Transformative customer experience is table stakes these days — and high-quality, usable data and machine learning are the foundation of products and services that deliver. On the opening day of VB Transform 2022, Molly Parr, the VP of product and digital customer experience at Capital One, spoke with VB’s senior editor and writer, Sharon Goldman, about how the company is delivering on that demand.

“We have a twofold goal, which is to delight our customers with seamless, intelligent and intuitive experiences, but also, because we do this at the enterprise level, we’re always trying to build with scale and with automation, to ensure that the things we build can truly be rolled out at the scale of Capital One,” Parr said.

The company has a history of AI innovation, Parr said. Launched in 2017, the the gender-neutral Eno chatbot (“one” spelled backwards) was the first natural language SMS chatbot from a U.S. bank. And while it has been building its own natural language processing and analytics products and tools in-house, it was also the first U.S. bank in the cloud. At the end of last year, Parr’s team launched a personalized feed, developed to deliver tailored, relevant content, powered by machine learning models that are constantly learning who the customer is, what they need, and how to meet them there.

Their primary challenge is data, she says — finding, defining and governing it to ensure that it maps to the actual customer-backed experience. It requires a team that uses data to both conceptualize what a great customer experience looks like and also has the expertise to handle data plumbing and data definitions. The context switching can be very difficult she explained, with many people only good at nailing the business challenge, but having trouble grasping the data, and vice versa.

“It’s a data challenge, but it’s also a people challenge,” she said. “Creating a place where it’s easier, because of the data structures, to not have these things feel like they’re actually two disparate mental models and mindsets, and actually being able to think about it as one, is the most important thing we can do to accelerate the velocity.”

Meeting the challenge of a pandemic-tossed industry

Defying all predictions, COVID continues to rock the world, and challenges are a moving target. But the acceleration of digital adoption remains a bright side for many sectors, including the financial services industry — which is why it has become so crucial to deliver seamless, intelligent customer experiences.

“One of the key things that we find is we’re now in a state where things that help you with the day-to-day management of your financial services accounts and the way that you interact with us as a brand are table stakes expected,” she said. “We’re lucky to be sitting in the perspective of an award-winning mobile app. But we’re all expected to be able to do the basic servicing things flawlessly, and build on top of those. I should be able to do both the table stakes things and enhance and innovate.”

What that looks like for the company is a world where your basic financial needs can be predicted and handled so easily that it frees up brain space for actually leveling up your financial life with all the education and infotainment Capital One can deliver — if you’re interested. Every experience is, of course, tailored using customer research and testing.

“It’s a very interesting moment to come in where we have such strong developed technology, particularly in that sphere, and be thinking about how we amplify it across all of the experiences to infuse personalization and relevance everywhere,” Parr said. “That, coupled with where we are in our transformation journey — it’s one thing to innovate, but it’s another thing to do that at scale. I think all of us in this room will always be somewhere on that transformation journey. We’re never done.”

Learn more about the innovative ways Capital One is using data to build personalized and relevant customer experiences and catch up on all Transform sessions by registering for a free virtual pass right here.