Customer Service Ranks First, Says Progressive CEO Tricia Griffith

What do you do when you don’t have a tangible product?

You emphasize customer service above all else, says Tricia Griffith, CEO of Progressive Corp. in Mayfield Village, Ohio.

“Our product is promising that when you need us, when you’re in an accident, we’re going to take care of you,” Griffith told Fortune.

She ought to know: Griffith started out at the auto insurance company claims representative trainee in 1988, just after graduating from college.

“I think that first job when I was a claims rep trainee of crawling under cars, doing estimates in body shops, really made me realize how important service is, customer service,” she said.

After rising through the ranks for nearly 30 years, Griffith in 2016 was named to the top post, one of only 32 female CEOs running Fortune 500 companies and one of 50 women Fortune has identified as the Most Powerful Women in Business.

In addition to selling auto and motorcycle insurance, Progressive also offers home insurance underwritten by select carriers, including American Strategic Insurance Corp. and its subsidiaries, majority-owned by Progressive. Consumers can now get home insurance quotes on their mobile devices while they are out and about, Griffith told Forbes last year.

“We’re disrupting the homeowners’ insurance market by launching a brand new way to make sure you’re getting the right coverage at the right price by getting multiple quotes quickly and easily – in just 15 minutes for most people,” she said. “Since we upended the auto insurance market with a similar approach two decades ago, we’ve all gotten used to shopping for hotels, airfare, and just about everything else in this way.”

Progressive will continue to launch ever more innovative ways to serve customers Griffith said.

We proudly operate with an ‘always in beta’ mindset,” she said. “Just keeping up with the pace of the industry is not enough for us – we want to lead. We are constantly improving and getting smarter. We listen to our customers to learn what they want. We’re also great at removing friction from the process to bring them what they want — and even anticipate their future needs — quickly and effectively.”

Prior to being named CEO, Griffith served as personal lines chief operating officer, overseeing the company’s personal lines, claims and customer relationship management groups. Before that, she held several managerial positions in the claims division before being named chief human resources officer in 2002.

In 2008, Griffith returned to claims as the group president, overseeing all claims functions. She then became president of customer operations, overseeing claims and the customer management group, which comprises the company’s contact center group for sales and delivery, as well as the customer experience, systems experience and workforce management groups.

She’s No. 134 on Chief Executive and RHR International’s CEO1000 Tracker, a ranking of the top 1,000 public/private companies.

Tricia Griffith, CEO, Progressive Corp.

Headquarters: Mayfield Village, OH

Age: 54

Education:  Illinois State University (BA), University of Pennsylvania, Wharton School of Business (MBA)

First joined company: 1988

First position with company: Claims representative

Named CEO: 2016

Katie Kuehner-Hebert :Katie Kuehner-Hebert has more than two decades of experience writing about corporate, financial and industry-specific issues. She is based in Running Springs, Calif.