Tom is the Principle, Head of Member Experience at Aon Hewitt. While he’s been in customer-facing roles for about 25 years, he’s only been at Aon Hewitt since mid-2016. (Immediately prior, he was a Senior Customer Experience Analyst for Forrester.) Because he’s been in his role about 12 months, most of this conversation is focused on what he set out to accomplish in the first year — and what he thinks the next 6-12 months will look like.
Tom’s career bow
He studied psychology (crucial to FX).
While working with Staples, he worked on in-store experience and digital experience (he knows both sides).
He’s done a ton of CX research and seen best practices throughout his research role at Forrester. (Deep subject matter expertise.)
This is the bow on the career arc package that brought him to Aon.
What questions did he ask when being recruited by Aon?
“What do you see as the importance of this role?”
“Why do you need it now?”
“Do you have an understanding of how long this process usually takes?”
There were some other questions, but this gave him an idea of what the pre-existing ideas and perceptions (and expectations) might be as he considered coming aboard.
“My first three months were terrifying!”
He largely had to understand the business model better, especially how revenue generation works. He spent the first 3-4 weeks just meeting with internal stakeholders, from secretaries to executives. After a month of these conversations buffered by reading, he turned to the member experience. (Members in this case is conventionally how we might view customers.) The first problem he found on the member side were the data systems — multiple, slow, not speaking to each other, etc. “It felt sometimes like sandstone and a hammer to chisel at it with,” he jokes. By the time he was about 2 months in, Tom had a much better understanding of the business model and the member base. That’s almost a full quarter, yes — but now processes and execution can scale and strategy can be set as well.
He tried to set up everything as “customer experience around shared value.” This helped him start the process of aligning the silos. If all the discussions come from this place of shared value, people relax some of their concerns and are more willing to work together.
What tactics did Tom use most in his first 12 months?
- By his belief, 99% of employees want to do the right thing by their customers — they just can’t for various reasons, usually internal processes.
- “Serenity prayer” around getting everyone to change at once. Some people never want to change. Some take lots of time.
- Test and prove: This approach is more popular with executives, because it means they can immediately see results off a smaller spend.
- Adjusted language and delivery of some campaigns regarding financial retirement savings
- Changed dates and language around campaigns; also adjusted reporting schedule
- Now he’s got more effective campaigns to work with, and he can see the results faster
- He also segmented campaigns by age/gender
- Bootstrapping left and right! (This takes us seasoned CX veterans back to getting the dirt under their fingernails.)
Up next on that docket: He’s trying to develop an easy data pipeline for executives to look at what’s happening and instantly have access on customer touchpoints. Aon is also going through a tech transformation and the member-side experience will be different as well. They’re also pursuing an end-to-end picture of member experience and path through the different systems and processes Aon has. One way he frames up the next six months is: the pacing is as important as the action plan. Before you show results, set expectations over a period of time. It will lead to much better relationships in the space long-term.
The pay it forward question
What do you know NOW that you wish you knew THEN? Tom’s answers:
- Make it personal to the C-Suite: You absolutely need that buy-in. (You need it from everyone in the organization and the customers, of course, but getting to initiate some of your biggest plans means you need the buy-in from the highest levels.)
- It’ll be a long time before anyone enters a CCO role and everything is already organized: This is a huge pro (you can shape it) and con (the first few months can be frustrating). And remember: nothing changes unless you change how people view and discuss the business. That’s what the culture change component of CX is all about.
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