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  • Oct 12,2017

5 Steps to Building a Customer First Organization

A goal for nearly every insurance organization is to achieve true customer centricity, and there is a push to leverage technology in order to do this. However, technology alone doesn’t lead to customer centricity; it is merely the catalyst, and a necessity, required to enable centricity.

Understanding customer centricity starts with understanding the purpose of the service you’re providing. What is the problem you are trying to solve, and what is the customer journey? Customers engage you for a reason, and you should understand all of their expectations.

However, customer expectations should not dictate your process or the experience. This may sound counter-intuitive, but the reality is that doing anything the customer wants, or giving them too many choices, can ultimately hurt the overall experience and take away from the product or service’s most important offerings. True customer centricity is deliberately crafted and carefully controlled by using five simple principles.

Psychology: use psychological principles to craft the customer experience

The foundation and the first principle of customer centricity is psychology. You are building a reality for the customer when they interact with your service, and there are standard psychological principles that govern all of our thoughts. These principles need to be understood and leveraged to create an experience that is contained and consistent. Every interaction in each chain of events must be carefully considered and scripted to set the right tone for your customer.

Human interaction: make sure your team understands the psychological principles

Services are inherently human interactions, even if they’re enabled by technology. People need to be conditioned to understand the psychological principles and promises you create. All interactions, no matter the size or level of importance, need to be tailored to every person’s specific needs and requests.

Processes: map out the customer journey and create processes to ensure customers stay the course

Careful process design maps out the customer journey in excruciating detail, from both the customer’s and the service provider’s perspectives. Every situation should be deliberately thought out in order to understand the various ways customers may enter the service path. Processes can then be created to leverage human interactions and psychological principles in order to course correct the customer perception and set them back on the right path, or otherwise escalate the situation to a special workflow if required.

Systems: flexible systems make it easier to modify customer experiences, allowing for change as customers’ needs evolve

It should be clear now that workflows, tracking, and training are critical to enabling customer centricity, which can become numerous and unwieldy rather quickly. This leads directly into the next principle: systems, and more specifically, back-end systems. Systems should be designed with flexibility and the ability to handle multiple complex rules and workflows. All data sets should be categorized, tracked, and stored, with minimal unstructured data allowed.

Technology: the portal to the customer should be easily implemented

Technology is the portal to the customer, whether it be mobile apps, integrations with other third parties, drones, or any other new innovative device on the market. If the back-end systems are flexible and stable, any new front-end technology will be easily enabled. Many organizations focus too much on the technology and don’t realize that it is just the tip of the iceberg. If the foundation of the customer centric pyramid is not stable, the processes will collapse.

Potential pitfalls: there are common obstacles to achieving true customer centricity

And yet, even if an organization has all of these pieces in place, customer centricity is still not guaranteed. Why? Because sometimes the company’s incentives and a customer’s motives simply don’t align. It could be for simple reasons, such as cost. In many cases, truly customer-centric experiences are not the most cost effective and can be pushed aside for more economical workflows. Other major inhibitors of customer centricity are legacy processes, leadership, and change management. There are many cases where new, customer-centric workflows are created, often by a new service provider, which are quickly rejected due to the sheer complexity of change management and the incentives of existing management. Senior leaders need to own a top down directive to instill the desired change.

Avoiding the pitfalls: engaging vendors who have comprehensive understanding of the five principles

The principles for customer centricity are simple, but the pyramid is not unbreakable. If there is weakness at any level, the customer centric initiative will not hold up; companies cannot simply pin their hopes on technology alone as a cure all. However, there is no doubt that large service companies, such as insurance carriers, will need to leverage technology vendors. The key to getting the most out of technology is to work with tech vendors who fully understand, and know how to support, each of the five principles. Tech companies that understand this customer centricity model are the vendors who are best positioned to be partners in any effort to truly delight customers every step of the way.

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