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At Vanguard, Heavy Investments to Boost Customer Service

Christine Benz

Note: This video is the fifth of a six-part interview between Morningstar director of personal finance Christine Benz and Vanguard president and CEO Tim Buckley.

Christine Benz: I want to talk about customer service. I'm a customer. My service has been fine. I've heard from some of our users, and I'm sure you've heard this out in the popular press, that there have been some concerns about client service. What do you make of that issues, and what's Vanguard doing to address it?

Tim Buckley: Eighteen, 19 months ago, we had some service challenges, and we have invested heavily since then in people, in technology, in Lean methodology. If you look now over the past 18 months, you go back past 18 months, 90% of our calls have been answered within 60 seconds. What we call client journey is our client transactions, you might think about them. Those key transactions, we've reduced the cycle time on those by about 75%. We are trying to move--so much of our business went digital. But then there's this last segment that's really tough to do. There might be some obscure form or some difficult part of an asset transfer, we are investing heavily to make sure that all of those things, can go digital, go straight through, and be a one-touch for the client and done the same day that they start them. We have invested heavily to make sure that that client experience is always top-notch.

Benz: And how do you monitor it on an ongoing basis?

Buckley: We have some--not to get too technical--but we have these, I call these journeys. Let's take a transfer of assets. We've set up teams, cross-functional teams, with business people, with IT people, even some legal people, that will watch the transfer of assets. They will watch, what we call this journey, and they will know the key measure points on how people are doing, whether online, or if they have to call, why did they have to call. They will measure across the board. They are also empowered, when they see an issue, to change it quickly. You are seeing changes in three days, in 11 days, including the technology, where they can quickly build out a change to the transfer process to improve along the way. You don't have to wait nine months for an improvement.

Benz: I actually spoke with some of your people yesterday who were doing client experience. There's this client experience lab.

Buckley: That's what it is.

Benz: That's what you are talking about.

Buckley: Yes.

Benz: The idea is to try to monitor client behavior in real-time and address the pain points, it sounds like?

Buckley: It's a different way of thinking. A lot of companies grew up thinking about, we are going to segment by client type and we are going to have phones, we're going to have some web over here, we'll have operations. It's rather taking a true client view and saying, Christine, you are the client, how do you view your interaction with Vanguard? You view it as, I'm going to make a purchase, or I'm going to do a transfer of assets, or I want to actually change my address. We need people to own that journey along the way and make sure it's perfect for you, so that it's the way you see it through your eyes, not how we want to see it operationally.