USAA: A Positive Example Of Customer Experience

I was recently giving a speech to a group of executives at a large financial services firm; talking about my favorite topic: Experience-Based Differentiation. After I was done, one of the attendees came up to me and shared a recent experience that she had with USAA. (Note: USAA was not the organization that I was speaking to at the time).

She told me that she was looking for an auto loan and had called around to get a number of different quotes. Before she picked one, she thought she’d give USAA a call (she’s a member of USAA). While she was on the phone, the USAA phone agent asked her a few questions and then said that she could beat the lowest rate that the woman had received by a point. That’s right — one full percentage point lower than any other provider. The phone agent asked her how much she needed for the loan, but she wasn’t sure. So the phone agent said that they’d send her a blank check and that she could fill in the amount up to a specific amount (well above what she needed for the car). The phone agent told her that all she had to do was to go to the Website and answer 5 questions to finish the process.

Well, the woman went to the Website and answered 5 questions and received a blank check the next day.

Let’s disect what went right.

  1. It was a great sales process. All large financial institutions want to cross-sell products, but not many make it quite as easy as this. The combination of a low rate and a no-nonsense process immediately closed the sale.
  2. USAA acted like it knew her. How was USAA able to offer such a great rate? She was a member of USAA, so they have  a lot of information about her. They used the information to deliver a rate that reflected what they already knew about her.
  3. The phone agent was empowered to solve problems... How many financial institutions allow phone reps to send blank checks to customers overnight? Probably not too many. But that’s part of what was needed to meet the customer’s needs.
  4. … And the agent knew the online process. In many organizations, phone agents aren’t very familiar with what happens when a customer goes online. In this case, the agent clearly understood (and communicated) the process that the customer needed to go through online
  5. The online process was simplified. The only way that USAA can cut the online process down to 5 questions is by limiting their questions to things that they don’t know about the person. Since the loan applicant was a member, USAA didn’t make her input information that it already knew about her.
  6. USAA did what it said that it would do. When a company doesn’t live up to its promises, you can say goodbye to customer goodwill. But that’s wasn’t an issue here. USAA set clear expectations with the customer — and delivered exactly what itpromissed.

This type of experience is not a random occurance for USAA — they have very high levels of member loyalty. As a matter of fact, USAA has been at the top of Forrester’s Customer Advocacy rankings for the last three years. It wouldn’t hurt if other financial institutions (and companies from other industries) learned a thing or two from USAA.

About Bruce Temkin
I am a customer experience transformist, helping large organizations improve business results by changing how they deal with customers. As part of this focus, I examine strategy, marketing, interaction design, customer service, and leadership practices. I am also a fanatical student of business, so this blog provides an outlet for sharing insights from my ongoing educational journey. Simply put, I am passionate about spotting emerging best practices and helping companies master them. And, as many people know, I love to speak about these topics in almost any forum. My “title” is Managing Partner of the Temkin Group, a customer experience research and consulting firm that helps organizations become more customer-centric. Our goal is simple: accelerate the path to delighting customers. I am also the co-founder and chair of the Customer Experience Professionals Association (CXPA.org), a non-profit organization dedicated to the success of CX professionals.

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