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As I mentioned in my last post, being a Change Maker requires a different way of thinking, so it’s helpful to have guides to show you the way. In my new book, Do B2B Better, which comes out next month on CX Day, I provide deep dives into numerous real-world customer experience programs and lots of practical tips. But I am particularly delighted to introduce you to four exemplary guides.

So in anticipation of the October 4 book release and the daylong Do B2B Better 2022 Conference that Heart of the Customer is hosting October 18 in Minneapolis, I am sharing excerpts from my book here this week and next. These passages explore just how our guides deploy effective strategies to create measurable business impact from their CX activities.

We hope you’ll take advantage of the opportunity to hear directly from a couple of them, and other successful CX leaders, at the Do B2B Better conference. To help make that happen, we’re offering a special discount on registration for blog readers. Sign up by October 1 using promo code CHANGEMAKER22 to get $50 off the conference fee! You’re not going to want to miss this exceptional experience full of actionable learnings, fun networking activities, and valuable takeaways. (Not to mention the boisterous kickoff we’ve got planned for you.) CCXPs will also get 5.25 CEUs toward certification. Hope to see you there!

Today’s Do B2B Better excerpt spotlights Nancy Flowers, who will be discussing how to design and measure your experience through an Emotional North Star at our upcoming conference.

Meet Nancy

Nancy Flowers leads customer experience for Hagerty. If you’re not familiar with that organization, it probably means you’re not into cars—especially the classic kind. While it began as a niche insurance company for classic and collector vehicles, the company has evolved into an automotive lifestyle brand that just happens to offer insurance.

That change in mindset helped create the recognition that a game-changing customer experience is central to Hagerty’s success, and Nancy has led this charge. She’s been with the company for more than 16 years, starting in marketing before creating Hagerty’s customer experience capability in 2011.

She has seven employees reporting to her, and her role has now expanded to Vice President of Insights and Loyalty. Nancy is also an active member of the CXPA, generously sharing her expertise across the organization. She was recognized in 2014 with its CX Impact Award.

Hagerty = Happiness

Since Hagerty is a B2B2C organization, Nancy needs to manage two sets of customer relationships: agents (as Hagerty sells insurance through independent agents who can easily take their books of business elsewhere) and members. One way to win an agent’s loyalty is to ensure their customers are well cared for and happy, so Hagerty spends even more effort creating great experiences for policyholders.

Hagerty evolution opened the door to thinking differently about the company’s customer experience, including how emotions matter. As Nancy explains:

“We’re an automotive lifestyle brand. Our roots were in insurance, but we offer much more than that. We offer valuation services, we have a peer-to-peer renting platform, a marketplace where clients can buy and sell cars, and much more. And we do a ton to build community and camaraderie.

Our mission is to save driving and car culture for future generations, and to do this, we help our members get as much out of the hobby as possible. So when we looked at these emotions, it was really funny, because let me tell you, car guys aren’t so good with saying what their emotions are. But we finally got to it. And the emotion we landed on was this: we want to leave our clients feeling happy. So, we measure how strongly they agree that they left the experience feeling happy.”

Excellent service isn’t enough

Nancy made the connection between emotion, customer success, and financial outcomes when Hagerty brought on a new roadside assistance vendor.

When collectible cars break down, it’s a much bigger deal for the owner than when your 2018 sedan or mine fails on a daily commute. A collectible car is someone’s baby, and they’re typically taking it out to enjoy a day—or more—on the road. So a breakdown not only affects the driver, but also others who are on the trip, which could be part of a planned vacation or multiday special event many miles from home. This calls for a special—and specialized—customer assistance process.

That awareness of how disappointing a breakdown can be led Hagerty to design its roadside assistance program to offer a high-level, almost white-glove, experience to classic-car drivers. But it took time—and a change in partners—for Hagerty to gain an understanding of the emotional connection.

The company had been soliciting feedback from drivers on its quality of service and receiving positive feedback. But when Hagerty changed its roadside assistance partner, the NPS took a dive.

At first, Hagerty could not figure out why. All the operational data looked fine. The calls were being answered in the same amount of time and the roadside assistance vehicles were showing up as promised. Nothing seemed to be any different.

To figure out what was going on, Nancy and her team monitored phone calls between the drivers and the roadside assistance provider. The light bulb went on when Nancy’s team understood that the car owners felt an absence of empathy when they called for help with this new provider.

The importance of empathy

Of course, we should all feel empathy from our service providers when we seek their help. But for classic-car drivers who are disappointed and frustrated that their trips are being interrupted, lack of empathy on the other side of the call is a big deal. While the functional service level—responding to a call and towing the vehicle—had not changed, the emotional experience was far worse.

Hagerty learned that providing an empathetic emotional experience to drivers restored previous customer satisfaction levels. More importantly, it made the Hagerty team curious about what other emotions could be behind customer satisfaction and NPS scores.

Nancy walks through how the company aligned on Happiness as its Emotional North Star, a journey that wasn’t easy:

“We started out with some focus groups, where we did almost like a card-sorting exercise, showing our customers a feeling and asking them, What feeling does that relate to? But on the first day, I don’t think we got anything and we had to regroup. Remember, we’re working with a bunch of car guys—and they are mostly guys—and they’re not really used to talking about their emotions.

So, we tried to focus on passion, because we think there’s a lot of passion around that automotive lifestyle. But when we kept trying to key in on passion, they could only relate it to intimacy!

It took hard work to get people to express what emotions in an automotive lifestyle matter. But eventually, we were able to land on Happiness. We were surprised, honestly. But even in some of the transactions, it’s Happiness. This is a hobby. Even when they call Hagerty for a new policy, Happiness popped. We tried to understand: ‘Why would that be?’

One of the things is, they drive these cars for enjoyment. And we understand that, and we get that passion. So, when they call, we can say, ‘What a beautiful car,’ or ‘Oh my gosh, I’ve always wanted a ’67 Chevy!’ or ‘My dad had a ’66 Mustang,’ which validates what they’re doing. That’s what we call the virtual thumbs-up.

When you see a cool car on the road, you give them a thumbs-up, right? And so, they feel good [about their experience with us]: ‘I’m happy now that I’ve got my policy. I can go and drive my car.’

We measure Happiness at the relationship level and some transactions. At the relationship level, we ask [members to rate], ‘My experience with Hagerty leaves me feeling happy,’ and use a five-point scale from strongly disagree to strongly agree. It is definitely our Emotional North Star and is highly correlated with loyalty. We also find that feeling supported and valued are important, and measure those at the relationship level.

The big difference emotionally comes in with transactions. For example, after a claims or roadside incident, we do not measure happiness. We are currently exploring what emotion correlates with satisfaction/loyalty in those ‘negative’ service incidents. We hear a lot of verbatims in claims surveys regarding feeling cared for, or whether the adjuster shows empathy, and yet roadside seems to be a little different.”

Timing is everything

Notice how Nancy thinks about when and how to ask about emotions. She understands that, while happiness is Hagerty’s overall Emotional North Star, different target emotions fit different journeys in the overall experience. This distinction is critical. Asking a customer whose car was totaled if their experience with Hagerty leaves them feeling happy is just asking for trouble!

Hagerty continues to use NPS as its relationship metric, as it’s been proven to predict both retention and purchases of additional products. But the company also asks about Happiness, which helps it to see how its design is working.

In addition to asking about specific emotions, Hagerty also measures effectiveness, ease, and emotion, and it has discovered that the transactional emotion scores also predict NPS, which in turn predicts retention and cross-sell.

Measuring happiness is the first step. Creating Happiness—and the customer and business outcomes that come from this—that’s the potential of an Emotional North Star.