Mastercard customer care VP recalls how he cut 75 vendor partners down to 15

Dale Gruner keynotes the recent Customer Contact Week to talk about similarities between data storytelling and songwriting

Some CX professionals walk into a new job where the company is in such bad shape that proposing changes to the way customers are treated is relatively straightforward. For Lance Gruner, joining Mastercard six years ago meant facing an entirely different scenario.

“One of the challenges I had at MasterCard is a how to pivot an organization that is very successful and used to doing the same thing,” Gruner, the payment firm’s vice-president of customer care, said in a keynote session at the recent Customer Contact Week At Home virtual summit. “What we found was there as a missing element, and that was the customer.”

It’s not that Mastercard wasn’t serving its customers well, Gruner suggested, but that the company needed to be more intentional about how it used data to continually improve its approach, and to tell stories about the data that those across the company would appreciate. There was also some reorganization and shifting of responsibilities required.

“You had a sales and finance team trying to manage a customer care organization. You really weren’t getting the effective end to end experience,” he said. “We (also) didn’t have a defined Mastercard experience or a defined process of how we would work with our partners.”

There were also, arguably, too many partners who provided services to Mastercard in areas like customer care. Gruner said there were about 75 when he joined, and part of his work has involved winnowing that number down into something more manageable. He said the process included evaluating each partner or vendor and looking at how proactive they were in offering value to Mastercard, as well as how well they demonstrated they understood its business objectives.

“We looked at partners that were building on your team or filling the gaps we may have had,” he said, adding that he wanted to see what kind of unique insight a partner could offer. “It was like, ‘Tell me something I don’t know.’”

Eventually, Gruner and his team got down to 15 partners: three global vendors who could cover off about 80 per cent of its needs, and then others that could address the other pieces.

“It was very easy to make the first cut,” he said. “The second cut was much more difficult because as you start narrowing down the field, we had partners who were very good at what they do. You really had to decide what was important, what was in the wish list and get it down to where we are today.”

Gruner said he is equally vigilant about his internal team, noting that even with the best tools, important issues involving customers can get missed.

“Too many times I’ve seen organizations where they either get so far in the weeds about data, or focusing in on the simple, basic KPIs that a normal contact centre would focus in on, instead of seeing what’s right in front of them,” he said.

“Speech analytics, IVR and CRM — those are tools that enable the story. But you also need people that understand the mechanics of how the operation works.”

Prior to the outbreak of COVID-19, Gruner spent a day with key members of his team at an offsite in Nashville, where country musicians were among the experts brought in to hone the way Mastercard could develop stories about CX data.

“When you listen to a song, there may be three or four verses. You can actually see how the writer is taking you on this journey through the verse. The same thing has to be done about our story with the customer,” he said.

CCW At Home is now available on demand.

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