Athena Home Loans - The Anatomy of a Great Customer Experience
This is part 1 of Intalayer's blog series revealing how great customer experiences are created. Each post tells the real story of a customer that has become an advocate, and features interviews exploring the mindset and craft that creates customer experience leaders.
Athena Home Loans is disrupting the home loan sector through personal customer experiences. What can support leaders learn from their success?
The test of a truely customer centric organisation is how it responds to customers in their time of need. After a loss in their family, the experience Andrew Stamatakis and his wife had with Athena Home Loans highlights how genuine customer support in a difficult time can not only improve lives but also create brand advocates.
Andrew publicly shared his experience in a passionate LinkedIn post which attracted engagement from others also advocating Athena Home Loans and criticising National Australia Bank.
Athena Home Loans is part of a wave of Australian startups delivering customer service experiences that the top ASX companies simply can't.
Intalayer has spoken to Andrew and Jonathan McCleery, Head of Athena Assist, about the anatomy of this great service experience.
Andrew's experience becoming an advocate for exceptional customer service.
We'd like to thank Andrew for sharing his difficult story with us and spending the time answering our questions below.
How did you feel throughout your experience with Athena Home Loans?
Andrew: It didn’t feel like a transactional relationship with Athena. Requesting assistance was via text message, that may not seem like much, but for grieving parents it is everything. Imagine having to relive the hardest moment of your life so a bank can give you a few weeks break on repayments? Would you rather send a quick text, or chat on the phone to a stranger at length? They responded straight away, didn’t make me jump through hoops or fill out forms, it was just taken care of so I could get back to what mattered.
What motivated you to share your experience?
Andrew: I felt so compelled to share my experience because of the extra lengths Athena went to during my time of need. I was surprised by a beautiful bunch of flowers that turned up on my doorstep with a lovely handwritten note, that is what a close friend or family member would do. The Head of Athena Assist also emailed me to offer further support, this showed genuine care and concern. Any customer-facing business can learn a thing or two from how Athena approached my request for help – especially now when the world is navigating through a pandemic.
Jonathan McCleery, Head of Athena Assist, provided the Stamatakis family with the support they felt showed genuine care and concern.
We appreciate Jonathan sharing insight into the mindset and craft of delivering personal and genuine support experiences.
Great customer experiences only come with a strong customer centric culture. How do you go about instilling a customer centric culture?
Jonathan: Whilst a customer centric culture can be encouraged through policy and written values, often the culture comes from within the core values of the people in your team. Employing people with high levels of inherent empathy is essential for teams dealing with customers. I think that it’s much easier to build a team with naturally high empathy than it is to train people who don’t have this trait.
Outstanding service always starts with a human touch. How do you empower your team to provide personal interactions and delight individual customers at scale?
Jonathan: We always try to give our customers the best possible experience that we can. As a direct to customer company, we might lack in the face to face contact that many other organisations have, but we try to use that to our advantage. Our customers generally do enjoy our style of communication, which is no nonsense and to the point, but also informative and as succinct as possible.
Great companies are available to support customers when they need help and via the medium they find most convenient. How do you ensure customers receive timely, convenient support?
Jonathan: We try our best to handle today’s work today. We’re a digital company, but we do talk to our customers where they feel that this is the best medium. We try to understand that our customers will generally contact us because they have an enquiry or an issue, so we try to fully understand this first before we act. Generally if we receive an SMS or an email that will be the channel by which we respond.
Collecting customer feedback is key to continually improving your customer experience. How do you collect customer feedback and proactively respond?
Jonathan: Customer feedback is a fantastic mechanism for reflection and change. We do receive a lot of positive feedback, which is great, however it is our complaints and disputes that will generally provide us with motivation to change. All feedback is valuable and we record and monitor everything. We look for the lessons and implement any changes as quickly as we can. If a customer feels compelled to provide feedback for any reason, we are compelled to consider that feedback.
Any successful customer experience program needs to be tied to business outcomes. How do you measure the outcome of great customer experiences for your business?
Jonathan: Whilst we are well known for our great interest rates, we know that it’s also the quality of the customer experience that will drive the business outcomes. If we can’t back up our product and pricing with excellent customer service then we know that we will fail. We also know that we are not going to be the right finance provider for everyone, so we don’t try to be all things to all people. We look at the number of applications that we receive as an indicator of how well we are doing from both a product and service perspective.
Great experiences take time to craft. What is your advice to early stage companies that want to create great customer service experiences?
Jonathan: To achieve great customer experiences you need great staff. Be really careful throughout the staff recruitment process to ensure that your staff have great customer awareness and that they strive to deliver a quality outcome. Product expertise can come quickly, so prioritise this attribute for all customer facing staff above all else. Also be prepared to move quickly if things aren’t working as it’s essential that you build and protect the quality of your brand.
Key lessons from this great customer service experience
- Talk to customers in the medium that best fits their needs. Try to fully understand a customer issue before acting and where possible, respond in the channel where communications began.
- A little extra thought can go a long way. Understanding a customer's current circumstances and responding with genuine empathy can turn customers into advocates.
- Hire for empathy when building a customer facing team. Strong customer centric cultures are often built on inherent core values not training.
Intalayer is a platform for software companies to scale great customer experiences by automating support, product & engineering team processes. It integrates seamlessly across existing tools and enables fast, accurate and consistent triage and prioritisation of software bugs, while keeping customers up to date via automated emails.
About Athena Home Loans
Athena is a cloud-based home-loan platform designed to provide an alternative to the big four. Launched in February 2019, Athena has enticed borrowers with low home loan interest rates and transparent customer communication.