Temkin Experience Ratings Spotlight: USAA

Almost any discussion about companies that deliver great customer experience has to include USAA. The financial services firm that serves the military and their families earned industry-leading scores in credit cards and insurance in the 2012 Temkin Experience Ratings and in last year’s ratings as well.

In 2011, USAA consolidated all of its customer interaction groups into a single organization, Member Experience. Previously, USAA’s product businesses had their own sales and service arms. By bringing together all of those customer-facing groups, USAA hopes to deliver even more cohesive experiences to members.

To find out how this customer experience powerhouse approaches customer experience, I spoke with Wayne Peacock, Executive Vice President of Member Experience at USAA. Here is a synopsis of our Q&A:

1) What do you think makes USAA a perennial customer experience leader?

It comes down to our core DNA. We are a mission-driven organization. Everything we talk about is focused on helping military families with their financial security. Everyone in our organization has an intense focus on serving our members. It’s our true “North Star” that allows us to do things differently.

We also have a relentless corporate focus on delivering exceptional service and experiences for our members. We continuously look at opportunities to improve and innovate around serving members. There’s nothing exciting or sophisticated, we just stay true to our mission and core purpose all the time.

Every day, 200 thousand members call us and a passionate, empathetic employee tries to help them. At an atomic level, everything flows from those individual interactions and the other contacts that members have through our online channels.

We want to run a healthy financial business so we invest in our future, but our internal score keeping is clear and direct: our key objective is to help our members do better in life. It’s what we recognize and reward, and it manifests itself in how we hire and train our employees. We use the term “surround sound” to mean that we bring the needs of military to life throughout our organization. We hire a lot of ex-military, bring military members into the building, take employees to military installations so they can see and feel the real life situations of our members, just to name a few examples.

2) What things do you personally track to tell if USAA is veering even slightly off course?

We look at, and set a high bar, on metrics around member satisfaction, advocacy, and loyalty. We are not satisfied just weeding out defects. We examine what highly satisfied members are telling us so that we can replicate it across our organization. It’s about the decomposition of what we do well and what we don’t do so well to ensure that we stay on course.

I believe that you have to touch and feel the customer experience and have a sense for what’s going on. I spend my time, and I ask my leaders to spend a few hours a month, shadowing a front-line employee.  Sitting in a cubicle beside a rep  and listening to the member call through the headset. I am always asking people about their experiences with USAA.

Member satisfaction at a transactional level is our key metric. We measure it by product, geography, and channel and are working on a cross-channel measurement. We use a 10-point satisfaction scale and consider only the top-two boxes as acceptable scores. We examine problems for any score that is six or lower.

We are also  improving our social media listening.

3) What projects or initiatives at USAA are you most excited about in terms of its impact on future customer experience?

How we use insight to inform action is a critical competence that we need to be excellent at. And one of the underpinnings of that is analytics. I’m interested in emerging opportunities to bring big data into our environment–to use insight at the point of service or sales to direct that experience.

The single interchange between members and USAA is working every day but the ability to connect across those individual conversations is what we are working on. How do you link a conversation that might span over a month or two? And then how do we use behavior and analytics to shape the next conversation so we are relevant and personalized for what they want to do next?

We want to create experiences around what members are trying to accomplish, not just our products. If a member is buying a car, then we would historically see that as a change in auto insurance. We are changing that to an auto event – to help the member find the right car, buy it at a discount, get a loan, insurance, etc. and do that in any channel and across channels. There’s enormous value for members and for USAA if we can facilitate  that entire experience.

We are also continuing our journey around cross-channel experience. We are finding ways to allow customers to seamlessly move across channels and have us move with them, from marketing campaigns to sales and service at our Website, mobile apps, or contact center.

Mobile is also a key area of focus for us as the proliferation of mobile phones and tablets increases. We see mobile as a key entry point into USAA. We are working to digitize and miniaturize all of our business processes to be effective on a 3.5-inch screen. We’ve already built great capabilities  like deposit@mobile.  In the future, people are going to manage their lives through mobile devices. We want to establish a mobile-first mindset at USAA.

4) What advice do you have for customer experience executives at other companies that are leading transformation efforts in an attempt to become a customer experience leader like USAA?

Start with getting clear on the purpose of your organization. If you don’t have a true North Star, then you can’t get aligned.

You have to win the hearts and minds of your employees. Get the front-line people excited about what you’re doing and find a cadre of leaders that will buy into the vision and be advocates for the changes. Our front-line folks saw what we were trying to accomplish by aligning our member interaction functions into one organization; they saw how it would be beneficial to members and could provide additional career paths for them.

And remember to celebrate your early wins.

The bottom line: USAA wins through its unwavering purpose, member-centric culture, and a relentless desire to improve.

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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