Building customer relationships to attain greater brand loyalty is something most marketers aspire to on a daily basis, talk about, but might wind up delivering against this goal in varying degrees of success.

But at The Guardian Life Insurance Company of America, these things are a way of life. Getting in tune with customer sentiment and expectations is taken very seriously and permeates the entire culture.

Kim Delaney, Second Vice President, Head of Operations, Business Services and Operational Excellence for Retirement Solutions at The Guardian Life Insurance Company of America, told Loyalty360 that her company has a unique approach to customer relationships.

“Instead of trying to relate to a persona, our associates relate to their own experiences,” Delaney explained.
“When you don’t think of the customer as a stranger, something AMAZING happens. You start to relate to the emotional connection your customers experience when they interact with your business. The end result is a much more personalized and meaningful experience for our customers.”

Guardian Life Insurance’s goal is to build relationships with its customers to be the trusted mutual partner delivering financial security how, when, and where its clients prefer.

“In order to do this, we have to understand our customers and listen, really listen to what they want and need,” Delaney said. “We use a very robust Voice of the Customer (VOC) program that collects customer feedback (active and passive) daily at every touchpoint and infuses it into our business. We use that VOC to drive our business from what services we provide, to what technology we invest in and what products we develop. As important as this constant pulse of VOC is to our culture, of equal importance is developing an internal mindset that ensures all of our associates collectively work to ensure our customers are at the forefront and center of everything we do. To do this, we wanted to develop a culture in which our associates empathize with the customer… really understand what it’s like to be in the customers’ shoes. We refer to it as ‘Be the Customer.’’’

The company’s Voice of the Customer (VOC) process is at the core of its Customer Experience Program, which relies heavily on its Six Sigma methodology to manage measurement and analysis.

“Our customers have the opportunity to provide feedback (VOC) at every touch point and via relationship surveys,” Delaney said. “So we have a constant pulse on how our customers feel and what they think. Our VOC program measures both Active (solicited customer feedback) and Passive (customer contacts & behavior) and uses multivariate statistical analysis to analyze relationships between feedback, behavior, operational service metrics, and customer demographic data.”

That data is analyzed weekly for trends and published not only to the company’s service center, but to all functional areas and the senior leadership team.

“Beyond the more common metrics of NPS, Customer Satisfaction, First Contact Resolution, we also measure Customer Effort and Word of Mouth indices,” Delaney added. “Customer Effort is measured both directly from the customer perception and also internally in an index comprised of the number of contacts and amount of time the customer had to devote to resolve their need. The Word of Mount Index measures the impact of the positive and negative customer experience by quantifying the revenue and cost implications. A multiplier reflects the intensity of social media. The formula determines the number of customers that will tell others about their experience and accounts for the fact that more customers share a negative experience.”

Emotional engagement is critical to brand success.

“If you think of yourself as the customer and think about who you are loyal to, it is most likely the people you have an emotional connection to–your family, your friends,” Delaney explained. “If the customer does not feel an emotional connection to your business, then you have very little chance of ensuring their loyalty. And if you are not asking them how they feel about your company on a regular basis, there is no way you can truly manage the relationship with your customer.” 
 

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