Tag Archives: cx

Can CX Be a Stand-Alone Discipline?

Let’s say you’ve appointed a head of customer experience, who is part of your senior management team. You have a customer experience practice. This might be a small team of a few people, or it might be a larger division or department within your organization. And you’ve implemented practices and procedures driven by customer experience. You’re doing research. You’re creating and using personas and journey maps. Maybe you’re even doing a service blueprint. And, of course, you have metrics and measurements. From thoseat, you get analytics and intelligence. You know what your customers need. You know how they feel; you know what they’re saying. And you are acting based on what you learn. You’re changing priorities, decisions and investments. So, you’ve established the discipline, and you’re doing everything right.

But are you really? Don’t get me wrong. Everything you’re doing in that scenario is essential to your organization. But if your customer experience discipline is siloed, if it is simply aligned but not embedded and woven throughout your organization into everything you do, and if it is not a key driver for almost everything you do, the notion that you’re truly driven by customer experience is more myth than reality.

Creating the reality of being driven by customer experience requires education, understanding and implementation of the discipline throughout your entire organization. It calls for the knowledge of how customer experience differentiates from customer service and the need to share, apply and nurture practices and assets, not simply develop and document them. This is not about creating personas and journey maps and then putting them on a shelf or implementing them within a siloed discipline. CX assets and practices need to be top of mind and referenced frequently by everyone – in thoughts, conversations, planning, practices and absolutely decision-making. And, just as your customers’ journeys continually evolve, so must your CX practices and assets. 

I cannot stress enough that the associated knowledge or practice of customer experience affects almost everyone in your organization and just about everything in your organization in the same way that everyone and everything in your organization affects your customers, whether you realize it or not. Customer experience should become an inextricable part of your culture. This is not accomplished top down, and it’s not accomplished bottom up. It needs to be woven throughout all of your strategies, plans, projects, workflows, conversations, decisions and how you apply technology.

To achieve this organic customer experience culture, all of these components need to be designed and orchestrated to enable the desired customer experience. It is not just going to happen. Done right, this transformation is a journey much like innovation or digital transformation, and it’s one that gets to the real heart of your organization and affects every aspect of what you do and why you do it. It’s a big journey. But like all big journeys, it begins with small steps and is about gaining momentum. Over time, customer experience will no longer be a thing you do, but rather will become a natural part of how you think, how you behave, and what drives your conversations, priorities, investments, and decisions. To move from the myth to the reality and become truly driven by customer experience, it is key to educate and involve everybody. Do not align, but rather embed. And go beyond the customer’s view and journey and look at your internal journey.

See also: 3 Ways to Improve Customer Experience

Is customer experience a discipline unto itself? I hope you would agree that customer experience is certainly a discipline, but that the last thing you want is to keep it unto itself.

ITL FOCUS: Customer Experience

Customer Experience


For maybe the first 15 years of the personal computer revolution, business and even government leaders talked a lot about the need for computer literacy. We were told that the very competitiveness of our nations depended on educating the populace to prepare for the digital age. Then Steve Jobs came along.

It turned out the problem wasn’t our lack of education. The problem was that computers were just too hard to use. Once Jobs and Apple brought the graphical user interface to computers, and once processors became powerful enough to handle the demands of GUIs, the talk of computer literacy faded. Then came the iPad and iPhone, making an intuitive experience available on almost any device. If you asked a teenager to define “computer literacy” today, he or she would likely say, “Hey, Siri….”

The insurance industry is trying hard to move into a “Hey, Siri” phase, as companies focus on drastically improving the customer experience. Companies are finding that they have to reinvent chunks of their businesses to really get the experience right. Yes, they have to focus on the ways that they touch customers, through agents and brokers, through call centers, through adjusters and through an increasingly broad array of electronic means. But a customer doesn’t just experience a company through a direct communication. Customers also experience, for instance, how long and painful an underwriting process or a claim is.

And here’s the thing: This emphasis on customer experience requires a revolution for companies but merely an evolution for customers. Insurers have to move heaven and earth to add computing power, to deal with new kinds of data, to come up with new analytical models, to design new processes and so on. Consumers just have to add an app or a phone number so they can text a company, have to e-sign documents rather than printing and mailing them, etc. — and consumers have already been doing these sorts of things with other companies in other industries.

So, customers may understand at some level all the effort that has to go into changing how they experience an insurance company — but they don’t really care.

As you’ll see from this month’s interview, from the appended articles and from a host of articles throughout the website, lots of noble efforts are underway, and companies are making progress, but improving customer experience is a marathon, not a sprint. Every January, I publish articles about how this is the year that the industry will figure out the customer experience. Then I publish more of those articles the following January… and the January after that. Despite the undeniable progress, I don’t expect to stop publishing those pieces any time soon.

– Paul Carroll, ITL’s Editor-in-Chief


An Interview with Scott McArthur, CRO, Statflo

We spoke with Scott McArthur, chief revenue officer, Statflo, about the impact of digitization on customer interactions.


3 Tips for Increasing Customer Engagement

Even before the pandemic, insurance customers were moving to digital channels and demanding the kind of smooth experience they get with Google and Amazon. With customers demanding new types of interactions and agencies and companies needing to increase leads in a world that’s gone from face-to-face to zoom, technology doesn’t have to be intimidating.


Key to Better CX: Think Like NTSB

Airlines are rarely held up as exemplars of customer experience, but in one important respect the industry deserves such recognition.


Why CX Must Trump Efficiency

Companies talk about improving customer experience but focus too much on saving money. Customer process automation does both.


Providing a Better Claims Experience

It’s important to consider the communication preferences of five different generations when building a better claims process.


Self-Service Portals Improve CX

81% of companies expect customer experience to be a key battleground. Self-service portals are a great place to start.


3 Ways to Optimize Customer Experience

Even in a heated marketplace, a superior customer contact center can let life insurers grow.


Millennials Demand Modern Experience

To address the life insurance gap among millennials and create more financial security, the industry needs to move quickly.


How to Increase Profits With Connected CX

Fostering connected experiences is vital to meeting customer expectations and succeeding in a technology-centric world.



Get to know this month’s FOCUS article authors:

Andi Dominguez

Tina Hammeke

Ian Jeffrey

Renaud Million

Jon Picoult

Thiru Sivasubramanian

Kseniya Yurevich

Learn More about ITL Focus

Interested in sponsoring ITL Focus or learning about other promotional opportunities? Contact us

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.

But one aspect of the airline customer experience is remarkably good, and consistently getting even better: the industry’s discipline in identifying and addressing the causes of accidents.

Say what you want about the awfulness of air travel, but it does have one undeniably redeeming quality: It’s really safe. While commercial airline accidents obviously garner a lot of media attention, they are extremely rare. Accounting for just 0.006 deaths per billion miles of travel, flying is the safest form of transportation out there, far safer than driving.

We were recently reminded of this, when a United Airlines plane suffered an engine failure moments after departing Denver International Airport. Pieces of the engine rained down on a Denver suburb. Fortunately, no one was hurt on the ground, nor on the plane, which quickly returned to the airport and made an emergency landing.

Within hours of the incident, the National Transportation Safety Board’s (NTSB) “Go Team” was mobilized, and it’s from their tireless work that all businesses can learn a valuable lesson.

Established in 1967, the NTSB is an independent government agency that investigates all civil aviation accidents, as well as major incidents involving other forms of transportation (such as train derailments).

The Go Team is a cornerstone of the NTSB’s investigative process. Ready to travel anywhere in the world at a moment’s notice, the team includes a variety of specialists – in aircraft structure, engines, hydraulic systems, crew performance and even air traffic control. They all descend on the accident site to piece together what happened and to determine what went wrong.

Within a matter of days, the NTSB issues a preliminary report. (An official, final report can take months if not years to publish, depending on the complexity of the incident.)

See also: 9 Months on: COVID and Workers’ Comp

But here’s the most important part: Based on its investigation, the NTSB releases safety recommendations, which can then be turned into “airworthiness directives” by the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA). Those directives, which can be issued on an emergency basis if necessary, establish legally enforceable rules that can dictate anything from aircraft design changes (which would be handled by the manufacturer) to maintenance procedure enhancements (which would be handled by the airline).

What does that disciplined process of investigating aviation accidents and addressing their root causes yield? Decades of consistent improvement in the civil aviation fatality rate, with the five-year moving average hitting an all-time low in 2019 (despite a marked increase in the number of flights).

Now, imagine if the above graph were charting the failure rate for your company’s customer experience, perhaps measured through product defects, complaints or some other indication of an experience gone wrong.

Because that’s really what the NTSB Go Team (and other countries’ aviation safety agencies) do. They root out the underlying cause of a failure in the experience. Granted, in the case of the NTSB, they’re looking at failures that can be grave, resulting in harm to dozens if not hundreds of passengers. But the value of the NTSB’s approach is applicable to any business, regardless of product or service sold.

Think of it this way: There are a finite number of reasons why an aircraft will suffer an operational failure. By rigorously investigating every failure, and directing aviation partners to pursue remedial action, the NTSB and FAA have gradually narrowed the list of potential failure points. Hence the remarkable and steady long-term decline in accident rates.

The same logic applies to your business. There are a finite number of reasons why your customer experience may fail, from a product design flaw to an outdated website link to an inaccurate instruction sheet. There may be a long list, but it is a finite list.

You would be remiss then, if you didn’t take the opportunity to investigate failures when they occur, pinpoint the root cause and address the underlying issue. Only by doing so can you start to check items off of that finite list and begin removing potential sources of experience failure from your customers’ lives.

To bring the NTSB’s proven approach to your organization, keep three things in mind:

  • Invest in investigation. When experience failures arise, people’s focus is (rightly) on solving the problem for the affected customer. Once that’s done, though, organizations just move on to the next task – answering the next call, resolving the next complaint, manufacturing the next widget. Resist that temptation. Culturally, people in your organization must understand that an essential part of experience recovery is asking yourself, “How did my customer even end up in this situation?”
  • Turn insights into action. It doesn’t help anyone if a field sales rep or a call center agent figures out the root cause of a customer experience failure, but then doesn’t have an outlet to communicate that to people who can do something about it. After all, the NTSB’s investigations would be pointless without their safety recommendations and the FAA’s associated airworthiness directives. Make sure there is a clear avenue for your staff to share their findings with those who can drive change, such as a manager or an internal CX improvement team.
  • Make it about progress, not punishment. Interestingly, conclusions from an NTSB investigation cannot be entered as evidence in a court of law. That is by design: The architects of the NTSB wanted the organization to be viewed as an independent party, focused on preventing future accidents, not facilitating litigation. In the business arena, staff need to be forthcoming to assist with root cause analysis. If they sense that the exercise is punitive, they’ll likely be reluctant to participate in a genuine way. Keep the exercise constructive, with an emphasis on continuous CX improvement.

Every company, even legendary ones, has to occasionally deal with customer experience failures. What separates the good from the great is how the organization approaches the resolution of those issues. Does it fix the problem for just one customer, or does it address the problem for all customers in the future. The NTSB has certainly demonstrated its proficiency in the latter approach, chipping away at root causes and turning air travel into the safest transportation experience on the planet.

See also: COVID, and How to Pivot to Innovation

So, the next time your organization encounters a customer experience failure, ask yourself, “Who’s on our Go Team?” Whether it’s a responsibility that lies with a dedicated unit, or an accountability that’s embedded in every staff member’s role – ensure this investigative work consistently gets done, because it’s that discipline that will keep your business flying higher.

A version of this article originally appeared on Forbes.com.

Why CX Must Trump Efficiency

There isn’t an insurance business in the land that isn’t talking about digital transformation. Whether talking about AI, robotics or platforms, the majority of the industry is confident it’s heading toward a brightly lit, digital future.

The motivation for transformation? We are told customers are demanding a better experience: an interaction that is quick, clean and gets the job done with minimal fuss.

But, for all the effort made, the customer experience in insurance is fundamentally the same as it was 10 or 15 years ago – it’s still based on call centers. I think that is because, while the stated driver for digital change may be the customer, its primary purpose has been to reduce costs.

That efficiency-first approach has resulted in many organizations looking to webforms to digitize their customer-facing processes.

Webforms do a decent job leveraging digitalization to automate the beginning of processes normally done manually. Yet any claim coming from a webform still requires the capable hands of an operations employee, who will perform the rest of the process and communicate the outcome to the customer. In addition, webforms can’t converse — reducing them, essentially, to digital monologue. While customers want a quick, hassle-free experience, many want that done through conversation of some kind. Conversations are comforting, familiar and create a sense of engagement that a static form can never replicate. 

A true digital experience is one that takes all the benefits of a one-to-one conversation and automates it using conversational process automation (CPA). That is the world that webforms were trying to create but failed to produce because of the focus on efficiency.


CPA leverages a chatbot conversational interface to deliver an efficient customer experience, thinking about the customer first while saving cost. It allows for the execution of high-value, customer-facing processes, integrated into insurance platforms and systems and complying with security and audit requirements.

CPA will, I believe, bring the digital change that so many seek. They can replicate the conversational style and effectiveness of a human call handler for the vast majority of recurrent insurance interactions – from quote and buy through to claim notification. 

CPA has the capacity to handle call volumes that only a very large, very expensive call center could match. Of course, there are limits to what CPA can currently do, but it is improving all the time — getting smarter at predicting queries, reacting to something that doesn’t fit into the box and leading the customer through complex processes. Webforms, for all their value, can never do that. 

As we collect more and more data through CPA, performance becomes more accurate and, according to a report from IT advisory firm Gartner, by 2022 70% of white-collar workers will interact with conversational platforms on a daily basis. 

See also: Insurtechs’ Role in Transformation

The combination of process automation and superior customer experience will drive efficiencies. A recent report by McKinsey estimates that, in the claims process alone, automation could reduce the cost of that journey by as much as 30%.

For insurance to be part of that digital future and to reap its rewards, the industry has to have customer experience as its main motivator, replicating all the value that a one-to-one conversation brings and putting the customer in control of the experience while keeping costs to a minimum.

If we persist in letting costs saving alone drive transformation, we are going to end up with fancier, more expensive tools than webforms that will deliver marginal efficiency while continuing to leave customers frustrated. And that would be a failure of purpose and progress.

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 – within two years – they’d be competing mostly on the basis of customer experience (Gartner). Yet, here we are five years after that prediction, and there’s widespread stagnation in customer experience quality (Forrester Research). Overall U.S. customer satisfaction is at the same level it was a decade ago (American Customer Satisfaction Index).

In study after study, companies say they’re going to increase their focus on customer experience. At the same time, CX gurus issue rosy annual prognostications about how that enhanced focus will manifest itself – such as in these examples, culled from prediction lists over the past couple years:

  • Companies will create more customer-centric cultures, using new recognition systems and training programs.
  • Companies will use technology to digitally transform the customer experience.
  • Companies will go the extra mile by empowering their employees to surprise and delight.
  • Companies will use robotic process automation to speed customer transactions.
  • Companies will leverage AI to automate customer interactions without making them feel mechanical.
  • Companies will break down silos and align customer experience strategies across functional domains.
  • Companies will use predictive analytics to create more personalized customer experience.
  • Companies will overhaul their voice-of-the-customer programs, relying more on text analytics of unstructured content, such as survey comments, call center recordings, social media conversations and online chat sessions.

However, despite all the expert predictions, despite all the pledges to focus on CX, the needle has not moved much for many companies. The disparity can’t just be attributed to heightened customer expectations, as even objective measures of CX maturity indicate that the vast majority of organizations lag in this regard (so much for that increased focus).

The problem is that many companies pay lip service to customer experience, pursuing it to create good annual report copy, rather than to drive fundamental changes in how they do business. When push comes to shove, CX initiatives are often subordinated to other priorities and starved for funding, according to the Qualtrics “State of Customer Experience Management” report.

That’s an unfortunate outcome, given the compelling evidence available that illustrates the ROI of a great customer experience (as well as the penalties exacted for a poor one). 

See also: The Best Boost to Customer Experience  

This is the reality in today’s business world, though, which is why there’s one bold customer experience prediction that actually has a high probability of coming true this year. That prediction is simply this: Not much will change.

Most organizations will lumber along, spinning their wheels on customer experience, discussing it endlessly, executing on minor improvements that amount to corporate window dressing, just so someone can “check the box” on their next performance review.

Most organizations will continue their navel-gazing, focusing inward on structural changes, role shifts, political infighting and inter-silo strife.

Most organizations will lose whatever little momentum they may have gained around customer experience improvement, as top executives with “Organizational Attention Deficit Disorder” spot some shiny new object that becomes the next initiative du jour.

Granted, this is quite a pessimistic outlook. But the fact is, most organizations are unremarkable, and are destined to stay that way. That’s precisely why, when a company actually does break from the pack and deliver a differentiated customer experience, it turns heads.

So, rather than obsess over what everyone else will be doing (or what the CX gurus say everyone else will be doing), focus instead on what your company can do to avoid the fate of mediocrity.

See also: How Fine Print Ruins Customer Experience  

Think about how to send a clear, unmistakable signal to the marketplace — and your workplace — that something fundamental is changing. 

A signal that you’re no longer going to do it “like we’ve always done.” 

A signal that you’re disrupting the status quo in your industry. 

A signal that you’re liberating customers from long-simmering frustrations.

A signal that you’re dispensing with the typical CX platitudes, in favor of very tangible and compelling changes that will make a difference in the lives of your customers and the employees who serve them.

It’s disheartening to say that little will change in the state of most companies’ customer experiences next year. It’s not a fait accompli, though.  If you don’t want your company to be among those validating this bold prediction, well then…  go do something bold!

You can find this article originally published here on Forbes.