This is the fourth in our Aiming for the Hearts of their Customers interview series, with seven Minnesota customer experience leaders sharing their strategy for the coming year. In this article, we catch up with Lisa Hoene, the VP of Brand and Marketing Services for Allianz Life. You can see all of the interviews here:
Allianz Life Insurance Company of North America (Allianz Life) helps Americans achieve their retirement income and protection goals with a variety of annuities and life insurance products sold through independent financial professionals. As a leading provider of fixed index annuities, Allianz Life is part of Allianz SE, a global leader in the financial services industry.
“Our brand is the essence of our customer experience – everything grows out of our vision and mission. In my role I focus on how we bring our brand to life for our financial professionals and policy holders.”
A challenge for many B2B2C companies is defining the “customer” in the experience. As Lisa says, “We have a long history of thinking of the financial professional as our customer. We haven’t been as good at recognizing and focusing on the policyholder experience and the impact on Allianz Life and the financial professional. We’ve gone through a journey to define who our customer is, and ultimately realized that it is an ‘and’ not an ‘or’. As we build our customer experience we need to keep in mind both the financial professional and the end customer.
“Part of our customer experience journey is identifying the moments that matter for both the financial professional and the customer. What are the moments for the financial professional that drive that customer experience, and vice versa, and what can we improve?”
“We have strong employee engagement – one of the ‘Best Places to Work’ from Fortune, one of the Twin Cities Best Places to Work, one of the Healthiest Places to Work, and Allianz Life was just named one of the ‘Top 10 Coolest Places to Work’. This is a great foundation for our customer experience strategy. We are really lucky to have that kind of engagement to build on.”
“Our Corporate Communications team has been critical to this. Customer stories have been an ongoing focus, whether it’s interviews or videos with financial professionals, customers, or a recent story about one of our service representatives sharing how she helped a customer who was in a really difficult situation. The story showed how she went above and beyond. It showed how employee engagement leads to a better customer experience. It was very touching. It helped everybody understand how each person delivers on the promise of our brand.
“We tackled some really complex enhancements to customer materials, such as annual account statements. It took a lot of cross organizational collaboration. Since we’re such a highly-regulated industry, a lot of thinking went into this, and what are the impacts of each change. We’re also building out the framework for our digital experience. We can’t call it a success yet, because it will come to life in 2014, but I’m very excited about the future enhancements it will enable.”
“In 2014 there are two major focus areas: Quality and Culture. We’re making significant investments in improved quality, including technology investments and process improvements. Quality is a key part of our customer experience, and our teams really get that.
“The other focus is continued culture change. We’re creating two customer advocate teams. One team will be housed within our Enterprise Operations department. There is strong commitment to improving the customer experience among the Enterprise Operations leadership and team. The other area is Marketing. We want to continue to innovate, understanding what products consumers need, and how we can help financial professionals not only bring those products to their customers, but continue to provide valuable service throughout the life of the products. We’re increasing our focus on developing insights that will help us build and distribute consumer-inspired products.
“Part of the culture change is to get more out of our voice of customer and voice of distribution capabilities. We’ve built listening posts in the business to bring in information, but we need a stronger framework to apply that information, make decisions and act. So we’re building a repeatable process for sharing what we gather, especially with the advocacy groups.
“The customer experience management is responsible for managing all of this, keeping the strategy fresh, facilitating the advocacy groups, feeding information and decisions up to our senior leadership steering committee.
“We want to understand even more about the moments that matter for our policy holders. What are the things Allianz Life is doing well, and what are the gaps that financial professionals and customers care about, where fixing them makes them more loyal to us?
“Our goal is to be the most producer- and customer-centric life insurance company in the U.S. That’s a big goal, but our leadership is signed up for it. We won’t be there in 2014, but we’re on that journey, and I’m confident we’ll get there by building on our strengths.”