In September 2016, Mary Mack, the new head of Wells Fargo’s Community Bank, created the position of Change Leader and selected Laurey Cosentino — an 18-year industry veteran with a track record of leading major change initiatives — for the role. In addition to that role, Cosentino is now leading the Customer and Branch Experience. Previously at Wells Fargo, she led the Wells Fargo/Wachovia commercial banking merger integration, and was chief administrative officer for Middle Market Banking.
Following is a Q&A with Cosentino seven months into the job, as change efforts advance under her direction.
Q: What is the goal of the transformation you’re leading for Wells Fargo’s Community Bank?
To redefine our business model so we deliver an exceptional customer and team member experience. We’re doing this through 11 work stream teams, comprised of team members from across Wells Fargo Community Bank, our branches, our contact centers, and from other lines of businesses throughout the company. They’re focusing on customer service, enhancing customer relationships, recruiting and hiring, training and coaching, customer feedback, customer acquisition, change management, financial health, and more. And much of the design process and work has been influenced by the feedback of so many of our team members.
Q: Whether as a customer or team member, if I walk into a branch today — or in the months to come — how would I notice something is different?
These changes will help in our efforts to deliver an experience that is quicker, more seamless, and frustration-free. If you walk into a branch today, you should feel a greater focus on service and on bankers who are listening to customers and meeting their financial needs. With the improvements we’re implementing in the next few months as part of our transformation, I think team members and customers will find these differences even more pronounced.
Q: Are there any changes coming that you believe customers in particular will welcome and that you can share?
Yes, there are many! In addition to reducing wait times and providing a seamless service across the bank’s call center and retail branches, a common process for resolving customer issues is coming, and I think customers will find that greatly improves our problem resolution. In the past, when a customer has walked into a branch or called the contact center with a problem, we have sometimes heard ‘My problem feels like it’s gone into a black hole.’ With our improved process, our front-line team members will be empowered to take ownership, solve the issue quickly, and keep customers updated. We’ll also be improving the way our team members talk to customers about their financial needs, and ensuring a more genuine, customer-focused conversation.
Q: How will you know if you’ve been successful?
To me, the most important indicators are going to be customer feedback and customer loyalty. Loyal customers rely on you to meet more of their needs. They don’t leave as much, they deepen their relationships, and they’re much more likely to recommend us to their friends. Enhancing the customer experience will not only encourage customer loyalty and retention, but will also provide opportunities for growth — both for our customers and our company. When we care for our customers and give them exceptional service, they will grow with us — and, in turn, growth in our business will follow.
Q: From all the surveys done as background for building a better Community Bank, what’s the message from customers and team members?
Customers and team members alike are telling us to ‘be more consistent.’ They say we often feel like more than one company. Another common theme is ‘make it easier for me to resolve an issue.’ One other prevalent theme was that the financial needs conversation between customer and banker is not as genuine as it should be. The great news is that we have improvements that will address all of this feedback.
Q: How long will these changes take?
We’ll begin to make them in the third quarter 2017, and hope to have most major changes wrapped up by mid-2018. The truth is we’ll never really be ‘done’ because we’re focused on continually improving the team member and customer experience. I’m really excited about the magnitude of the things that will be coming.
Q: What most needs fixing to transform the customer and team member experience?
What we have today is a lack of standardization in how we deliver customer experience across the country in the Community Bank. Now we’re going to do things in a consistent way. By having standard practices, we’ll find the best way of doing things for our customers, and do it in a common way in every branch and contact center across the company. And that will ensure that we are recommitted to putting the customer at the center of everything we do.
Q: How have team members helped shape these recommendations, and how will they have a voice in the future?
The ‘voice of the team member’ is a guiding principle of the changes we’re undertaking, and their feedback has been reflected in everything — from the way we’ve approached this work, to the membership of the 11 work stream teams carrying it out — and will continue to guide us. We’ve done surveys, interviews, and Mary Mack has reached 3,500 team members in her Listening Tour visits throughout the country. As a result, we’ve received feedback from so many in the business in way or another.
Q: How do you believe the effort you’re leading will prevent Wells Fargo from repeating the same mistakes?
Becoming consistent with our processes is one way to prevent issues. Keeping processes simple will help, too. Improving the way we coach is a critical part of our effort and will make us more successful. How we hold people accountable is going to change, and we’re going to get better. The way we measure success will also change. Additionally, our focus on better managing risk and compliance through direct supervisory oversight, advocating “raising your hand” with our team members if they see anything that isn’t right, and our close partnership with our risk teams and the initiatives they are working on will help ensure past mistakes will not occur. So, in the end, I believe these efforts and our underlying principles are there to prevent this from happening again.
Q: How do you see Wells Fargo emerging from its current challenges and moving forward as a stronger company?
I have been leading major initiatives for the entire 18 years I have been with Wells Fargo, and never have I led an initiative where I feel this much support. So many are in this with us and want to help, and nobody is asking, ‘Why do we have Change for Better?’ The people on these work streams are dreaming big. They are really thinking out of the box, which has been fantastic. I’m extremely optimistic about what lies ahead for the Community Bank and Wells Fargo.