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Driving a Customer Experience Culture Change – Interview with Ingrid Lindberg, Chief Customer Experience Officer, Prime Therapeutics

Jim Tincher Jim Tincher 01/22/2014

This is the sixth in our Aiming for the Hearts of their Customers interview series, with seven Minnesota customer experience leaders sharing their strategy for the coming year. You can see all of the interviews here:


Prime Therapeutics (Prime) manages pharmacy benefits for health plans, employers, and government programs including Medicare and Medicaid. Prime is collectively owned by 13 Blue Cross and Blue Shield Plans, subsidiaries or affiliates of those plans, and Ingrid is the chief customer experience officer, a role she took in 2012 after serving as the customer experience officer at CIGNA.

Defining Customer Experience

“Customer experience is the sum of all interactions a company has with its customers. From who you are as a firm, to your mission, value and purpose, all the way through to how you price your products. It’s about what you bring to the market, and how you talk about yourself, whether in the public relations world or how you answer the phone. It’s the sum of everything you do.”

Differentiating Customer Service from Customer Experience

“Customer service is about 5-6 percent of the customer experience. The only time service really matters regarding the long-term loyalty of a customer is when it goes wrong. I’ve studied this in a number of industries, and the de minimis impact of service has remained the same – until something goes wrong. Financial services, employee benefits, payroll and health care, these are all referred to as negative service industries. You don’t want to have a relationship with these companies – you just hire them for when something goes wrong. The only time you call your payroll company is when you don’t get paid.”

I asked Ingrid whether Prime’s efforts are to reduce the call or welcome it. “In this industry more than any other, the preferred communication channel is still paper and phone. It’s paper for trust and phone for conversation. When I got into health care, I thought it was all about ‘educate, educate, educate.’ But because it’s thought of as a negative service industry, people have no desire to learn about this. So, we encourage the use of phone. My goal is that when people call Prime, we can actually have an educational conversation instead of just solving the problem.”


Ingrid has a strong opinion about the ideal measurement. “I’m a follower of the original Forrester methodology. We don’t measure enjoyability, but we do measure ease of use and helpfulness of information. We know that those two pieces are the biggest drivers of loyalty in health care and pharmacy benefit services.”

“Ease of use is critical. When we make it harder for people to get the medicine they need, I know they’re going to be upset. That’s just such a one-to-one correlation. I’m not a fan of over-complicating – the simple answer is always the best answer and drives the best results.”

Driving Cultural Change

“I need to be able to insert customer experience designers who live, breathe, and understand our customers into every design process for every product and process we have. I bring the voice of the customer into all of a company’s processes using that team. Our customer experience designers sit at every table, whether it’s a new product launch, a new line of business launch, or a process redesign. They are the ones who represent the customer in that process, and have, in a lot of cases, the final vote on whether we do something.”

“I’m really proud of our mission statement. It’s one of the first things we did when I got here. ‘To help people get the medicine they need to feel better and live well.’ That’s the question my designers ask at each juncture, and it’s how we make decisions. It begins every customer experience conversation.”

“It all starts with your purpose and having a strong advocate in the CEO. Unless you have a CEO who has a vision to make customer experience be a differentiator, you’re never going to get anywhere. That culture starts at the top. I’m lucky as all get-out that I have a CEO who is on a level I’ve never seen before, because he understands how important customer experience is to how we show up in the marketplace.”

“I’m a huge believer in tying customer experience to compensation. Every single employee at Prime has 25 percent of their annual incentive program tied to our ease of use and helpfulness of information metrics. That’s how you change culture.”

Her advice to others? “Get your CEO on board, or just stop. Because if you don’t have your CEO on board, you’ll never get anywhere. You might get little tiny wins, but that will never get you where you need to go.”

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