Quick, Cheap Ways to Improve Customer Experience

Think about the most innovative companies you love and interact with every day. Apple, Starbucks, Target—all of them hold customer experience design principles dear at their core.

By focusing on their customers first, these companies do more than simply exceed customer expectations. Over the last 10 years, they’ve outperformed the S&P by 228%, according to DMI Design Value Index.

Customer experience is a big deal, and for good reason. But improving yours doesn’t have to cost big bucks or require an expert, stresses Brian Leppard, distribution best practices manager at Foremost Insurance.

Leppard outlines a simple, effective customer experience design process you can implement rapidly, at no cost at your agency:

Start with real customers. “But I talk with customers every day,” you may be thinking. Of course, but you most likely spend that time talking about “whats”: what they want to insure, what limits they need, what billing options work best.

In reality, customer experience is about the “why”: why they chose you or chose to leave, why they called you or hung up, why they decided they needed to make a change to their insurance. Challenge yourself to talk with a customer without trying to sell them anything, solve for a problem or even, well, talk. Just listen. Interviewing customers about their experience is fundamentally different than discussing insurance—and yields fundamentally different results.

Take the good with the bad. Select two customers: someone who never calls, never complains and always pays their bill—in other words, the perfect customer—and someone who recently cancelled their policy and left your agency without warning. Invite each customer, separately, to coffee. Let them talk, and take notes. Ask the first why they chose your agency and why they stay. Ask the second why they chose your agency, why they left and why they didn’t give you a chance to save their business.

Share what you learned. Schedule a meeting with your staff and ask them why they think customers choose your agency and why they stay. Challenge them to honestly answer why they think customers leave. Then share what you heard during your interviews. Celebrate the positive comments, but more important, embrace the negatives without judgment. The problems are your key insights.

Just like that, you have your bull’s-eye—the customer experience hiccups that, when solved, could transform your business in a way that’s meaningful for your customers.

Peter van Aartrijk is an IA contributor.