Aegon's head of customer experience about how a new process of real-time, closed loop feedback has transformed the way the business acts on customer insight.
With around 25,000 employees and 2 million customers in the UK alone, Aegon is one of the globe’s largest life assurance and pension companies.
Yet up until 2016, the Dutch multinational didn’t have a huge amount of regular insight into how customers felt about its products and services.
“We were in a place where we weren’t acting on customer feedback as much as we should’ve been,” says Iain O’Connor, Aegon’s senior customer experience manager.
“We were fundamentally relying on a single source of feedback, but on a small scale. There was no real focus on improvement across the business.”
Fast-forward two years and everything has changed; Iain and his team have established a completely new system of real-time, closed-loop feedback which is transforming the way Aegon is able to track interactions with its customers and the speed by which it’s able to improve its service offerings, as a result.
How have they done it, and what have been the benefits of the transformation?
Identifying the need
Before 2016, Aegon’s method for collecting feedback was through a generic NPS survey which they would put out several times a year to gauge customer satisfaction levels. However, with a vastly changing customer landscape it was deemed inadequate.
“Our highest volume channel has always traditionally been telephony, through our contact centres,” says O’Connor.
“But digital has become increasingly prevalent and also our customer base has become increasingly diverse.
“We needed more flexibility because of the array of customers we now have. We knew that to listen to and act on their feedback would require more than just the NPS survey.”
A culture of feedback
Iain’s team set-up an initiative called CX Labs – comprising a bespoke room in Aegon’s UK headquarters with a set of plasma screens, a journey mapping area and UX eye-tracking capabilities.
Feedback was switched to web intercept and email to web surveys. Text analytics was applied to multiple channels to help understand customer sentiment and help to drill down into the performance of key categories.
We knew that to listen to and act on their feedback would require more than just the NPS survey
However, crucially, every employee was opened up to instant access to feedback and opinions from a network of customers, staff and financial advisors.
“We created different dashboards for different parts of the business, mainly to make sure everyone understands they have a survey score and what they need to do to improve it,” adds O’Connor.
“It was a cultural shift because the whole programme is more visible across the business and so there’s more people looking at it and discussing it.”
The system runs alerts based on customer scoring across its web and email channels. If someone scores, say a 9 or 10 (excellent alerts) or 0-6 (hot alerts), they get emailed from the portal straight to the person and the manager who took the call and the case. It’s a live feed of feedback coming into different parts of the business.
Iain’s team also do scheduled reports – setting up a data feed for different people across the business so they’re able to see different, latest scores and feedback about a particular issue, like bugs on the digital side or a particular evaluation. The focus is on “giving the right people the right information to improve things”.
Closing the loop
Part of the success Aegon has found since setting up CX Labs has been forged from its closed loop feedback process – Aegon Cares.
“When we get hot alerts and people have a reason to be dissatisfied we call them back straight away to find out why they were dissatisfied and what we can do to help them,” adds O’Connor.
“Once we’ve had that interaction we re-survey the customer and track the difference in the score and often see a big leap in the score after reaching them through this method.
“It’s a vital method – there’s a responsibility to customers that if you’re going to ask them to take the time to give feedback that you then act on it and show to the customer that you’re acting on it.”
Over the first few months of 2017, Aegon Cares called a group of customers with a combined low NPS score of -87. The subsequent contact led to a re-surveying where the customers were given more room to voice their issues in order to ensure they were resolved properly.
The group has transformed its NPS score to +14. Through Aegon Cares, over 60% of identified detractors are contacted.
As O’Connor states: “Closing the loop in this manner has clear customer perception value, but there’s also a commercial benefit here – customers are often entrusting a lot of finance with us so if they see that we’re not doing anything in reacting to the issues they have they’re likely to look elsewhere to a competitor that does. Retention is a huge success metric for us so the closed loop process helps us keep customers satisfied.”
There’s a responsibility to customers that if you’re going to ask them to take the time to give feedback that you then act on it
O’Connor’s firm belief is that Aegon’s switch to a real-time approach has not only given the business the opportunity to react much quicker to a wider array of feedback, but also to use the data flowing through the business to proactively contact customers on a range of issues.
“On the digital side, the way we put things out online, the language and terminology, all of that has been updated and tweaked thanks to advice from customers.
“We’ve changed so much, especially in the contact centre and back office – we respond much quicker to queries and send things like proactive reminders and updates for processes that take longer than a few days to complete – all of that is in place because of customer feedback.”
The depth of insight Aegon now has as a result of opening up a wider range of feedback channels also means the company can be more selective in how it invests in genuinely customer-led initiatives. This is great news for O’Connor – he states the ultimate goal of CX labs and Aegon Cares is for the company be seen as a leader in customer experience, something its very much on the pathway towards thanks to its shift in feedback focus.
Chris is Editor of MyCustomer. He is a practiced editor, having worked as a copywriter for creative agency, Stranger Collective from 2009 to 2011 and subsequently as a journalist covering technology, marketing and customer service from 2011-2014 as editor of Business Cloud News. He joined MyCustomer in 2014.