2009 Gartner & 1to1 Customer Awards: Customer Strategy

Customer Experience
Customer Experience
Gold - Cigna, Siver - Netezza, Bronze - American Family Mutual Insurance

Cigna Makes Healthcare Personal Again
Traditional health insurers consider employers as their customers, not the end-user patients. Two years ago Cigna began moving from an employer-based system to a focus on individual customers. "Our job is to make the customer the center of Cigna's universe," says Ingrid Lindberg, chief customer officer.

It is an uphill battle, she admits. "People don't trust their healthcare provider," she says. "We had to find out how to build a level of trust and loyalty." The company debuted an internal customer experience organization in 2008 to develop a customer-focused strategy.

The first step was to get Cigna and its customers speaking the same language, Lindberg says. The company drafted a "Words We Use" document for all employees, replacing words like member with customer and provider with doctor on customer materials. "According to a recent eHealth survey, 77 percent of Americans don't understand the language our industry uses," she says. The company also revamped its explanation of benefits, removing tiny fonts and internal company codes.

Cigna's call centers also went through a linguistic overhaul. All agents received "customer treatment" training in how to have conversations with customers. "Forever we've used Cigna acronyms and terms that were confusing to customers," says Bob McVey, vice president of call center operations. "When we started to use English and let customers talk about their issues [instead of rushing them off the phone], customer satisfaction increased and we saw a rise in first-contact resolution."

The company invested in other service improvements. It now uses skills-based routing to get customers to the right people the first time. And the call centers, which historically had only been available during business hours, moved to 24/7 operations. "People don't do their benefits work Monday through Friday from 9 to 5," Lindberg says. "It's about us being here when you need us, not when we want you to need us."

True to its name, the customer experience organization wanted to give employees a customer-focused view of the organization. Lindberg and her team built a physical "experience room" at the company's Connecticut headquarters, where 6,000 employees walked through 10 stations representing steps of the customer experience, including enrollment, identification cards, documents in "legalese," billing, and more. Employees then moved to the future state area, which displayed one website, one phone number, one identification card, 24/7 access, and in general more customer-focused operations. "It opened people's eyes," Lindberg says. "It showed that everything we do, no matter what department, impacts how people see Cigna."

So far, Cigna has seen measureable success from its efforts. First-contact resolution, which had been 90.5 percent in 2007, jumped to 94.5 percent. Customer satisfaction scores went from 91 percent in 2007 to 96.5 percent. And even the concept of changing the language made a positive impact. The level of understanding by customers of Cigna's terms and business went from 30 percent to 77 percent, a 156 percent improvement. "Something so simple can have a huge impact," says Paul Montanari, customer experience architect.

Netezza Adds High Touch to High-Tech
Last year was one of change for Netezza. The data warehousing firm went public in February 2008; new customers increased dramatically. Its customer support group realized that to keep pace with that growth it had to respond quickly to changing customer needs. So, the company developed a High Touch initiative to gain insight into and develop a bond with customers. "The root strategy is about creating customer value," says Patricia Cotter, vice president of worldwide operations.

The high-touch approach begins when the customer installs its product. Netezza created a hybrid team of technical account managers, sales engineers, service partners, salespeople, and manufacturing employees who are trained to help with installations, both on the technical and user experience sides. On-time installation rates increased as a result, from 98 percent to 98.6 percent in 2008, even as more customers came on board. "The more work we do up front," says Jim Coleman, principal operations analyst, "the more loyal customers are from the beginning."

Cotter says the value of the relationship can shine when a customer is engaged. So once a month she invites a customer to visit Netezza's headquarters to talk to employees about what's going right, what needs improvement, and specific business challenges. The meeting is open to all Netezza employees. "It's very motivating," says John Forrest, director of technical support. "It helps us prioritize and puts a face to the customer."

Cotter also put together a low-activity outreach program for silent customers. "We didn't know if they were unhappy or if they didn't have a problem," she says. In most cases customers were very happy with the products and services. As a result, the outreach led to more customer references.

Relationships are a two-way street and Netezza's employees understand this. The company offers customer retention training and its bonus structure is based on customer satisfaction scores.

Relationships Matter to American Family
"This business is about making promises, keeping promises, and making people whole in times of stress," says American Family Mutual Insurance's Pam Stampen. "If we stay true to that purpose and we focus our actions around that, we'll be successful."

Ensuring success required creating a customer strategy focused on what really matters: people. "We're building our customer approach around service," says Stampen, vice president of customer service touchpoints for the insurer, which offers auto, homeowners', health, and life insurance, as well as other products.

Integral to that strategy is providing a single face to the customer from any touchpoint, says Pat VandenAvond, customer care integration director. This meant integrated workflows, cross-functional teams, and a cross-functional knowledgebase for claims, billing, and policy support staff. Employees in billing, claims, and marketing are now trained to handle calls in any of the contact centers during busy times.

Improving the service experience included expanding the company's billing, claims, and marketing call centers to be accessible 24/7. It also entailed building a single telephony infrastructure, which reduced the firm's telephone numbers from 24 to one. Working with Interactive Intelligence, the company architected a customer-focused IVR instead of menu items based on products or divisions. Stampen adds that the company is crafting a "model experience" guide about how to deliver a consistent brand experience to customers. "We want [customers] to feel confident that we know them, we understand their needs, and we share a consistent voice," Stampen says. "If customers feel we understand them, they'll stay with us."

As a result of its service improvements, customer satisfaction increased .12 points to 8.48 out of 10. Additionally, agent satisfaction is up to 9.02 (per American Star measurements), the highest in the company's history. Its employee engagement index, meanwhile, has increased every year since 2002, moving from .57 to .67 in 2009.