In this episode, I speak with Margie Dillon, the EVP and Chief Customer Officer for Liberty Mutual, about her unusual path from Chief Financial Officer to Chief Customer Officer. We discussed her very deliberate path to engage the C-Suite and the specific actions that did and did not work. And she shared her “tipping point” where leaders began to personally engage, and how she used that commitment to build a 130-person company-wide cross functional team. Finally, Margie and I discussed the build-out and results coming from their new and quite extensive customer room. This will be quite interesting for those of you wanting to pursue your own customer room.
Introducing Our Guest
Margie is EVP and CCO for U.S. Consumer Markets at Liberty Mutual. The overall U.S. Consumer markets business has 17,000 employees and generates $16.8B in net written premium annually.
Margie’s team, the Customer Advocacy Office, was founded in November 2014 to lead a broad transformation to a customer-centric culture. The team includes 130 professionals responsible for Customer Strategy, Metrics & Insights, Employee Culture, and Operations. The team’s mandate is to serve as passionate customer advocates who work across the business to ensure that everything Liberty Mutual does begins with the customer in mind. The team ensures that customer-facing employees are empowered and equipped with the tools, training, processes, and support they need to consistently deliver an outstanding customer experience — creating loyalty and driving growth in the process.
Prior to her appointment to Chief Customer Officer, Margie spent 13 years as Chief Financial Officer of Personal Insurance at Liberty Mutual.
Connect With Margie
- Margie is on LinkedIn
- While she’s not personally on Twitter, Liberty Mutual is — with close to 100K followers as of this episode.
Key Summary Of Discussion
Some of the core ideas from our discussion include:
- Executive engagement: Being patient, finding a lot of different ways to reach the other decision-makers — and this includes making sure they understand what Voice of the Customer means and that it’s always top of mind for them. As Margie mentions a couple of different times in this episode, nine months was her sweet spot for starting to turn around some perceptions on customer experience being owned by everyone. I call that One-Company Leadership.
- Stay the course, stay the course, stay the course: Valuable in all aspects of business, but definitely in building customer experience
- Don’t compare yourself in your industry: This is a natural tendency of companies (think “We’re third in our vertical!”) but that’s not how customers see companies, and companies need to get out of the language and ranking of themselves that way. See yourself through the eyes of the customer.
- Build a cross-customer experience team: Drive a team and find different skill sets to bring to it, not necessarily the conventional ones that we always look for. That’s where change comes from.
- The role of a customer room: Build empathy and embed it as an ongoing concept, not a one-off.
- This is missionary work: Understand and appreciate that, and it’ll drive the hard times you will go through.
Show Notes: Valuable Links And Resources From This Episode
- At 1:16, we discuss her unlikely journey from CFO to CCO in the context of how it actually makes a lot of sense via understanding the P&L. For more on different pathways to CCO, read Paul Hagen’s 2011 Harvard Business Review article on that topic or my February 2016 post on how to become a CCO.
- Around 2:00-2:23, the discussion turns to rooting new customer experience projects in data and metrics. This is important in every industry, but majorly important within insurance, where Margie works. Consult an old post of mine from 2010 on essential customer service metrics for more, or another deep dive from Client Heartbeat in 2014.
- At 3:22, a discussion about organizational alignment for customer growth begins.
- At 4:24, we discuss support from the top and alignment with company core values.
- Immediately afterwards, the discussion turns to listening to customers — and why it’s crucial that executives do this, even if they’re running departments day-to-day and feel they don’t have time.
- Around 5:30: the meetings designed around good/bad customer calls were only set for 30 minutes.
- 6:04: Engagement levels on these meetings varied for about nine months — so the process does take time — but by 9 months in, other executives were weighing in with their own perspective.
- 6:54: It’s nearly impossible to change the prism of how people view the business unless you persist.
- 7:29: How many brands a customer interacts with daily, and why daily interactions drive everything now.
- 8:33: Liberty Mutual did have a ‘Customer Experience Council’ for years, which helped move along the idea — but it still takes time.
- 9:32: How Margie was given ability to build a team, and how she wanted people with different, outside perspectives.
- 10:35: It took Margie nine months to build her team; nine months was a key timetable in Liberty Mutual’s journey.
- 11:03: “There are thousands of ways you can go about customer experience. If you change course every month, you’ll never go anywhere.” — Margie
- 11:34: The four groups that report to Margie are customer strategy, employee culture (including internal communications), metrics and insights, and operations. 130 total people.
- 12:28: This process is much more about “posters on the wall” and more about how to actually drive customer experience.
- 13:03: We can talk for days about customer experience, but what happens when the employees aren’t engaged or set up to deliver that experience?
- 13:46: When Liberty Mutual initially tried a ‘Voice of the Customer’ program, response rates and turnaround time were poor; changed the process for timeliness and feedback.
- 15:17: Some of the biggest changes around customer experience come from the simplest things — such as improving your phone system.
- 15:54: The horror that is … IVR Trees
- 16:46: The misconception of what is “talk time” in customer service calls vs. “time where a problem is being solved”
- 17:35: Liberty Mutual now looks at everything through the lens of a customer — and not just insurance customers, but any customer who deals with technology anywhere.
- 18:11: “Change is everyday. You can’t come up with solutions that, by the time you implement them, they’re outdated.” — Margie
- 18:36: The importance of speed in business these days
- 19:14: How Liberty Mutual undertook the process of building a customer room
- 19:53: One of the initial metrics the customer room provides is NPS, or net promoter score
- 20:00: 2,700 front-line managers will be going through the Liberty Mutual customer room
- 21:15: Margie’s advice to someone just starting out in CCO work (hint: time and people are crucial)
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