Ohio Mutual Changes the Way It Listens to Customers

Through the creation of a CX Champion Team and the adoption of the MaritzCX platform, the insurer takes a larger-scale, more intentional approach to customer feedback and response.  

(Image source: Adobe Stock.)

Ohio Mutual Insurance Group’s guiding principles include a commitment to increase policyholders’ financial security and to contribute positively to the communities it serves, but the Bucyrus, Ohio-based company came to the realization that in the current business environment it needed to learn to listen better to its customers. In late 2015, following the appointment of Mark C. Russell as president CEO, the company formed a Customer Experience (CX) Champion Team to study how the company engaged with, listened and responded to customers. The result has been the adoption of a more intentional style of engagement, supported by MaritzCX’s (Lehi, Utah) customer engagement platform.

“Ohio Mutual’s decision to pursue a more comprehensive customer experience and closed-loop feedback system was driven primarily by a growing awareness that we need to be very intentional about listening to the voices of our policyholders and agents,” comments Ohio Mutual president and CEO Mark Russell. “In order to stand out, we need to be outstanding in both pursuing and acting on feedback that will help us earn top-tier loyalty from our policyholders and agents. It’s about earning loyalty.”

Mark C. Russell, President & CEO, Ohio Mutual Insurance Group.

Ohio Mutual’s CX Champion Team was established shortly after Russell’s arrival and included representation from every department in the company, according to Chris Neeson, Customer Experience Leader and head of the team. Among the Team’s objectives was to create a CX culture among Ohio Mutual’s 230 associates, which included deriving deeper insights into customer expectations, exploring potential process changes, and creating the means to quickly distribute findings to appropriate departments and employees.

Another key goal of the Team was to find and adopt a suitable CX platform, according to Neeson. “From the outset we sought a platform that would allow us to systematically cast and return feedback from the customer—which means both agency partners and policyholders,” he says.

During a selection process beginning Nov. 2015 and lasting about six months, Ohio Mutual explored a range of options, vetting companies for both their platform and their consulting capabilities. “We weren’t just looking for a technology platform,” Neeson notes.

Voice of Customer Platform

Ohio Mutual chose MaritzCX for its capacity for partnership and the power of its technology platform, Neeson suggests. From a technical standpoint, the vendor’s platform integrated well within Ohio Mutual’s technology environment and also fit in with the insurer’s long-term plans for using Salesforce (San Francisco). “From a longer-term perspective, it gave us a turnkey process for adopting Salesforce functionality that we’re not currently using,” he says. “From a transactional perspective, it allows us to cast a survey.”

Internally Ohio Mutual refers to the MaritzCX solution as its “Voice of the Customer” (VoC) platform, and used it to support a program of the same name immediately after signing a contract with the vendor in summer of 2016, Neeson says.

While the insurer took pride in its “ears-on-the-ground” approach to customer feedback through field reps and CSRs, the company recognized the potential to vastly scale-up its customer interaction through the platform, getting feedback from thousands on an ongoing basis.

Scaling-Up the Customer Feedback Loop

We have ears on the ground, field reps, people internally that talk to people on the phone. But for us to get a better understanding of I’d say not just a few but thousands, we’re now able to consume information, respond to feedback and act on it. Going from anecdotal to quantitative feedback.

“From the start, this system was crucial for us to have a good understanding of our customers’ needs and desires—what they do and don’t like,” Neeson comments. “To deliver outstanding experiences to our policyholders and our agents, we need to make sure we’re listening, and this platform allows us to leverage technology to consume information on a far greater scale.”

Chris Neeson, Customer Experience Leader, Ohio Mutual Insurance Group.

MaritzCX lets Ohio Mutual derive transactional-based metrics from customers’ feedback in given interactions. It also lets the company gauge sentiment and identify customers likely to recommend Ohio Mutual. Ohio Mutual launched its first email-based VoC survey to its independent agent partners, a total of about 2,500 responses, with a response rate of 25 percent—a significant improvement on previous paper-based surveys.

“Until our first email survey with the technology platform we had no reliable way to measure why someone would go to a competitor—we could infer some things from feedback, but we wanted to be more targeted in the areas that needed improvement,” Neeson says. “The results were eye-opening.”

It was a little like someone looking in the mirror, thinking they’re pretty muscular and fit and discovering they’re just a regular guy, Neeson quips. “Agents rated us in the middle of the pack and we want to be the leaders of the pack,” he says. “But we found this a great way to distinguish between the anecdotal and the quantitative, and to be able to act by making meaningful improvements in customer experience.”

As a result of the agent survey, Ohio Mutual has undertaken improvements in quoting ease and is planning to address agent interest in enhanced communication and greater billing flexibility. The CX Champion Team is working across departments to address agent loyalty, and now plans to survey agents every six to nine months.

The VoC platform has enabled the insurer to transition from small numbers of paper-based surveys to surveying large numbers of policyholders via email. Whereas in the past, Ohio Mutual would send a paper-based satisfaction survey to a sample group of 10 claimants, today it sends an email-based survey to every single claimant automatically as part of the claims process.

“We’re sending out hundreds of surveys weekly now on every closed claim,” Neeson reports. “We receive more feedback, we get it much faster electronically than we did with paper-based surveys, and we can easily distribute the results to multiple departments.”

Ohio Mutual is able to consume much larger amounts of feedback through text mining the results, according to Neeson. Trends detected are accelerated to the CX Champion Team for action. “We take that information, and from a continuous-improvement perspective, we are able to look at what processes can be improved, plant seeds in the right place and make sure that this information doesn’t die on the vine,” he says.

In addition to improved response rates, Ohio Mutual now receives feedback from a broader range of customers, it has reduced response time from a few weeks to a few days, it has significantly increased NPS scores and agent scores, and through the work of its CX Champion Team it has unified customer loyalty efforts across departments though the achievement of its goal to create a CX culture.

By taking a very deliberate approach to questions to customers, Ohio Mutual has been able to drive targeted process improvements—such as in the effort a customer must make to process a claim, according to Neeson. “It’s a lot easier for a customer today than it was two years ago,” he says. “We’re very intentional with the questions we ask—we keep the surveys brief but meaningful, asking the right questions and gathering the right information.

Changing the Way Ohio Mutual Listens

“The voice of the customer is changing how we listen, not only to our agents and policyholders, but also to our associates,” says Ohio Mutual CEO Mark Russell. “In the future, it will dictate the investments we make in our people, the services we offer, and our long-term focus.”

“Historically, we’ve been a company that partnered with our agents and had best interest of customer at heart, but we want to be intentional on gathering and acting on feedback,” adds Neeson. “We know that having the right information and data will help us create win/win scenarios.”

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Anthony R. O’Donnell // Anthony O'Donnell is Executive Editor of Insurance Innovation Reporter. For over a decade he has been an observer and commentator on the use of information technology in the insurance industry, following industry trends and writing about the use of IT across all sectors of the insurance industry. He can be reached at AnthODonnell@IIReporter.com or (503) 936-2803.

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