After attending the 2010 Forrester Customer Experience Forum in New York I started to really think about how organizations become efficient, create winning customer experiences, develop sustainable business models and make great products and services. Therefore, I have decided to dedicate my blog to talking about these and other businesses practices. At best, I hope to generate dialogue and thought-provoking insights on how organizations can exceed customer expectations while delivering products and services consumers want and need. And by doing it in a sustainable way, hopefully they can give back to society while building a fantastic brand.
As many companies struggle to define their competitive advantages, develop unique products and deliver exceptional services I find one theme that matters most. The company’s culture is the single most important factor in how an organization operates. It determines how customers are treated, drives operations, and prioritizes spending for “keep the lights on” and “new cool innovations.”
For example, at the Forrester CXP, we heard from Patty VanLammeren, the Chief Customer Experience Officer at Allstate Insurance. She talked about how over the years, Allstate has been on a journey to change the customer experience. This is one of the major initiatives undertaken by Allstate to reverse course with their customer base and increase client retention, improve customer satisfaction, and get back to their core business. VanLammeren mentioned in order for them to begin to put their clients first, they had to change the culture, reinvent how clients were treated, and redefine what it means to be client centric. Although she noted it is an ongoing process and a long journey, Allstate is well on their way to redefining the company culture.
Allstate Insurance has implemented three key initiatives to change the culture. First, they started putting their money where their mouth is. Instead of providing lip service internally about being client focused, the Executive Team backed it with meaning. The company changed their 401(K) matching contribution plan to coincide with customer satisfaction scores. Essentially every employee’s contribution is driven by how well clients perceive the value that Allstate brings to the relationship. What a novel idea. We all know if you incent the behavior you want emulated, you will get faster results. Suddenly, everyone wants to know what they need to do to reap the rewards. Secondly, they began an ambassador program that, in a nut shell, is made up of volunteer employees. You know the type, highly engaged and motivated employees that ultimately form the coalition for change which is so critical in any organizational transformation. Third, Allstate created a Client First Forum that set strategic goals for the organization and defined, at a high level, how they would measure progress. Sub-teams were initiated to handle the tactical aspect of metrics. My interpretation is, with any organizational transformation, you have to benchmark first, and then measure progress. Otherwise, you’ll never know if you’re heading in the right direction. By making these three key initiatives a priority, Allstate has become more client centric and is moving to change the company’s culture.