The 3 Key Principles Driving Customer-Centricity at Standard Life


Standard Life’s Managing Director, Customer and Marketing spoke at an event about how they turned the company’s mind-set around to be more customer and employee focused.

Stephen Ingledew is the Managing Director, Customer and Marketing at Standard Life, and at last month’s Customer Experience Transformation for Financial Services conference he spoke about the journey they’ve been on and the mistakes they’ve learned from on their road to customer experience excellence.

The biggest struggle Stephen highlighted that they faced on this journey was a change of mind-set, not only about customer experience but about employee engagement as well.

"If you want to be a customer driven business you have to value employees. We didn’t have that connection a few years ago," he explained.

To change this internal focus they went from a mind-set of being a manufacturer of products to that of a retailer. Moving from a product centricity to a customer focus they started seeing customers as human beings, rather than investors, and the same happened with the employees. They were not just employees but their broader life was taken into consideration, shifting to the journey they’re on which Stephen said "is important to embrace".

SEE ALSO: Interview with Stephen Ingledew about customer-centricity, buzzword big data and customer personas

Key Principles Driving Change

The three key principles applied in this change of thinking were: Shop Floor Leadership, Colleagues as Customers, and New Ways of Working

Shop Floor Leadership tackled the challenge of getting the leaders in the organisation to walk in the shows of the customer to create the ultimate customer mind-set. Stephen highlighted that everyone in the business needs to be involved in the customer journey, you just need to consider the ‘how’.

Colleagues as Customers ties into the previously referenced importance of creating employee engagement. Previously, the organisation assumed that because employees were also their customers, they are after all enrolled into the company pension scheme, that they are automatically brand advocates too. But this wasn’t the case. A special offer on a product does not automatically generate advocacy, even if the product is a great one. It is about creating an emotional connection; recognising how the products become relevant to our people as human beings in the broadest sense.

Additionally, Stephen said that it was important to engage with colleagues from diversity point of view. Therefor they actively started to encourage communities to develop themselves. For example, they found they had no employees under 21, now they have over 200. They also have communities for women’s development and LGBT colleagues, and welcome anyone to join, not just those that fit the particular niche. Stephen said: "It’s been hugely powerful for us in terms of putting things on the table and show our people we’re serious about embracing a customer mind-set."

New Ways of Working , also called WOW, was started up to break down the silos that existed in the organisation. For example, they married the roles of the CMO and CFO and no longer say them as single people. This change in mind-set ensured that they went from reporting data to actively using it in the business to drive decisions that can not be made in isolation.

Stephen referred to the join-up of marketing, finance and IT as "cross-functional love". He defined it as a "shared vision, shared goals and a shared understanding".

Keeping the Momentum Going

The Chairman at the Customer Experience Transformation for Financial Services conference enquired how at Standard Life they keep the momentum of these changes going, without slipping back into the comfort zone of business as usual.

"It can feel like three steps forward, two steps back," Stephen said. "And sometimes even two steps forward and three steps back. You need to recognise the vision you want to get to and recognise it’s not straight line. It’s zigzag bumpy road, but you must let the data talk – what customers are saying – to give it a level of objectivity. Then you have to change to make it commercially successful."