Welcome to Episode 12 of The Chief Customer Officer Human Duct Tape Show. In this edition, my guest is Natalie Schneider, the Vice President of Customer Experience at Anthem, Inc. She describes the transformation she is leading for one of the largest national healthcare providers. From assessing the many operations and variations of service to uniting the C-Suite and CEO focus, Natalie walks through her detailed plan with practical advice on how to ensure the work from getting too big, and ensuring the work goes on.
More About Natalie
Natalie is the Vice President of Consumer Experience for Anthem Inc. She is most proud of her role in improving the health insurer’s NPS scores in the double digits over the past 12 months and helping the organization pivot from a B2B to a B2C company. She leads consumer strategy, culture and the governance of the consumer experience portfolio of initiatives.
Natalie earned her MBA and certificate in Health Sector Management from Duke’s Fuqua School of Business and furthered her design and innovation education through the Disney Institute and Darden Graduate School of Business. She also completed a master’s degree in Information Systems and a bachelor’s degree in Computer Science from Rhodes University (South Africa). Natalie has also enjoyed serving on the CXPA Board, the Forrester Leadership Council and on the Board of both the Indianapolis Symphony Orchestra and the American Lung Association.
The starting point for customer experience in healthcare: Anthem is an enormous company
This is important to frame some of the discussions here. Anthem has 53,000 associates, $70B in revenue, and has employees all over the world. Close to 30 percent of them work from home. This creates a lot of fragmented systems that executives and leaders need to deal with when trying to initiate new ideas, especially around customer experience.
Where do you begin to assess the work that needs to be done?
Early on, Natalie and her team understood the need to pivot from traditional B2B to B2C; by some estimates, 70 percent of their future growth was going to come from consumer choice options. The problem? B2B organizations tend to be very ingrained around specific sets of processes, and those processes need to be a bit different for B2C. As Natalie says early on here, “Everything needed work.”
They settled on four focal points:
- Where does the organization get the most scale? (i.e. where can the most customers be reached?)
- How does the organization perform against those touch points?
- How important are they really to their customers?
- Where are they with regard to their competitors?
Those four questions, done in a data-driven way, drove everything the team did from there on out. The goal was united focus, as opposed to everyone branching out on their own.
The future state blue print
Anthem is still trying to develop this. As with many large organizations, it’s a challenge oftentimes. The goal is to align priority throughout the organization, or at the very least align ‘strategy’ (big picture) with ‘execution’ (day-to-day tasks throughout the 53,000 associates). Getting to a future state blue print is hard, but very necessary to grow and set up work successfully.
Customer experience in healthcare doesn’t work unless it’s tied to the financials
“We needed very defensible business cases,” says Natalie, “because no matter the situation, no decision-maker is going to prioritize customer experience over something with better ROI.” At the same time, the key metrics for senior leaders were tied into NPS (net promoter score). This made it nearly impossible for anyone to lip-service the idea of customer experience in healthcare.
There aren’t perfect metrics
“Land the plane,” says Natalie. “There is no perfect metric.”
Anthem uses NPS a good deal, as well as ‘member effort.’ The final one is a bit more standard: customer satisfaction. Those are enterprise-wide, but for each specific initiative, Natalie’s team uses a set of metrics. This includes metrics like e-mail open rates, how many people watched a video, etc.
Facilitating conversations around aspiration
Each strategic area at Anthem needed a “Super Bowl goal” in their yearly planning. What Natalie’s team tried to do is take something very vague to most executives — i.e. aspiration, career development, team-building — and make it very specific. This is crucial to keeping people engaged in the work. Even if you come from CCO work where the methodology involves people being interchangeable and the customer experience being the important product, you need to realize the importance of engaged, connected, passionate people. It drives everything forward.
“It’s everything but it’s nothing”
If you don’t attempt to adjust the behaviors and attitudes internally, it’s very hard to get your big-picture goals accomplished. Phrased another way: many leaders tend to think at the macro-level, but most actual work happens at the micro-level. There needs to be some alignment between where the strategy resides and the execution resides. There also needs to be alignment between the behaviors the company preaches and the behaviors that the senior executives showcase. And finally, there needs to be attempts at behavior change and adjustment throughout the departments. Without these efforts and alignments, your customer experience is strategy is everything — heady and great strategic terms — but also nothing, meaning it might run in place for years.
“What I Know Now That I Wish I Knew Then”
I ask this of all my guests. Most of my guests have been doing CCO / customer experience / voice of the customer work for over 20 years (sometimes longer), and they’ve learned a lot along the way. If you’re newer in this work, I consider this a “pay it forward” question. What have these guests learned over time that you could start focusing on now?
Natalie laughed when I first asked, and said “So much!” (I liked that.) Her first piece advice was getting top-down support and buy-in. They tried to do that, but it was very challenging. “Many people’s apple carts were getting upset along the way,” she notes.
Her second idea is around financing. You need to consider the benefits and drawbacks of different models and how they’re being financed (centrally, by department, etc.) What are the potential conflicts that can arise in each situation? When you’re competing for funds, who holds the purse strings is massively important. Think it through.
Reporting lines and “where does this idea reside?” was her third major area. Centralized structures can often lead to certain groups being thought of as “the prescription area” for certain ideas. You don’t want to show up with any idea at work whereby it looks like a power grab. Every idea needs to feel ‘like Switzerland,’ where it’s coming from a neutral place. The only benefit should be to the company, not to a specific executive or silo.
The next episode will be a week from today (the 12th). On Thursday, I’ll be doing a post recapping the biggest lessons I’ve learned from my first 12 episodes. Hope you’ll read it!