Allianz: Overcoming internal bias to truly serve the customer

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Chanice Henry

Customer centric strategy allianz

Customer centric strategies

Onsite at Qualtrics’ X4 event in London, Chanice Henry, Editor in Chief of the CX Network spoke to Felicity Holdgate, Global Director of Customer Experience and Michael Maicher, Global Head, Global Broker Management and Customer Experience Management from Allianz about overcoming internal bias in a company and actually being guided by customer desires.

The annual Qualtrics event sees professionals from customer, employee, brand and research fields experience talks from brands such as Three Ireland, Unilever and Google. In addition to the Allianz keynote, the two customer experience experts discussed a particular project with surprising results: when they compared what internal consensus prioritised to what customers wanted – they uncovered a big difference.

Read More: Why X-Data is Key to Breaking Through in the Experience Economy

Do you have a tip for practitioners when their board is withholding budget and applying pressure for them to link ROI to CX initiatives?

Felicity: “One critical thing is making sure the programme [itself] and what you’re doing in the CX programme is really linked to the business objectives.  Actually showing how the CX programme can support the achievement of business objectives isn’t necessarily showing the ROI straightaway but you gain buy-in through showing how it can link in.

“One part of our strategic objectives every year at Allianz is dedicated to true customer centricity and how it links with the other business objectives. It’s something we’ve done from the start of our programme, gaining senior management buy-in and linking it to business objectives – that’s the place to start, because you need time to show ROI.  If you’re like us as an organisation, you probably have lots of data in lots of different places, so it might not be so easy.”

Michael: “From my perspective you need to understand what a customer experience programme really is.  In the end, for us it’s a way to transform. [All around us we see transformation]: the insurance market is transforming and our clients our transforming in massive ways, going into new products and services, so we need to make sure that a customer experience programme is a change agent of that transformation.

“If you apply the ROI logic, then you see it as an investment like any other investment, and then you’re actually missing the point.”

Respondents in our recent research said customer journey mapping is a key investment priority of theirs. We’ve been doing this research for about five years and customer journey mapping has always emerged at the top, but interestingly, last year, it took a bit of a dip. Any thoughts on this?

Felicity: “We believe customer journey mapping is really important. When we first started, we actually modelled our survey based on the customer journey to a certain extent, and then through the process we’ve used customer insights to build customer journeys in certain areas.

“The complexity we have being a global organisation is that there can be differences between countries. We also have lots of different products and there are various different journeys along the way both for our brokers and for our clients.

“I think it’s [about] turning insights into interactions using the customer journey mapping approach. We have actually developed a customer excellence methodology which we used within the Allianz Group. As part of that when you’re approaching a project you start with the customer insights and you use those to map the pain-points and the delights through the process, and that is used to prioritise what action is taken.

“We did an interesting exercise where we [asked ourselves] ‘what would we prioritise if we did it [purely] from our perspective along this journey?’, [when we compared] this to what the customer prioritises, [we found] they’re not the same.  That’s methodology and approach, [has enabled us] to prioritise a lot more effectively for our customers’ benefit along their journey and not our internal journey.”

Michael: “Actually, I don’t like the term: customer journey mapping, because I think it’s a bit passive.  You are mapping customers, so what?  We call it customer excellence because we want to be [about] taking true actions after the mapping process. This is driving the organisation and creating the true benefits jointly with the customers.

“In the B2B sector, there’s a lot about co-creation with customers now happening, and that’s also a true differentiator.  If you’re able to cocreate with your client, you’re able actually to learn jointly with your client in that process how to improve, and that’s a lot of interactions.  It’s not only one mapping, it’s about an interactive element over a longer period of time, and this is something we would like to pursue much more.”

What are the key things practitioners should remember when it comes to improving their data analytics practices to better customers’ experiences for today and also the future?

Felicity:We have lots of different data systems for different data in different places, depending on countries and other factors.  We’ve got a real focus this year on building a 360-degree view of our customer, pulling together the operational data, the financial data and the experience data into one place, that’s a large project.  The recommendation I would make [is to start by] making sure that the customer experience links with your CRM.

“We have a direct feed into our CRM.  Our salesforce and account managers can see the account level, on a contact level, what’s feedback been [given] and look at that compared to the financial and operational data that’s present.  That is an easier win, especially because it links with elements like Salesforce very well, and that can build a case for why you need to do it further to build it into a larger-scale and more expensive project.”

Michael: “The biggest challenge for a large corporation like ours where we are working in so many different countries and have so many different businesses to offer, is that we are not really able to see the complete 360 customer view. This is really one of our key concerns.

“Especially in the insurance market, which is [by] tradition very product-driven, to come [in and] say: ‘Okay, I’m not so interested in the product. I’m interested in the customer or in the distributor and truly understanding the connectivity of the different elements and then building that with new technology’, that’s fascinating.

“[It’s no longer about making a request and coming back in a year] – that never works because in that year, you’ll probably have lost your customer. You need to make sure that you’re really running fast.  Our implementation time currently per-country is below a month.”

Read More: Building A Results Driven Customer Experience Program

Would you say there are any CX trends that are unique to certain countries within EMEA?

Felicity: “I don’t think we necessarily see a trend based on a country.  I would say in Europe we’re seeing more focus, and even in the B2B space, around data privacy. [Questions] on ‘how are you using my data ?’ ‘I want you to be transparent in what data you have’, that’s definitely a trend in Europe.”

Michael:There are a few cultural differences in responding and assessing [from customers]. In Spain we have a rocketing response rate: people really like to give feedback.  In other places, maybe in Germany, there is more hesitation towards it and companies need to find good creative ways to get responses.  Globally, you see a difference on scoring, for instance if you run satisfaction surveys in Japan, you’ll always strike extremely low rates. If you compare that with the feedback you receive in the US, then you have a big gap. But you should actually do relative scores compared to your peers or over a period of time, then you get the right sense of it. 

“France is a tough place as well, people score lower than in other places.  If you just look at that on an isolated basis, then you feel like something is wrong in France, but  [there isn’t], because you can still be market leader with a relatively low NPS.  That doesn’t mean that insurance is super great.  That means we need to not only compare ourselves with insurance companies, we need to compare ourselves with other services providers in that field.”

RBCs new Silent Listener Chat Bot:

Do you have any tips for retaining the human touch in CX within the digital age?

Felicity: “It’s really critical.  We operate in the B2B space and generally our customers are large corporate clients.  They expect a personalised, tailored approach, and we work with them in partnership, and that’s also in a tripartite relationship with clients, brokers, and ourselves. 

“There needs to be a personalised follow-up in the right way. Sometimes, it might be that their account manager is the right person to follow up. Other times, it might be that senior management need to follow up or someone more detached from the relationship, depending on what that is [regarding].  But for us in our industry, you might send the survey out electronic, but the feedback and the follow-up needs to be in person.”

Michael: “If you ask the customers about what is most important for our industry, one of the key elements is trust.  You cannot build trust through a system.  You need to use the system to be quicker and understanding the needs and requirements, but to build trust you need to create this personal relationship; in the B2B space, for us, [that is critical].

“Even in situations when certain staff are changing or leaving we need to manage that very closely because that is a direct relationship with a customer touchpoint which we cannot underestimate.  This is a true, important element.  There’s a nice saying: ‘I’ve never had a coffee with a company, I’ve only had a coffee with a person’ and for me this is a very important element when you talk to companies and their people.”