Understand Customers’ Lives to Serve Their Lives.
At the upcoming Net Promoter 2.0 Conference, one of the esteemed presenters is USAA. USAA (United Services Automobile Association) is a San Antonio company offering auto and home insurance to a customer base of military members and their families. While new hires are not required to be from the military, they must understand military life. So new USAA employees wear the military helmet and feel the weight of the backpack and flak vest as it is strapped to their backs. And they eat the same meals, the MREs—“meals ready to eat”—that soldiers eat in the ﬁeld. They get to know the people behind the uniform by reading letters from soldiers and their families. As orientation ends, USAA’s intent has been realized. They have made their customers’ life a reality for their new recruits. And that sets the stage for how customers will be served.
Company Proﬁtability Increases with Customer Growth.
USAA knows that an empathetic and caring workforce that understands the unique lives of their customer base is fundamental to their ongoing success and proﬁ tability. That means walking in their customers’ shoes, literally. USAA calls their approach to connecting employees’ lives with customers’ lives “surround sound.” Elizabeth D. Conklyn, USAA’s former executive vice president of people services, said, “We want to cover the light moments, the heartwrenching moments, what it’s like to be bored in the ﬁeld.” The company takes that understanding beyond orientation. For example; USAA call center reps are called “troops” and use military time on the job. And they commit to ongoing training with military precision and follow-through. Hourly employees receive seventy-five hours of training per year. Salaried employees receive at least thirty-seven hours.
USAA Retained 98 percent of Their Customers in 2010.
By walking in the shoes of its customers, USAA breaks down the impersonal barrier that often exists between companies and customers. As a result, USAA customers love and reward them with growth and validation; 98 percent of USAA customers stayed with them in 2010. And they have achieved an 82 percent Net Promoter Score, meaning the majority of customers are passionate supporters. What is your version of receiving orders and wearing a ﬂak jacket so you can recreate your customers’ lives during employee orientation? Beloved companies have their new hires (no matter what job they’re hired for) work in retail or in their warehouses or wherever the customers are at so they can understand customers and get to know their lives. Do you?
Walking in the shoes of the military personnel and families they serve keeps USAA delivering the service they are known for. New hires get “orders” to their assignment and eat the “ready to eat” meals served to enlisted personnel.
- Can you describe a day in the life of your customers?
- Do you know what keeps your customers up at night? You need to understand their lives to serve their lives. Do you?
- How would you rate your intent and ability to walk in your customers shoes?
- Do customers rave about how well you understand them?
- How does your decision to walk in your customers’shoes compare with this beloved company?
- Do your decisions for understanding the lives you serve earn you “beloved” status today?
- Can you identify your version of wearing a flak jacket so you can re-create your customers’ lives during your employee orientation?