Keeping a Customer-Centric Approach Amidst the Pandemic

Learn how our customer-centered culture fuels ingenuity and teamwork to continue to serve our customers from home.

At the onset of the coronavirus (COVID-19), Capital One took steps to protect associates in our call centers, bank branches, and cafés.   

Through remarkable ingenuity and teamwork, our operations teams have largely been able to work from home, while continuing to serve our customers with excellence. Recently, we spoke with SVP of Customer Operations for our U.S. Card Division, Doug Woodard, on building a customer-centered culture. 

What does it mean to work for a customer-centered company?

At Capital One, our values – Excellence and Doing the Right Thing – are ingrained in our DNA. They’re the foundation of our customer-centered culture. To us, that means customer experiences don’t just fall on one person or department — they’re the responsibility of everyone in the organization.  

Servant leadership and transparency are critical components to this. Leaders actively take care of their teams – sharing development opportunities and checking in on their overall wellbeing – which inspires associates to take better care of their customers. Leaders also invest time listening to or reading customer feedback, and sharing that information with their teams, so everyone has an understanding of how to improve. 

While COVID-19 has presented challenges, our associates have adopted an all in approach and it’s led to innovating with great success.

How do you encourage tens of thousands of associates to make meaningful connections with customers? 

I often recall the saying by Maya Angelou, “People may forget what you said, but they’ll never forget how you made them feel.” At Capital One, we are on a mission to change banking for good. 

While programs and structure are important elements to our business, creating a shared sense of purpose is what unifies our team and defines our focus. We all want to know that we matter, and that we’re a part of something bigger, something important. We aim to foster a work environment where our associates feel valued, have purpose, and are encouraged to authentically connect with our customers.

Unfortunately, service is often viewed as a series of functions – we take orders, we answer questions, we close sales, we deliver a product. Driving purposeful customer experiences may seem obvious, but too many brands leave the experience to chance, or to a loose confederation of siloed experiences.  

At Capital One, our associates don’t just answer the phone for a credit card company. They are here to make a difference in people’s lives – to help our customers achieve financial success. As our CEO, Rich Fairbank, often says, “At Capital One, our highest calling has always been to hire great people and give them a chance to be great.” 

Can you share an example of a customer experience that inspired you?

Each week, for the past several years, we’ve shared a story with our entire organization about an associate who has done something extraordinary for a customer – an “Everyday Hero.”  

One particular connection I was moved by started with a phone call. A customer of ours, Mrs. K, was in a panic because her 87-year-old husband, who suffers from dementia, was missing. As the account manager on her husband’s account, Mrs. K needed to know what his last charge was. 

One of our agents, Alysa, informed Mrs. K that the last charge on her husband’s account was at a gas station, just five minutes prior to their call. Springing into problem-solving mode, Alysa asked Mrs. K if she’d been in touch with the sheriff’s department, and Mrs. K informed her that she had indeed. But, upon further analysis, Alysa noticed that Mr. K’s charge indicated he was in another county. Still on the line with Mrs. K, Alysa dialed out to that county’s sheriff's department and gave them the location of the charge, and a description of Mr. K and his car. After talking with that sheriff’s department, Alysa stayed on the line with Mrs. K until her neighbor arrived so she wasn't alone at home.

Not content to think she’d done enough, Alysa followed up with Mrs. K the next morning, and Mrs. K informed Alysa they were able to find Mr. K that night based on the information Alysa had provided! She repeatedly expressed her tremendous thanks. 

THIS is how we want every customer to feel. 

How do you support associates when they are dealing with unhappy customers?

For many of us, these past few months have been among the toughest of our lives. A global pandemic. A cratering economy. Record breaking unemployment. Urgent and dramatic changes to how we live and work. 

The events that are unfolding in our country right now are understandably triggering a wide range of emotions, from rage to fear to sadness and everything in between. While the majority of our callers are polite and appreciative of the help we provide, occasionally, a caller crosses the line. We do not tolerate verbally abusive language or hate speech, and we have policies in place  to protect our associates if these types of calls occur. While these situations are rare among the millions of calls we take each year, these instances are not acceptable. 

Now, more than ever, we must care for those who take care of our customers. We’ve offered training to help our front line agents learn strategies to handle escalated situations, better understand triggers, warning signs, and meditation techniques to help manage the costs of caring. 

I am proud to work for a company that supports our customers and our agents through a historic time. 

If you're interested in learning more from Doug Woodard, listen in on his conversation with the Customer Service Weekly podcast about connecting with customers and solving their needs on an emotional and functional level. 

Doug Woodard, SVP, Customer Operations, U.S. Card, Capital One

Doug Woodard is Senior Vice President of Capital One’s Customer Channels for US Card Customer Experience. Doug is responsible for customer operations across Capital One’s US Card business, spanning both Branded Card and Partnership Card (private label and co-brand cards) portfolios. The Customer Channels organization delivers on a full spectrum of customer support needs including customer service, fraud, disputes, collections, chat, back office operations and supply chain. In addition, the organization provides critical horizontal support functions such as training, knowledge management and workforce management that enable such an extensive operations network. Growing up in upstate New York, Doug attended SUNY Albany for both his undergraduate and master’s degrees. Prior to joining Capital One, Doug held executive roles at both Staples and Citi, leading extensive customer service operations, as well as accountability for the customer experience strategy. Prior leadership positions included roles at L.L. Bean and Accenture.

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