Q&A: Transamerica’s Rich King on the Essentials of an Effective Customer Experience Program

King offers advice on companies embarking on CX initiatives and shares details Transamerica’s approach, including CX principles, and tactics such as a Voice of the Customer program and customer journey mapping. 

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As Director of Customer Experience for the Investment & Retirement Division of Transamerica (Cedar Rapids, Iowa), Rich King is responsible for helping develop strategic direction for end customer touch points in an effort to maximize the customer experience. This involves maintaining a holistic view of customers’ relationships with the company and enhancing that experience through the development of new services, changes to the delivery model and analysis of data to demonstrate the impact on customer satisfaction and loyalty. King has more than 20 years of industry experience in establishing and managing customer support operations and process improvement organizations. He has recently championed efforts to establish a Voice of the Customer program and foundational CX methodologies with Customer Journey Mapping.

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Rich King, Director of Customer Experience, Investment & Retirement Division, Transamerica.

How big of a challenge is customer experience measurement across the enterprise?

It’s extremely challenging, as an enterprise has many moving parts—different products that cater to different demographics, different distribution channels that put those products out to the marketplace. Each product fills different needs and therefore creates different relationships with the customer.

My advice to a company just starting out is to first take an audit of all metrics, department by department, and put them side by side. Identify where the gaps are and try to find some common ground that is applicable to all lines of business. When we did this, we realized we had mostly operational data and that some of our metrics needed redefining. For example, when measuring cycle time with a transaction, we didn’t start the clock until we had a good order, but that’s not when the clock starts in the customer’s head. The clock starts with the first call  So we are tightening up our metrics.

It’s also critical to define who your real customer is. Because our division primarily operates in a B2B2C environment, we had traditionally focused on our advisors and intermediaries as the customer, when, really, it is the end user who is the true customer.

What fundamental customer experience principles have you adopted for Transamerica?

At Transamerica, we believe that everybody deserves to feel confident and secure in their tomorrow. We help customers take responsibility for their financial futures, so our efforts are focused on ensuring the right customer experience to support that. One example of this is how we communicate with customers. Our products can be confusing; therefore we need to use simple and effective language when we describe them. We are reviewing our customer correspondence and making changes to ensure we are speaking in terms that are understandable.

Even though relationship survey results show our customers trust us, we know we can do an even better job of showing them that we have their best interests at heart, and that we can build an even stronger foundation that fosters and promotes action. We are working to put a methodology in place that will help us truly transform from a product-focused company to a genuine, relationship-focused enterprise. We already have great employees who are motivated to do the right thing for our customers; now it’s a matter of taking it to the next level.

What new tactics are you deploying in your program?

We have deployed a Voice of the Customer program to support our mission to be a customer-centric company. Feedback from surveys enables insight-based decisions across every aspect of the Transamerica experience and provides us with a customer Net Promoter Score (NPS). NPS has been a step toward consistency for us. It has leveled the playing field so we have a benchmark of how we are doing across the enterprise and how we compare across the industry.

We have also started Customer Journey Mapping (CJM), a visual display of the end-to-end customer experience. It has helped us better understand key components of each interaction, allowing us to focus on the outcomes of interactions and the emotional responses they generate. We are also focusing on our communications within the context of CJM. We offer complex products within a complex environment of complex regulations. But that doesn’t mean our correspondence needs to be complex

From an employee engagement point of view, we are promoting a customer-centric approach in a variety of ways. For example, our President and CEO challenged each employee to think about how they would finish the following sentence, “My role in serving the customer is…” This perspective helps drive customer experience to every division, every team and every employee in the company  And we have launched a Real People/Real Stories initiative that focuses on how real people—our customers—approach retirement. It brings a name and face to the customer and illustrates to our employees how they are affecting our customers’ lives.

How do customer experience programs need to evolve to better meet the needs of customers and business alike?

CX programs must strive to add value and be relevant. New processes and technologies can help cut through the noise in the customer experience space and can accelerate the time it takes to get to the “so what?” Rather than wading through pages and pages of NPS results, spend the bulk of the time on turning insights into action.

Being relevant means using the CX program to empower everyone in the organization with the data and insight that applies to them, in the right formats, at the right times. Programs need to evolve in a way that ensures efforts are showing progress toward the final state. It might take a year to reach the final goal, but there should be incremental enhancements along the way  Keep it simple, but follow a methodology

Additionally, look for other means to collect information. Survey fatigue is rampant. Big data aside, realize there’s a ton of data available at your fingertips. Put on a headset and listen to a call. We are also finding that qualitative data from focus groups and in-depth interviews complement the quantitative information gathered from surveys.

It’s imperative that a CX program has a clear vision and objectives and that it aligns with business priorities. Ask yourself: Do our CX priorities sync up with business priorities? Has something happened in the business that we need to factor in?

Editor’s note: This Q&A first appeared in Customer Experience Is Your Business, a new ebook published by MaritzCX, provides a collection of best practices and thought leadership from top CX practitioners, analysts and experts to help companies build a customer-first approach that scales across the enterprise. The ebook is available for download in ePub and PDF formats at www.maritzcx.com/book. A Kindle edition is also available through Amazon.

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