"The best strategy is nothing without engagement and accountability," Allstate Insurance Chief Customer Experience Officer Patty VanLammeren told attendees of the Forrester Research Customer Experience Forum 2010.
Those two elements were essential to Allstate's recent customer experience revamp. "We changed the way we measure success," VanLammeren said, explaining that success is now measured across the enterprise, not just within one business unit.
VanLammeren was appointed to lead the customer experience journey in 2008, when Allstate's management team made improving customer loyalty one the insurer's three corporate priorities. "We needed to change the way we think, to shift the culture to focus on the customer," she said. Today the company reports earnings and loyalty together. VanLammeren's approach is to do everything by supporting it with facts; that's what gets traction, she said. So her first action was to learn facts. "We were measuring averages, but customers don't experience averages."
The company needed a multiyear strategy to attain its goals, but VanLammeren knew she needed quick action to show the benefits of taking a customer-centric business approach to the rest of Allstate's staff. So she created the Customer First Forum. Senior leadership discussed how to take customer experience to the next level. Then another group of leaders talks more tactically. This helped to set the foundation for Allstate's customer experience strategy, along with extensive customer feedback. The next step was to get the rest of Allstate's 70,000 staff involved.
Last year VanLammeren conducted 54 presentations to 9,000 people to evangelize the changes, like intensifying the service standards for frontline staff and communicating to customers in simple language and written in the voice of the customer. Each business unit was asked to write goals and metrics based on the company's new customer-centric approach. Concurrently, senior leadership tied a 401k match to improvements in customer loyalty scores. "People started asking, "Tell me what to do and I'll do it," she said. "The only way to change culture is to integrate performance metrics." It was a turning point in employee engagement.
VanLammeren has appointed (self-selected) ambassadors--more than 3,000 in 50 states--and engages them in Idea Blitzes to help solve business problems. One session led to improved efficiencies that cut costs and increased customer satisfaction. "Now I walk down the halls and hear, 'That's a great idea, but how will it impact the customer,' she said. "Customer experience is now a part of everyone's job."