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How USAA Drives The Highest Customer Loyalty In The Insurance Industry

By Nigel Holloway

Empowered employees serve customers better. This six-part series explores the link between employee experience, customer experience and growth as highlighted in the recent Forbes Insights report, “The Experience Equation: How Happy Employees And Customers Accelerate Growth.” To read the full report, click here. Salesforce offers one platform with endless possibilities to help companies boost employee and customer engagement. Click here to learn more.

Ninety-six percent member retention. The highest Net Promoter Scores in home insurance, auto insurance and banking for 11 consecutive years. Consistent “employer of choice” ratings on Glassdoor. And 64% of members reporting that they’re “very satisfied” with the services they receive.

These figures are far and above those of most insurance companies. So how does USAA do it?

To start, its leadership team is united in putting its people first—both its 12.8 million members who collectively co-own the mutual company and its approximately 34,000 employees.

Service is at the core of the mission, according to Neal Rideout, senior vice president and general manager of property and casualty distribution and service. The company’s members and employees are equally important to its continued success in serving the military community.

A Shared Vision

It’s no coincidence that USAA’s members and employees are both happy with the company, and that leadership prioritizes both. As recent research released by Forbes Insights and Salesforce shows, positive employee experience drives great customer experience, and they work together to drive company success and growth. Companies ranked highly for both customer and employee experience saw median three-year CAGR that was nearly double that of companies with lower experience rankings.

“Focus on taking care of your customers and your employees, and you’ll get the business results you desire,” says Rideout. 

But it requires a concerted effort and intentional organization to get departments to come together around this shared vision. One way USAA achieves this is with “HR business partners” who are integral parts of every team, including sales and service—but who report to HR.

This structure ensures that employee needs and customer needs are aligned and that every team is always thinking about how the company can serve its people both internally and externally. Our research found that the most significant organizational obstacle to achieving great customer and employee experiences comes when companies emphasize one goal without the other. USAA has found a way to avoid this pitfall and bake alignment into how it operates. The result has been happy customers, happy employees and an impressive $35.6 billion in revenue for the fiscal year ending in December 2019.

What Drives A Great Experience?

USAA sets the bar high for itself, aiming to provide a customer experience equal to what the best digital-native companies provide. Rideout brings up the shift from in-person to digital and the increased demand for self-service options on USAA’s platforms. Each member could have a multitude of touchpoints, from conversations with help-center representatives to evaluating insurance options online.

Great results can come only from “understanding the drivers of good and not-so-good experiences” and from using these to prioritize resources, says Rideout. “There is a dynamic balance between our member, our employee and our bottom-line business results that relies on continuous adjustments for optimal results.”

For Rideout, it’s good to hear that a customer is satisfied. But “satisfaction” can be a vague term, so it’s important to understand with precision what “satisfaction” is really measuring. It needs to be considered a complete experience with all of its constituent parts.

Assessing the effectiveness of customer experience management means breaking down those parts and analyzing them. To do this, USAA minutely tracks customers along their entire journeys. The result is a rich panorama of customer interactions that helps USAA provide a frictionless customer experience.

Loyal Customers Start With Happy Employees

“If high levels of satisfaction aren’t driving the business results you desire, there may be an opportunity to improve customer experience in one of the many other components of the end-to-end experience,” Rideout says. An essential driver of great customer experience is employees who are themselves having a positive experience at the company. 

The executives surveyed in our research agree: 89% of revenue-growth leaders say that improving employee experience leads directly to enhanced customer experience. Great customer experience fuels growth—but as Rideout’s experience suggests, you have to make your employees happy first.

Strengthening For The Future

When Covid-19 and the resulting economic downturn hit, USAA went into action quickly. It instituted an array of financial relief programs and returned approximately $1 billion in dividends to its auto insurance policyholders. Expanded benefits for employees included deductible and coinsurance waivers for medical treatment and up to three weeks of emergency pay for pandemic-related illnesses or needs.

Faced with major challenges, USAA responded as it has for the past century: by providing the highest level of service to the military community. This is the gold standard, and it’s what USAA continually works toward.

Nigel Holloway is a freelance writer and was deputy editor of Forbes Global from 1997 to 2002. He has been writing for Forbes Insights since 2017.

Looking for more on how to empower your teams to deliver personalized customer experiences? Salesforce Customer 360 is one integrated CRM platform that unites all your teams around your customer. Click here to learn more.

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