Geeta Wilson is the VP, Consumer Experience – Enterprise Transformation at Humana, where she’s been since late 2013. In this episode, we primarily discuss how and when to know an organization is ready for customer-driven change. One interesting point (that I loved) which comes up here is how you absolutely need to honor the past as you shape the future, in any organization. I’ve now done several episodes in the health care space, including recently with Jackie McAtee of Mayfair Diagnostics too.
Prior to her work at Humana, she worked at NCR (as Senior Director of Global Customer Experience) and McCann Worldgroup (as Executive Director, Recruitment Marketing). She had also worked in HR and consulting prior to ascending at Humana. Geeta is also a certified black belt in Lean Six Sigma. You can learn a bit more about her background at her LinkedIn page, which is linked in the first section. We also once wrote a long post on customer experience labs, and some of Humana’s work is mentioned in there. (It comes up less in this episode, but is interesting to note.)
How did she know Humana was ready for a CCO-type transformation?
It is important to know when the conditions are right.
At Humana, there was senior buy-in. Hiring was also moving in a direction of identifying key players around strategy and design. Some of the questions you need to ask yourself here are:
- Is there executive buy-in around the idea?
- Has the vocabulary begun to evolve?
- Does the customer experience across lines of business seem to be more than lip service?
- Is the culture fear-based or does it seek to empower?
- What are the actual values and the values people follow?
- Are we over-complicating or understanding the need for simplicity?
- Don’t expect everyone to be fully on-board (and don’t presume), but find some champions
- Will the process begin as an advisory capacity, consultative capacity, etc?
- Can the trust of the organization be earned within a year?
The first six-nine months
Some of the keys for Geeta in the first few months of work:
- Find out everything possible about the organization
- Internal/external discovery
- Look at yourself as a customer (be on Humana’s health plan)
- Learn the pain points
- If you inherit a team, get to know all of them
- Be familiar with what had been done and tried in the past
- 1-on-1s with as many leaders (of other silos) as possible to understand their perceptions, incentives, and vocabulary
In essence, much of the first half-year has to be about gaining knowledge, understanding previous context, and building relationships. While you need quick wins, which usually take the form of achievable deliverables, you have to spend this time building the framework or the rest of the work won’t evolve as properly.
Usually in these situations, some “internal plumbing” (processes, teams, priorities) is broken — and that’s causing pain points for the end customer. You need to figure that out.
The A-Level assumption
Geeta’s husband is a college professor, and she borrowed this from him: assume that everyone on the team you inherit is A-Level (an A-Player). Once that assumption exists, it’s up to them to maintain the A-Level. She had to go through and meet them, learn about them, and slot them into the right roles (voice of the customer, design, etc.) She also was able to bring in some of her own non-legacy talent within the first year.
As a Lean Six Sigma black belt, she does see the value in bringing in similar folks. But if someone is too “by the book,” she shies away. She also used to look for competency (someone who’s done almost the exact same thing before), but over time shifted to a model more based on trying to identify emotional intelligence. She frames this up as the “we vs. me” issue.
How do you make an impact quickly?
You identify the area where this can happen fastest. At Humana, for example, loyalty programs was a good example. She also had the ability to design a rotation program allowing people to move through different roles across 18 months, and a lean startup program that allowed different divisions to kick tires on prototyping and quick responses to customer issues.
They also rolled out a customer empowerment program (200 employees in the pilot) during this time. Geeta is very big on developing empathy across teams, and ultimately 2,000 people were involved in this program. Issue resolution went up and transfers went down, which were two of the essential metrics of a program designed at teaching employees to empower customers.
The importance of omni-channel metrics
Geeta installed this at Humana (a key aspect of her first few years) because the organization needed real-time, cross-department metrics to really see how the business was running and being perceived at the customer level.
The important takeaway for her here: to do this work, you need “ops chops,” as in — you can come in and say “I want to help customers.” That’s great, but you need to get your hands dirty at points and really develop operation/execution-level solutions, especially those that might give more insight on processes to the other executives.
The pay it forward question
What does Geeta know about CX now that she wish she knew then?
- Anticipate a roller coaster: There are always going to be highs and lows. Understand that. Develop grit and perseverance.
- Huddle in the morning with your team: Set up what you’re facing and what needs to be done, what the priorities are. Do this every day for years. Build the consistency out. It will make your teams better.
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