Leading – by Learning – on Customer Centricity

For customer centricity to take hold in an organization, leaders must commit to it. Without commitment from the top, it would be difficult for any company to recalibrate so that customer needs are the driving force behind business decisions.

Recognizing the need for buy-in from senior management, CGAP has been bringing together CEOs and other leaders from various financial service providers across the world to learn from each other’s customer-centric practices. This has taken the form of a leadership lecture series, as well as a Leadership Challenge, launched in November 2015. The objective of the challenge was to encourage leaders and their colleagues to interact with their customers in new ways, explore the challenges customers face, and identify solutions and opportunities for their businesses.

Pioneer, a Philippines-based company, won the challenge based on a CGAP panel review of submissions (see the winning submission here). Its leaders participated in a May 2016 learning visit to South Africa and Zambia to learn from other CGAP partners working on customer centricity: Zoona, a money transfer provider; PEP, a retail store; and Hollard an insurance company. What did they learn?

Geric Laude (an author of this blog) – CEO of CARD Pioneer Microinsurance Inc. – said talking with Zoona staff and seeing the work in action showed him how providing a great customer experience can create value for both the firm as well as the customers. Mymy Rapes – Head Knowledge & Information for Pioneer Insurance and Surety Corp. – was struck by Zoona’s use of visuals, allowing for simple communication suitable for every type of customer, including the illiterate. Pioneer team members were also struck by the way Zoona uses technology to connect with customers in new ways, and how Zoona succeeded in making its offering simple and geographically accessible through numerous agent outlets. Zoona’s organizational culture stood out, too. The environment is informal, the company emphasizes employees living the company values, agents and front-line employees are provided with strong support and training, and the right staff incentives are seen as a key part to providing a good customer experience.

At PEP, the team gained insights into the challenges of partnerships for insurance provision, specifically by learning about the PEP-Hollard partnerships for the sale of funeral and old age insurance to PEP customers. This is a relevant topic for Pioneer, as it has several local partners in the Philippines who are crucial to getting its products to market. Another striking aspect from the PEP visit was the institutional culture and respect shown to PEP’s front-line staff. Mymy noted PEP’s clear internal messaging that front-line staff are highly valued and respected as the most important staff within the company.

A brief stop at Hollard in its Johannesburg headquarters offered the Pioneer team interesting insights to the former’s approaches to its partnerships. The visit gave the team a two-way perspective of the PEP-Hollard collaboration, allowing it to better understand how the partners leverage each other’s strengths. Furthermore, the Hollard staff shared their experiences using multiple channels to reach customersand how they use dashboards to guide strategic decision-making.

The central takeaway from the learning visit and action item for Pioneer was related to the design and use of dashboards. The Pioneer team saw different dashboards at Zoona, PEP and Hollard. The company now aims to update its existing metrics to move away from traditional insurance metrics to customer-focused metrics, such as cost of customer transaction or lifetime cost of handling a customer. Pioneers’ goal is to have updated dashboards in place by January 2017 and collect updated data on a daily basis by July 2017.

Implementing this takeaway from the learning visit will allow the Pioneer team to take more practical steps toward greater customer centricity. In the words of Lorenzo Chan, Jr. – President of Pioneer Life, Inc.: “Our customer should be our North Star.”

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