Jon Picoult, Author at Insurance Thought Leadership



Jon Picoult

Jon Picoult

Jon Picoult is the founder of Watermark Consulting, a customer experience advisory firm specializing in the financial services industry. As a consultant and keynote speaker, Picoult has worked with thousands of executives across some of the world’s foremost brands, helping companies capitalize on the power of loyalty — both in the marketplace and in the workplace. His insights have been featured in dozens of publications, including the Wall Street Journal, the New York Times, National Underwriter and Best’s Review.

Before founding Watermark, Picoult held senior executive roles at Fortune 100 companies — leading service, operations, technology, sales and marketing. Early in his career, he earned the distinction of becoming the youngest executive officer in the more than 150-year history of a leading, global financial services company.

Picoult received his A.B. in cognitive science from Princeton University and his M.B.A. in general management from Duke University.

Recent Articles by Jon Picoult

Key to Better CX: Think Like NTSB

Airlines are rarely held up as models of customer experience (CX) excellence, but, in one important respect, the aviation industry actually deserves that recognition. At many airlines, the traveler experience leaves a lot to be desired. People are subjected to a host of annoyances and indignities, from baggage charges to ticket change fees, from cramped seating to overbooking. […]

Watch for This 1 Word on Customer Needs

Some of the most brilliant insights about your customers’ unmet needs can be found right under your “no’s.” That’s a key lesson to be learned from companies that excel in customer experience (CX), a hallmark of which is that they’re really good at understanding the people they serve. Not just basic demographic details and personal preferences (though they’re important). These companies […]

The Problem With Virtual Events

Are you Zoomed out? Had your fill of webinars? Well, you’re not alone. As the conference and events industry has pivoted to virtual gatherings, it’s become increasingly apparent how unfamiliar many meeting sponsors and speakers are with the digital stage. Since the COVID-19 lockdown, I’ve attended several such events (as an audience member) and, well…  let’s just say […]

3 Tips for Improving Customer Loyalty

In 2008-09, during the height of the Great Recession – a time when the U.S. economy was in a meltdown and every auto manufacturer was seeing sales plummet – Hyundai Motors increased its market share by a remarkable 40%. Understanding how Hyundai did it offers a valuable lesson to any company that’s trying to navigate a period […]

What Effective Leaders Do in Tough Times

Each year on the Wednesday before Thanksgiving, where could you find Southwest Airlines’ legendary co-founder and CEO Herb Kelleher? On the tarmac, of course, helping the ground crew load and unload baggage onto planes, during what was the busiest travel day of the year. Kelleher appreciated the importance of leaders showing solidarity with their employees, particularly […]

10 Tips For Using Net Promoter Score

For all the attention Net Promoter Score (NPS) has garnered as an instrument for gauging customer experience quality, it’s startling how many organizations implement it incorrectly. Indeed, many of the criticisms lobbed at Net Promoter have less to do with the measure itself and more with the perverse manner by which companies use it. (Need a Net Promoter […]

Bold Prediction on Customer Experience

If there’s one thing management gurus like to do early in a year, it’s make predictions – and customer experience (CX) experts are no different. But business predictions are like weather forecasts. Everybody consumes them, but rarely does anybody look back to check their accuracy. Back in 2014, for example, 89% of companies surveyed predicted that […]

True Value of Net Promoter Score

“Net Promoter Score” sure has its share of detractors these days. But those critiquing the measure are overlooking one of its greatest (if not widely discussed) benefits. Net Promoter Score (NPS for short) was conceived by Fred Reichheld (a Bain & Co. consultant) and introduced to the world in 2003 via his seminal Harvard Business Review article, […]

5 Words That Will Undermine a CX Plan

More and more companies are seeking to differentiate themselves with an effective customer experience strategy. To advance those efforts, some firms hire highly skilled “chief customer officers” or engage expert consultants for assistance. But there’s also a fair share of firms that choose to go it alone, proudly proclaiming that “we know what we’re doing.” […]

Can You Recession-Proof Your Business?

The U.S. has enjoyed the longest economic expansion in American history. One thing’s for sure, though – it’s not going to last. Recessions are a normal part of the economic cycle. Expansions lead into contractions, which then lead into more expansions, and so on.  The next downturn is coming, even if no one can predict […]

Top 10 Ways to Spook Customers

What were you afraid of this Halloween? That your customers might disappear like ghosts? That your competitors might pick them off like vultures? That it’s all going to drive you batty? In the spirit of All Hallows’ Eve, Watermark Consulting brings you… The Top 10 Ways to Spook Your Customers: 10.  Respond to customer requests like […]

How Fine Print Ruins Customer Experience

The insurance industry has a trust problem – and that’s not even the bad news. Consumers’ lack of trust in the financial services sector is well-documented. The Edelman Trust Barometer found that financial services was the least-trusted industry in the eyes of consumers.  According to an Accenture study, only 27% of consumers consider insurers to […]

ROI Study on Customer Experience

What’s a great, differentiated customer experience (CX) really worth to a company? It’s a question that seems to vex lots of business executives, many of whom publicly tout their commitment to the customer but are actually unsure about the ROI of customer experience — leaving them reluctant to invest in customer experience improvements. As a result, companies […]

Bold Prediction on Customer Experience

Customer experience experts are in typical year-end prediction mode. But our crystal ball came up with a bit of a different take on what’s in store for next year. It’s that time again, when all the management gurus come out with their customer experience predictions for the coming year. So what customer experience trends do […]

Why Bad Customer Experience Is Toxic

While executives have come to understand that happy employees mean satisfied customers, they often miss the other side of the coin. Poor customer experience creates a toxic environment for employees. Are you trying to create a great customer experience in your organization? If you’re focusing on your customers to accomplish that, then you’re already missing […]

Customer Experience Leaders Widen Edge

Insurers that earn jeers from their customers are falling further behind the ones that earn cheers. That’s the key takeaway from Watermark Consulting’s 2018 Insurance Customer Experience ROI Study. The study, which was last conducted two years ago, seeks to provide insurance executives with a macro understanding of the impact that customer experience has on a […]

What Really Matters in Customer Experience

No matter how hard you try to improve your company’s customer experience, the reality is that your customers won’t remember much of it. That’s because our brains aren’t wired like a video camera, recording every second of every experience. Rather, what we remember are a series of snapshots. And those snapshots aren’t taken at random. […]

Is ‘Net Promoter’ Really ‘Not Promoter’?

So, you’ve added the Net Promoter “likely to recommend” question to your customer surveys.  You’re tracking the results and reporting a Net Promoter Score (NPS) on your Executive Dashboard. Your company is “doing” Net Promoter – right? Not quite.  What your company is doing is what a lot of companies do when they jump on […]

Pursuing Purpose? Or Just Propaganda?

U.S. pharmacy chain CVS recently announced that it would no longer use “materially altered” imagery to market beauty products in its stores. That means no more perfect, digitally modified wrinkle- and blemish-free photographs to sell everything from moisturizer to lipstick. Instead, consumers will see more realistic pictures of models, complete with crow’s feet and birthmarks. Why did […]

Where a Customer-Focused Culture Starts

Executive Summary: Time-starved, multitasking executives engaged in drive-by conversations with employees are poor models for employees to emulate when they interact with customers. Instead, executives who give their undivided attention to internal team members embody the customer-focused cultures they seek to create, and subtle gestures of responsiveness can set the right tone for their organizations. […]

Flawed Metrics on Employee Performance

As companies become more data-driven, so have their employee performance metrics. Yet the very metrics that are often used to gauge employee performance might actually discourage the behavior those companies want to promote. This common workplace pitfall is grounded in two basic realities. What gets measured gets managed. Employees tend to behave in a manner that is aligned […]

Why Your Customer Research Is Flawed

U.S. pollsters got quite a surprise in the early morning hours of Nov. 9, 2016. That’s when it became apparent that their sophisticated voter research had completely failed to predict the outcome of the U.S. presidential election.  Longtime Republican political strategist Mike Murphy went so far as to assert that “data died” that night. Yes, […]

How to Keep Goals From Blowing Up

The goals you set for your organization might be sabotaging the very success that you’re trying to cultivate. That’s the message from Professors Maurice E. Schweitzer, Lisa D. Ordonez, Adam Galinsky and Max Bazerman – all of whom should surely win an award for the most creative titling of an academic research paper (“Goals Gone […]

How to Bottle Great Customer Experience

Someone’s figured out how to bottle a great customer experience. No, this isn’t a magic elixir that, when applied to any customer interaction, turns disappointment into delight. This is, quite literally, a bottle that delivers a great customer experience. It’s called “ClearRx,” and it was developed in 2005 by graphic designer Deborah Adler. She sought to […]

Want to Enhance Your Customer Experience?

Faced with maturing markets and increased competition, many companies are seeking to differentiate themselves by enhancing their customer experience — but those efforts might be misguided. That’s not because customer experience is a poor source of competitive differentiation (on the contrary, it appears to be a compelling driver of shareholder value). Rather, it’s because companies […]

Payoff From Great Customer Experience?

What’s a great, differentiated customer experience really worth to an insurance carrier? It’s a vexing question for the insurance industry, where the idea of investing in a better customer experience is often met with skepticism. Carriers may publicly affirm the importance of customer-centricity, but many in the C-suite privately question the value of customer experience […]

Verizon Strike: Silver Lining and a Lesson

A strike of 40,000 Verizon employees could be the best thing that has ever happened to the telecom company’s customer experience. That’s not because the managers filling in for the front-line workers are better at serving customers (a company executive acknowledged as much in a recent Washington Post interview). Rather, it’s because these managers are getting […]

Did Uber Just Make a Wrong Turn?

Last month, Uber Technologies took action to heal a rift with its drivers, but it may have inadvertently created a rift with its customers. The company announced a class action settlement with its California and Massachusetts drivers, who sued Uber for classifying them as independent contractors, rather than as employees. The settlement, if approved by […]

Forget Big Data — Focus on Small Data

In their rush to jump on the big data bandwagon, many organizations have lost sight of a much simpler yet effective source of customer insight: “small data.” Big data is about synthesizing, mining and analyzing mounds of seemingly unrelated information to derive actionable insights about your customer. It’s a complex science but one that can […]

Amazon Prepares for Zombie Apocalypse

Amazon is revered for being a very forward-looking business. So, with the inclusion of a “zombie apocalypse” clause in its latest terms of service, should we all be worried? It’s right there in paragraph 57.10 of the company’s Lumberyard games development engine, a 3D game design program for use with Amazon Web Services (AWS): In this […]

Top 10 Ways to Spook Policyholders

What are you afraid of this Halloween? That your customers might disappear like ghosts? That your competitors might pick them off like vultures? That it’s all going to drive you batty? Your fears may not be unfounded, given public perceptions about insurance carriers, agents and brokers. Many people don’t find the industry trustworthy. (Just more […]

How to Hire for Attitude: 5 Steps

What do companies like Southwest Airlines, Ritz-Carlton and Zappos have in common? They hire for attitude and train for skill. It’s a simple mantra but one that has a profound impact on how to successfully recruit and select new employees. Prioritizing Soft Skills During their hiring process, these companies weigh “attitudinal” characteristics very heavily. These […]

How to Avoid Commoditization

How can a company liberate itself from the death spiral of product commoditization? Competing on price is generally a losing proposition—and an exhausting way to run a business. But when a market matures and customers start focusing on price, what’s a business to do? The answer, as counterintuitive as it may seem, is to deliver […]

2015 ROI Survey on Customer Experience

Six years ago, we launched the Customer Experience ROI Study in response to a sad but true reality: Many business leaders pay lip service to the concept of customer experience – publicly affirming its importance, but privately skeptical of its value. We wondered… how could one illustrate the influence of a great customer experience, in a language […]

The One Thing Missing for Innovation

“Innovate or die,” the saying goes. But as companies try to sharpen their competitive edge with new product and service ideas, many don’t realize that their efforts are fundamentally misguided. That’s because their innovation process is often missing one essential ingredient: their customers. Companies establish innovation incubators and idea labs. They hold brainstorming sessions and […]

What Microsoft’s Errors Can Teach Us

What would it take to convince people that your business delivers a great customer experience? For tech giant Microsoft, the answer was more than $1 billion. That’s how much the company reportedly spent on its Windows 8 marketing campaign when the new operating system was launched in 2012. (See, for example, “Microsoft Betting BIG On Cloud With […]

Why Health Insurers Make People Ill

‘Tis the season for health insurance open enrollment, which can mean only one thing: My blood pressure is going up. Health insurers talk a lot about how they’re my “wellness partner,” helping me “live a healthier life” and “empowering me to make good decisions.” But I find all they do is make me ill… sick […]

Why to Invest in the Customer Experience

If you want to deliver a great customer experience, you better be prepared to pay up…  right? Maybe not. Conventional wisdom suggests that with an enhanced customer experience comes greater expense. But that’s not always the case. The fact is, a better experience and lower costs can actually go hand-in-hand. The origins of that unlikely pairing lie […]

Why Focus on Customer Experience? Here’s Why

Let’s face it, insurance is not an industry known for the quality of its customer experience. Rather, it’s an industry known more for its complexity, its lack of transparency and its stubborn adherence to old-fashioned ways of doing business. Granted, some insurance providers are trying to counter this reputation — a few have even been […]

Who Owns the Customer Experience?

Who owns the customer? For insurance companies that work through intermediaries, it’s a controversial question that often stirs spirited debate between carriers and producers. But there’s another question that’s even more important: Who owns the customer experience? Regardless of who insurers think owns the customer, the reality is that key parts of the policyholder experience are shaped […]

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