How did AIG go beyond simply analyzing its customer feedback to operationalizing it and improving their customers’ experience?

Prior to 2007, all feedback stemmed from distribution channels, but the company had no listening posts tied directly to consumers. AIG started their Customer Feedback Program in early 2007, with a focus on end consumers. The program, which is managed by a small, dedicated team, consists of both transactional and relationship surveys that are conducted by sending an email invite to customers with a link to take the survey online. This allows for real-time feedback, analysis, and follow-up.

Being able to listen to customers in real-time is critical. Such feedback allows companies to identify customer and market needs more quickly, test product concepts, gather competitive data, and make business decisions and product or service adjustments in an efficient manner. Real-time feedback also allows companies to resolve critical service and quality issues and identify key business process improvements more quickly.

Key Learning: You don’t know everything that’s important to the customer from the office; you really do need to get the direct and unfiltered customer perspective.

As their key metrics, AIG a) measures and monitors overall satisfaction, and b) uses Net Promoter Score[1] (NPS) methodology; each for different reasons. Measuring overall satisfaction allows tracking, monitoring and response to individual service interactions. This results in customer experience improvement at the interaction point. NPS is utilized to focus on customer loyalty and to trend customer perceptions over time, which drives customer experience at the macro level and can be influenced by larger initiatives like e-delivery or enhanced self service capabilities.

Business Integration is Important to Success
As with any enterprise-wide initiative, business buy-in and integration was critical to the success of AIG’s Customer Feedback Program. Rather than assigning a research team to the challenge and walking away, the program department started with senior leadership, convincing them that they’d be flying blind without customer feedback at their fingertips. This critical step helped to solidify business participation.

In addition, AIG institutionalized the feedback from a reporting perspective, integrating it into long-standing operation dashboards. The entire organization, therefore, has the ability to hear what customers are saying, can incorporate the insights into business decisions and process improvements, and respond while sentiments are fresh. In addition, feedback that results in service recovery opportunities is acted on quickly, tracked, measured and used for business process improvements.

The data is also integrated into AIG’s training, quality, and lean process improvement departments in such a way that the Voice of the Customer (VoC) is woven throughout all they do. It demonstrates a convergence of processes not only within these functions, but also in their efforts to improve the customer experience.

Key Learning: Business integration means that there is no separate group working behind the curtain or operating in a vacuum; the program is incorporated into business processes, and business owners manage it, participate actively, and act on the feedback.

Closing the Loop With Customers
If you’re going to ask customers for feedback, it is imperative that you close the loop with them. Closed-loop processes entail following up with individual customers about their questions or concerns – or to just say “thank you” for their feedback. Sharing the results and the resultant improvements with customers also lets them know their feedback is heard, valued, and used. Customer feedback programs are living, breathing programs that are “on” all the time. AIG built action management and closed-loop processes into the program, thus ensuring that the right people follow up on alerts, close the loop, and save at-risk customers in real-time.

AIG not only alerts internal business owners when low scores (less than 6 on a 10-point scale) are received for the service request process, customer care experience, insurance purchase process, or customer service representative experience, but also sends kudos alerts for any response with an overall satisfaction score of 10. For kudos, customers get thank you notes, and employees are acknowledged within the organization.

Improving the Customer Experience
Improving the customer experience is, ultimately, why AIG listens to customers. As a result of listening to the VoC, AIG is revising processes based on the customer view of the processes, not based on their own, internal perspective of the processes.

This customer feedback program is an early warning system. Listening to customers in real-time means AIG can catch issues customers are having early in the purchase process, thereby allowing corrective measures – saving a lot of future customer effort and pain.

By integrating the program into the business, AIG fueled a range of improvements. For example, in its Life eService group, the team identified a gap in certain online capabilities. Today, its ePolicy Delivery program offers customers a paperless option; many service forms can be submitted electronically; and enhanced policy information can be accessed online.

Further, by unlocking powerful insights that loomed within the customer research, AIG was able to create tangible business results, including identifying and regaining lost customers and saving potential customers (those who didn’t finish the purchase process).

Other Benefits of Customer Listening
Additional opportunities were afforded as a result of AIG’s Customer Feedback Program, such as gained perspectives on the distributor experience, better understanding of what is being said about the brand through social media, and using text analytics to define comment categories and identify sentiment.

The team learned several lessons over seven years running the Customer Feedback Program, including:

  • Feedback is a gift. Appreciate it. Use it wisely.
  • Business participation and ownership is critical for meaningful impact. When the business partners talk about the program, it generates buy-in throughout the organization.
  • Create a small, focused team to oversee the initiative.
  • Don’t make it a money issue. Budget for the feedback program can come from a specific department (such as research) the first year, but other departments will likely end up investing once its’ worth is realized.
  • ROI is difficult. Rich feedback equals rich benefit, but it takes some analysis to understand what it all means.
  • Share the results incrementally.
  • Execution over analysis. Like AIG, if you just need to get started; do it. You can improve questions, data feeds, analysis, etc. down the road. It’s never too early to just start listening.
  • Engage with an expert partner. Have the right tools and resources to align with the program goals and business objectives.
  • Feedback results in a corrected line of sight to the customers and helps employees see and hear how their contributions impact the customer experience.
  • Open-ended text box responses yield surprising insights.

Internally communicate quickly and often. Share information, best practices and insights on a regular basis. Recognize and appreciate your employees. There are many creative ways to deliver the message.

Execution over analysis does not imply that customer feedback shouldn’t be analyzed. It simply states that getting started is what’s important. Focus on the right things and develop the framework for a successful feedback program. Line up the right people, tools and partnerships. Ensure that you have executive, business and employee buy-in and participation. Help executives appreciate that customer listening data will prevent them from flying blind. And make sure you close the loop with customers and communicate with employees to provide a clear line of sight. When it comes to getting buy-in and building a customer-focused culture, employees consider the things that you frequently talk about to be important.

Footnotes:

  1. All trademarks are the property of their respective owners. Net Promoter, Net Promoter Score, and NPS are trademarks of Satmetrix, Inc., Bain & Company, Inc., and Fred Reichheld.