How We Moved Toward A Customer-Centric Culture

For a company that was grown out of a captive insurance company, pivoting toward customer centricity wasn't easy—but with the CEO all in, they got there.

Customer centricity isn’t a new concept. At one level and to different degrees, all businesses have tried to focus on knowing what their customers want and need. Today, more than ever, a customer-centric strategy has become a key to success for service organizations, which live and die by the quality of the customer experiences they deliver. You are only as good as the last transaction you process, which means very little room for complacency in delivering a superior customer experience every day.

SE2 supports life insurance and annuities carriers and their end customers who rely on the work we do to acquire a new policy, expedite claims or answer queries, for examples. The carriers depend on our technology and services to help them roll out a product faster to market. They also depend on us to provide a great experience for their end customers and we are measured on how we perform every day.

As CEO, my focus in developing the customer-centric culture was understanding what’s most important to the insurance carriers and their end customers. We identified five key attributes that are essential for us to embrace as an organization to help our customers: Accountability, Responsiveness, Transparency, Innovation and Collaboration, or as we coined it, ARTIC.

Having defined the key attributes for our success, it was important to drive and motivate the organization around ARTIC and to give all our employees a common purpose and show its importance in serving end customers. I also found relatable examples of how other service organizations in the airline or restaurant business did this, which resonated with our employees. Service organizations typically don’t hear about problems until things go wrong. Much like other service businesses, we have different customer touchpoints and failing on even one of them will impact their entire experience of dealing with us.

We have been celebrating associates when they stepped up and were accountable, and we also gave employees on the front line opportunities to reflect upon how they could do things differently or better with each instance.

The CEO must be a customer-centricity champion.

Having a strong customer-centric leader is critical. The CEO sets the tone in organizations and customer-centricity happens from the inside out. As CEO, it is my responsibility to communicate and demonstrate the attributes of a customer-centric culture, including ARTIC. As an example, I am very responsive to our associates if any one of them email me directly.

At SE2, we actively call out those who demonstrate and embrace ARTIC principles with awards and other recognition, encouraging associates and getting wider company buy-in. ARTIC started as an acronym but it grew to become a groundswell and a movement that has become part of the fabric of our culture.

Pivoting to a customer-centric culture for a company that was grown out of a captive insurance company is not easy. SE2 has grown organically and inorganically with associates coming from different backgrounds and cultures. Fortunately, we have new hires right out of university who we can shape and mold to our customer-centric philosophy. But for those already inside the organization who may have “grown up” with a different kind of culture, we know it is up to those individuals to decide if they want to change to adapt to our way of doing things.

When hiring new employees, especially middle to senior management, it is important to actively seek a fit to the culture we are building, and we look for enthusiastic adopters. We instituted many changes in our onboarding process and our learning and development programs so that new hires see and experience ARTIC at various points in our organization. We also have run internal communication campaigns to help keep the customer-centricity message front and center for employees.

Customer-centricity isn’t an option for today’s service organizations. However, developing a customer-centric culture is a multi-step process and is a long term move that requires leaders to stay the course. Some of the key steps include: gain a thorough understanding of your customers’ value proposition and know what their end customers want; identify the most important corresponding attributes or tenets; and then build multiple integrated programs to embed it across the organization. It’s easier said than done, but for service organizations, getting this right can result in a consistent, positive experience for your customers, and their end customers.