KM in A Singapore Bank (OCBC)

On 15 November 2010, I was fortunate enough to be selected for a learning journey trip to OCBC Bank – one of the three local banks in Singapore.

The presenter, Ms. Yap Aye Wee, who heads the Quality and Service Management (QSM) department in the Bank, shared with us about how the Bank strives to improve its customer engagement metric. She explained that the customer engagement metric was a measurement of how much the customers love the bank.  It was beyond customer satisfaction. Ms. Yap continued and shared the Bank customer engagement framework:

People  X  Process  X  Innovation

  1. People. OCBC invests in training and development, especially customer-service related trainings. Staff can go for in-house trainings as well as external trainings. Beyond trainings, according to Ms. Yap, the Bank management is expected to lead by example. Even the CEO is not exempted. He reads and replies to customer complaints. OCBC also sets a working environment where people are empowered and inspired. To cultivate such working environment, Ms. Yap and her team launch many internal campaigns, such as ‘It’s Our Pleasure’ – a campaign to cultivate service mindset, and ‘Dare to Care’ – a campaign to encourage staff to challenge status quo and outdated policy. In any internal campaign poster, the models featured are real OCBC staff who live by the Bank values.
  2. Process. Ms. Yap and her team map the customer experience through four stages: (1) Pre-engagement; (2) Engagement; (3) Fulfillment; and (4) Welcome Back. She called this mapping process as Moment Mapping Process. In each stages, the QSM team brainstorms on how to: (1) minimise ‘white spaces’ – waiting time; (2) minimise ‘combustion points’ – moments that can get customers frustrated; (3) increase ‘emotional cookies’ – opportunities to delight customers.
  3. Innovation. Ms. Yap and her team analyse trends to get business insights and to innovate new services. For example: the Sunday Banking service. It is an insight from several trends culminating like increasing number of double-income families (husband and wife are working) in Singapore, and government plan to build more malls outside the Central Business District (CBD). In addition, Ms. Yap recognises that there is a need to pilot test ideas before they get implemented throughout the Bank. Therefore, the QSM team sets up a Community of Practice (CoP) called the Learning Lab. In this CoP, staff could test out their ideas, get real data from customers using surveys, and improve (or dump) ideas.

As I sat down and listened to Ms. Yap, I kept thinking that the customer engagement framework is a form of KM strategy. Yes, I’m convinced that OCBC is leveraging on KM to improve their customer engagement metric. And I think OCBC does KM pretty well. The best part is, OCBC knows what they want to achieve out of KM. In other words, OCBC’s KM has a sense of purpose: increasing customer engagement – which allows the QSM team (the KM team) to zoom down on what kinds of knowledge to capture, create, transfer, and reuse.

You are probably wondering why I’m convinced that OCBC is doing KM, although Ms.Yap didn’t mention – not even once – the dreaded word ‘KM’. I have three reasons for that:

  • People Development. The QSM team administers capacity building on customer-service skill sets. Through these trainings, in-house or external, staff would be able to develop their competencies on customer service. Knowledge is transferred from the experienced staff to the less-experienced ones. As the collective competencies increase, there would be more quality exchanges of ideas (knowledge creation) and eventually lead to more Innovations. People is always the key in any KM initiative. By developing people, you are essentially increasing the corporate knowledge stock (the collective intelligence).
  • The Moment Mapping Process. This easy-to-understand process is essentially a sensemaking process – in which knowledge gets created, transfered, and/or reused. It sets the stage for quality conversations so that staff know: (1) what to talk about, (2) how to discuss things, (3) and why are they having this conversation. Furthermore, Ms. Yap stressed that this process wasn’t meant to look for someone to blame. It is not a point-fingering session. It is about tapping on collective intelligence, in order to improve business processes so that customer experience improves. I’d say the Moment Mapping Process has somekind of ‘After Action Review (AAR) smell’ on it, wouldn’t you agree?
  • The Learning Lab as a Community of Practice (CoP). This is a give-away. The moment, ‘CoP’ is mentioned, you would know that this is a KM initiative. What I like most about the Leaning Lab is that, it allows the members (the staff) to build prototypes, test them out, act on real-customer feedbacks, and build better prototypes. In other words, the Learning Lab is some sort of safe-fail environment where staff can do quick prototyping and have empathy on customer experience (sounds like Design Thinking, doesn’t it?). Good ideas need time to develop, and until they are developed fully, they have to be protected. And this can only be made possible in a safe-fail environment.

So I hope I have convinced you that OCBC is doing KM, eventhough they don’t use the term ‘KM’. The fact is, KM exists in many organisations in various forms. But not everyone labels it as KM.

Oh, and one last thing. I also think that OCBC is practising an empathy-driven KM. I called this form of KM as Design-Driven KM. Notice the way they position KM and how they design the KM initiatives. The Moment Mapping process is designed in such a way, such that staff would be able to see (or empathise with) the customers’ point-of-view. The same goes for the Learning Lab.