Kathy O’Mahony, Homes Direct Manager, AIB, recently presented a Virtual Executive Assembly (VEA) on Effortless Customer Experience to select members of the Customer Engagement Leadership Council, Europe. The Council is the world’s foremost member-driven, global business leadership network for senior-level executives under the customer experience, customer care and contact center umbrella.

Offering insights and new ways to enhance customer engagement, Kathy discussed her organisation’s recent successful mortgage customer experience programme and journey-mapping initiative, its impact on customers and staff, and the excellent results attained.

Key take-aways included:

  • Insight on why regular reviews of your customer journeys (mapping) will identify potential pain points, assist in solving current issues quickly and prevent future issues
  • Best practices for enabling employees to be customer advocates, promoting a customer-first ethos in all engagements
  • Guide to ensuring you are using your self-service channels intelligently and effectively


To start the discussion, members were asked to briefly comment on their company’s current journey-mapping status and any other relevant customer contact initiatives. Member responses ranged from “We have not done journey-mapping at all,” to “We are developing customer experience journey-mapping,” to “We look at journey-mapping from three points of view—in the store, on the website and in the contact center.”

As one member elaborated, “We use journey mapping to improve the customer experience, to identify pain points and to identify gaps in surveys.” Another member shared that they were focusing on developing staff skills (by monitoring calls and providing a lot of feedback) to create a caring connection with patients. Another shared that his company was bringing together a cross-functional team that included sales, the digital group and operations, to improve processes and look for new opportunities. Yet another member shared that their journey mapping approach included everything from lead generation to the routing of calls, and that they had gained many customer insights. Perhaps most importantly, they learned that there is a continuous customer learning cycle.


Kathy’s employer, Allied Irish Bank, provides comprehensive services to its retail, business and corporate customers. The institution has over 2.7 million customers and almost 10,000 employees. Although the bank offers an excellent mortgage product, there were the inevitable complaints and issues, so the bank decided to take a comprehensive look at the customer journey and corresponding internal processes. This was a major strategic move for the bank. Since mortgages are their #1 product, they were able to secure a budget to fund an extensive mortgage customer experience programme.

Next, Kathy described what her division, AIB Homes, learned while undertaking their journey-mapping initiative. She also stated that her goal in the VEA was to share the defining moments of their journey analysis and to highlight three basic ways the participants could make their own customer journeys more effortless. As she noted, the journey should be effortless for staff, too.

Kathy’s advice: “If you are journey mapping, you can’t forget the staff! Ultimately, AIB found over 100 pain points and many consistencies between what their employees were saying and what the customers were saying. And, although they hired business analysts, many believed the most important insights came from people from within the organisation — including IT, front line channel staff, and mortgage operations. Kathy stressed the importance of having the right stakeholders in the room – and keeping them in the room! She stated that ultimately, the bank needed to re-define, re-design and simplify many parts of the customer journey, and shared that content and analytics were huge components.


When a member asked, “Who owns the customer journey – and mapping it?” Kathy reported that the customer owned the journey. She said that throughout the process, they kept going back to what their customers said; they had interviewed over a thousand of them. She emphasized her belief that any organisation doing journey mapping should put customer feedback first.  That is what AIB did when they updated the customer journey and made it much shorter. They also added new, critical parts to the customer journey, i.e. now they look at pre-mortgage application steps, such as saving for a house, prior to applying for a mortgage and starting the mortgage process.

Since most of the customer pain points were in the mortgage application stage, that is where the AIB team began examining the customer journey. They discovered that issues went beyond the contact center and extended to other departments, i.e., the front line at the bank, credit assessment, lending and more. They addressed all of these issues and bumps along the way, significantly smoothing out and improving the customer journey. As stated, “We redesigned the experience from scratch, leaving no stone unturned.”

Important take-aways from AIB’s journey mapping initiative include the following:

  • Make sure you have the right people in the room when deconstructing the customer journey
  • Staff should and often does function as customer advocates
  • Problems are rarely about a person, more about processes, procedures, or training. Defining your purpose and living your “organisational personality” will enhance and cultivate an environment that supports customers’ engagements and staff interactions
  • A good environment will help staff engage better with customers


As a result of the journey mapping exercise, AIB redefined the training curriculum to focus on supporting the customer right through the mortgage journey. As staff could see they were being invested in, this was viewed as a positive move.  Since contact center staff are situated in one central locale, it was easier to train them. Staff members also knew there was a career path designed for them, with levels and promotions to work towards. All contributed to a positive environment and to supporting customers.

The bank’s use of new channels like video, social media, and online tools was also covered. AIB customers now utilise a new “My Mortgage” App. Like many other companies, the bank is seeing a trend indicating that customers want to see a combination of self-serve, face to face, phone and digital channel options at their disposal. Technology is definitely leveraged, but may not always be their customer’s first choice. Today, the organisation remains focused on the nurture part of the journey, as well as keeping an eye on the entire, ever-changing, customer lifecycle.