Tag Archives: customer experience

How CX, Product Teams Must Sync Up

Any consumer-serving organization knows how important both its customer experience (CX) and product development teams are. What the organization must also remember is how important the synergy between the two is.

There are many departments that keep an organization running smoothly, but two that must be in sync are your customer experience (CX) and product development teams. Your CX team has the most insight into your customers and, therefore, understands the challenges they face and that the product could solve. The most successful companies are the ones whose product teams leverage the CX team’s customer insights and drive brand loyalty. 

Steve Jobs is quoted as saying, “You’ve got to start with the customer experience and work backward to the technology.”

Here are a few tips to ensure that your CX and product teams can work together efficiently.

Align on a common goal

Despite being two different departments and playing different roles in the company, the CX and product teams must align on a common goal: to solve customer problems and create an engaging customer experience by working together.

Having a shared goal leads to more efficient teamwork and guides fluidity across teams. 

Have each other on speed dial

The CX and product teams must be in constant communication, filling in one another daily about how the customer is experiencing the product.

It’s a good idea for the two departments to connect regularly so that the CX team can share the insights they’ve gathered from customers, what drives customers to contact the company and what the general customer sentiment is when they contact the company. 

Likewise, the product team must share details about product updates that are in the pipeline. This knowledge empowers CX teams to respond to answer customer questions, troubleshoot and retain customer trust.

See also: 3 Ways to Improve Customer Experience

Focus on the feedback loop

The feedback loop is a process in which customers’ experiences with the product are analyzed and shared with the product team to create a product that better meets needs.  

The CX team must first develop a scalable system to granularly track and aggregate data about what drives customers to contact the company.

Although communicating with the customer opens a door of opportunity to improve their perception of the brand, most of the time, when a customer contacts you, it’s because the company or product has failed omehow. This failure point is where the feedback loop starts.

It is then up to CX team members to not only identify the underpinning reasons why customers contacted the company but to also provide such delightful experiences that customers feel more connected to the company than they did before. A great way to measure the latter is to request customer satisfaction ratings of that experience, taking particular note of the response rate to that survey itself. The customers who are most wowed by their customer experience (whether positively or negatively) are the ones who will take the time to respond to your survey. 

The final part of the feedback loop is for the CX team to regularly share which parts of the product could be updated, to both reduce customer servicing costs and help inform and prioritize the product development road map.

Encourage a humanistic approach to business

Make sure your customer advocates embody empathy. They are the ones who are communicating with the customers and responding to their needs. Therefore, they must have the people skills to make the support interaction as pleasant as possible. 

Entrepreneur Tony Allessandra puts this astutely, “Being on par in terms of price and quality only gets you into the game. Service wins the game.” Customer advocates are the face of the company and the first stop for your customers when something goes awry. It’s critical that they know how valuable their role is and that the company empowers them to genuinely meet customer needs.

Your customers’ expectations of their support experiences are different and may vary. Therefore, it’s critical to provide customers with various options. This can involve allowing them to connect with you through different channels, such as chat, email or phone.

See also: Elon Musk and Your Feedback Loop

As for the product team, they must continually look for ways to improve the product experience and recognize the expertise that the CX team has. This will ensure that they’re continuously learning and expanding both their product and customer expertise. 

There are many benefits when your CX and product development teams are aligned on the type of customer experience the company aims to provide. Although the two teams have different day-to-day roles, they both play an important role in helping one another create a customer experience that inspires brand loyalty.

Why Customer Journey Mapping Is Crucial

High-touch brands and industries have led consumers to expect that they can interact with brands whenever they want, however they want. These omni-channel expectations have become especially difficult for insurers, many of whom were already lagging other industries in terms of digital and self-service capabilities. 

Every brand touchpoint that insurance carriers offer can serve as both an opportunity and a risk—while positive interactions will build customer relationships and build trust, a subpar experience can have the opposite effect. Journey mapping is often the first step insurers take in engineering these experiences. 

Journey maps identify, visualize and describe every single brand touchpoint, including getting a quote, filing a claim, making a policy change and paying a bill. In a sense, they serve as a guide for marketers to build out an omni-channel experience. They can help identify gaps in the experience as well as find critical moments for consumers, whether rational or emotional. Successful journey mapping can help drive customer engagement, loyalty and trust, which boosts an insurer’s image and the bottom line. 

Making Journey Maps That Matter

Journey maps can also allow insurers to visualize user experiences over a particular time period. While customers may be the group that come to mind for most marketers, insurance organizations should also be mindful of the agent and employee experience. Some journey maps focus on all three groups at once. 

As with any new project, the best journey maps require structure. Organizations need to establish a clear framework, set of goals and defined scope for journey maps. This is especially important as journey maps can serve as a common point of reference for teams all across an insurer, including product teams, underwriting, operations, data science and marketing. Each department has a unique view of the customer journey and can identify gaps that other teams might not notice. 

Companies that have successfully generated an outside-in journey map standardized guiding principles across the organization, got feedback from distribution partners and had executive sponsors offering governance. Journey mapping is an iterative process, so the more involvement from varying departments across an insurer, the better. 

See also: COVID: Agents’ Chance to Rethink Insurance

What Goes on a Journey Map?

Not every journey map will be composed of the same elements, just as not every insurer has the same customer touchpoints. The format of a journey map depends on what business problems an insurer needs to address and which teams are involved. There are some commonalities, however. 

Most journey maps include some of the following features:

  • The journey’s stages
  • The steps of each stage 
  • Actors and personas 
  • Triggers 
  • List of challenges and perceived obstacles 
  • Brand touchpoints 
  • Data and analytics requirements

The team in charge of designing a journey map analyzes every stage of the journey from a customer perspective. What is the customer thinking, feeling or experiencing along the way? Pinpointing specific moments of excitement or frustration for customers is pivotal if an insurer wants to generate an outside-in picture of their customer journey. 

Above all, journey mapping should be founded on the principles noted earlier. There should be cross-departmental governance to ensure engagement and a customer focus. Insurers should also be sure to establish a measurement framework with stated key performance indicators (KPIs) describing success along the customer journey.

KPIs commonly include metrics such as customer satisfaction survey scores, behavior metrics like time to completion and call-center volume relative to digital. The scope of the project should remain fixed on the customer journey to ensure the story line feels realistic and to keep progress on track. 

Journey mapping alone cannot mitigate the challenges of creating an engaging customer experience, but they are a powerful tool insurers can use as part of a larger strategy. Often, the collaboration involved in creating a journey map is just as important as the map itself.

To learn more about the components of a journey map and how to launch a successful journey mapping project, read Novarica’s full report, Customer Journey Mapping: Key Issues and Best Practices.

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 also possess keen insight into their customers’ needs, wants and aspirations.

That insight helps drive smart, customer-centric innovation, which enables these firms to regularly deploy small improvements in the customer experience, as well as bigger, game-changing advancements. They have a skill that is particularly valuable during disruptive periods (such as recessions and pandemics), when customer needs are quickly evolving.

Many of these growth-fueling innovations are triggered when companies uncover unmet customer needs, which is essentially the holy grail of market research. Figure out how to address a customer need that others have yet to identify, and you’ll be in a market-leading position.

Organizations collectively spend tens of billions of dollars each year on market research, much of it focused on revealing overt and latent customer needs. While such investments can be valuable, they deserve to be supplemented with other intelligence-gathering techniques, some of which are decidedly low-cost.

One such example is an approach that your organization can employ any day of the week. All it involves is listening for one simple word whenever you, or anyone on your team, is interacting with prospects and customers. That word is “no.

When someone in your organization has to utter the word “no” in response to a customer request (or uses any similar, more diplomatic term), it’s a signal that the customer might have a legitimate need that your business cannot currently satisfy.

Imagine all the questions that your sales representatives, service staff, billing specialists or any other employee fields where they have to tell the customer “no.”

Can your product do [x]? Can I fill out those forms electronically? Can I schedule an appointment online? Do you offer contactless pick-up and return? Can I switch to a different payment schedule? Can I control that device with my phone? Does it come in a smaller size? Is there a way I can track this order? Can you text me when the technician is on his way? Is there a trial so I can test out your service before buying?

At a lot of companies, customer questions that can’t be answered in the affirmative basically turn into “shoulder shrug” moments. Employees say “no” to the customer, resign themselves to being somewhat unhelpful and then move on to the next inquiry.

But imagine if employees took careful note of every time they had to say “no” to the customer, every time they had to acknowledge that they (or the product they were selling/servicing) couldn’t accommodate the customer’s need.

And then imagine that employees had a regular forum where those “stories of no” could be shared with management, where themes could be spotted, where unmet customer needs could be identified and where remedial innovation could be spurred.

See also: COVID: Agents’ Chance to Rethink Insurance

In practice, this could be as simple as a supervisor periodically asking staff at the end of the day to describe situations where they had to say “no” to a customer. Or it could be more sophisticated, with employees actually recording that information in a centralized database that management then reviews.

The point is that with every no, there’s a chance to dive a bit deeper – to not just deliver the customer experience, but to improve it. To not just help one customer, but all customers. To question the status quo, and re-imagine how the experience could be wholly redesigned, or even just tweaked, to better accommodate an apparent customer need.

Instill the discipline in your organization to take this extra step, and over time it will help reveal unmet customer needs that can drive meaningful CX improvements and innovations. All without the expense of a big market research project.

It can be quite a challenge to create and maintain a competitively differentiated customer experience. To make that endeavor a little easier, however, just remember to “follow your no’s.”

This article can originally be found here.

The ‘Race to Zero’ in Insurance SaaS

There has been a radical change taking place in insurance over the past few years. It revolves around the race to zero – or, the concept of streamlining the end user experience to ask less and less information when it comes time to file and process claims.

Regardless of what stage of the digital transformation journey the industry has been in, meeting and exceeding customer expectations has always been a priority – as has been the journey to find smarter ways to do business. Without either of these things, not many organizations would be successful. 

Asking less and less from consumers is not necessarily a new concept – but that doesn’t mean that it isn’t more important than ever in 2020. 

In 2020, not only is the race to zero more possible than ever (thanks to improvements in software-as-a-service (SaaS), digital technologies and data ecosystems), it’s becoming an expectation. 

This is largely being driven by two things: new generations of digitally native consumers who are used to seamless data integrations and information access across every aspect of their lives; and organizations looking for ways to evolve their processes to work smarter and more efficiently to meet these expectations while also remaining profitable.

Whether every line of insurance or business type can get to these hypothetical zero inputs is irrelevant. What’s important is that the new world of SaaS-based solutions, and a transformation to data-driven ecosystems living in the cloud, are changing the insurance game at speeds we’ve not experienced before.

Whatever that limit is, here are a few ways that any organization can realize its potential:

Enable Continuing Improvements With SaaS

It was really only five years ago that we started seeing early adopters embrace SaaS – and only in the last year or so that there’s been a drastic change wherein the majority are heading toward that model. One of the chief reasons for this is the configurability and malleability of new SaaS systems compared with legacy systems. 

Insurance is driven by data; however, in the past, as insurers would get new data feeds, it was difficult to take advantage of them in a timely fashion – because existing systems and processes were so locked in. Now, with modern SaaS systems, it’s much easier to make changes to processes, workflows and rules, so that as new types of data and analytics tools become available you can use them to your advantage – and to the advantage of insureds.  

See also: Digital Darwinism: Time to Move Faster  

Avoid Limiting the Value of New Data

Data is golden – but pouring new data into an old process often doesn’t get you where you need to go or get your processes any closer to the hypothetical zero. Instead, we must be thinking about new data sets in new ways and imagining how they can actually affect or drive a new process.  

This is no easy feat, and what we’ve seen some carriers do (innovate while understanding the legacy processes within existing organizations) is start companies or build new insurance products. This freedom to innovate, while keeping data outside existing core systems, means the data’s value isn’t limited in a legacy environment where it’s easy to get bogged down. 

This sort of innovation remains one of the more interesting recent developments – and will continue to evolve as insurers look to create data-driven products that change the way insureds engage with insurers. The market has reacted to enable this evolution with highly customizable, out-of-the-box SaaS solutions built around configurability and speed.

Think Agility

When it comes to meeting this hypothetical zero in a new data-driven world, we must also consider IT processes – and the agility that’s required to move to market at speed. Things used to take a long time (new products released on an annual or multi-year basis, for example). However, with new, low-code core systems, insurers can be very agile about when and how products are released – and the types of data sources or third-party integrations that can be leveraged in a way that makes a competitive difference in the market. 

This can be a challenge for IT departments that aren’t used to working in this fashion, so the mindset truly needs to shift toward “agility.” This goes for updates too. If there are opportunities to prefill through partnerships and integrations, or feed in new data sets, insurers leveraging new systems and processes can easily modify an app or existing product.

Use Data to Make Better Decisions

We’ve talked a lot about how to be agile and think about new ways to access data and information – and reimagine your processes around it. But, once you have that information, there’s another half of the equation you must consider – can I make better decisions and use the right information and tools, such as analytics or scores, to route things appropriately and for easy cases? 

From the front end, if I’m using data prefill and getting better data that I might have from older forms, for example, how can this contribute to making better, more informed and faster decisions in the insurance process? Taking this a step further, during times of strain or circumstances where losses pile up, can my organization find opportunities to use data and prefill to offer straight-through processing and enable our workforce to focus its efforts on the more difficult and nuanced cases that require a very hands-on, tailored approach? 

If the outcome isn’t better decisions, the value of more data often isn’t realized.

See also: Challenges Remain on Use of Data, Analytics 

Think Open yet Secure

A final point worth noting is the transition to a more open, API-based ecosystem in insurance. Traditionally, the industry has been highly closed off, but we’re seeing more and more negotiations around how to access and build around APIs. With this transition to “openness” (along with a shift in mindset for the entire industry), innovation can take strides, and the race to zero for both insureds and insurers becomes more of a reality. 

The core value of insurance will still be worth its weight in gold, but imagine the types of solutions we can develop with an abundance of new information, new processes and new technologies in place. 

For anyone in the insurance industry reading this, how do you not get excited about the possibilities in front of us? A new world of opportunity awaits in the race to zero – both in terms of how we reimagine products and policies for consumers and how we operate and process internally. 

For those of you not involved in this data-driven insurance technology ecosystem – what are you waiting for?

3 Ways to Improve Customer Experience

Most people buy single insurance products, mainly auto. For them insurance is a set-it-up-and-forget-about-it problem. They want to spend as little time as possible thinking about their car insurance. In fact, 90% of insurers worldwide can go a full year without communicating with customers.  

The story changes a bit as customers get older. They get married and maybe buy another car. They buy a house and need homeowners insurance. Maybe they have children and start to think more seriously about life insurance and disability. People in the second half of their lives spend a lot more time considering insurance.

A first-time insurance buyer’s experience might be radically different from that in other industries like e-commerce, where the majority of customers make at least three visits to a site before purchasing. But, given how valuable a life-long customer is to an insurance company, getting the first-time experience right for the customer could make a difference of tens of thousands of dollars over their lifespan.

Although customers interact with insurance companies much less than with their favorite retail brands, customers still expect the same high standard of experience across the board.

You may only get one chance to talk to your customers, and it’s likely they need something, and fast. No one is casually browsing GEICO or Allstate to waste time at work. It is critical that the information put in front of the consumer is relevant, contextual and useful. A personal experience can make all the difference here.

See also: Bold Prediction on Customer Experience  

Use these three tips to make sure you’re prepared with answers when customers open the app, call the support center or search the site. 

Ditch the Jargon

What do you call that one form? With the numbers? Something about claims?

Your customers aren’t insurance experts. Making search too literal can make it difficult for customers to find what they’re looking for. Track how customers are articulating their needs in the search bar and reflect that language in your search results to save them time. And to save your customer support center from a frustrated phone call. 

Know When to Sell and When to Service

A customer who just purchased a hefty renter’s insurance policy, bundled with auto and life, is probably not trying to purchase that bundle again. If the person comes to the site and searches, he’s probably looking for help or for policy records. Search results should reflect each customer’s unique journey and provide an FAQ or links to access the account, not the best deal for new customers. Use a recommendation engine and apply machine learning in the form of personalized offers to put new and relevant information in front of existing customers.

Don’t Put All Your Eggs in the Chatbot Basket

AI-powered virtual assistants are a great way to help customers help themselves. But beware: Bots are still learning. Forrester cites USAA as a great example of combining the power of a virtual agent with the option for speaking with someone. “Customers can still reach a human associate when the virtual assistant does not understand the question, avoiding dead ends that lead customers to abandon their sessions in the app.” (Forrester Research, Inc., Simplify Insurance Customer Journeys by Improving Search, 2019).

See also: 8 Key Changes for Customer Experience  

As an insurance company, you only have a few chances to delight customers. Be sure the digital experience across mobile and online channels leads them to the products, documents and support they need.