appreciate most about the people you work or have worked with?
      • Jonathan appreciates the commitment of the teams he has worked with to support and look out for each other as individuals, and values the human connections made in the workplace. He mentions that he has maintained relationships with people he has worked with for 20-30 years and that they are still friends.
    • Jonathan’s advice on how to overcome challenges when executing new ideas within a company, particularly when dealing with bureaucracy and personality conflicts.
      • Jonathan gave three pieces of advice to people facing strategy execution challenges and bureaucracy roadblocks. The first advice is to be willing to ask and put oneself out there. The second is to recognize that you're dealing with human beings and to be empathetic and sympathetic to their point of view. The third is to recognize the systems that are in place that can limit our choices and to think about how to adapt those systems to work better for employees and customers.
    • What is the one thing a middle manager can do to empower their team? What should they help them do to empower them?
      • Jonathan Alloy suggests that the most important thing a middle manager can do to empower their team is to look for opportunities to push decisions down to the lowest possible level, meaning giving more autonomy and decision-making power to the team members closest to the problem or issue at hand.
    • What is top of mind for Jonathan Alloy?
      • Jonathan Alloy's top of mind is trying to figure out the future of banking and how to help customers achieve their financial goals in the second half of the 21st century and wants Publicis Sapient to play a role in that.

About our guest:

Jonathan Alloy headshot
Jonathan Alloy

VP for Customer Experience and Innovation Consulting

Jonathan Alloy is an experienced executive in the banking and finance industry. He currently works at Publicis Sapient, a digital transformation agency, where he focuses on helping financial institutions innovate and improve their customer experiences.

Additional resources