Nationwide – one of the largest and most diversified insurance and financial services companies in the United States – has adopted Qualtrics XM Discover, a conversational intelligence platform, to better understand its customers’ satisfaction levels in near real-time. The $50+ billion company has found that customer satisfaction surveys, whilst useful to track metrics over time, don’t allow for the quick response times needed to service customers with increasingly high expectations. Instead, Nationwide is analyzing conversations in its call center, and across email and social media, to empower frontline staff to remediate customer complaints.
The financial services organization uses a framework called ‘listen, analyze and act’ – where the key is taking the data received and moving from insights to action. This is the foundation of Nationwide’s experience management strategy, according to Sri Sankar, VP of Customer Experience Strategy and Engagement.
Nationwide also uses Qualtrics for its relationship and transactional surveys, but has been using XM Discover in parallel (which was formerly Clarabridge, now owned by Qualtrics and rebranded). Nationwide operates in insurance – personal, commercial – and in financial services, which includes assets, retirement plans, annuities, etc. In terms of experience, Sankar said:
When we leverage any tool it’s both for consumers, our end customers, as well as for intermediaries. We have to care about both experiences. The intermediary experience is big for us, because without highly satisfied intermediaries, we don’t even get a shot at our end customers. But then we also look at what we call end customers, our members – so the member experience as well. Both are really important for us.
Nationwide began using XM Discover in 2021, which has helped the business understand how customer service, or experience management, can be quite slow to respond. And this is the key difference between traditional feedback surveys and real-time conversation analysis, according to Sankar. He said:
For me, the biggest thing is that it’s very reactive. Our customers interact with us in a variety of ways. And we capture a tonne of information. But phone calls already have everything that we need to know about how that interaction went – I don’t need to go ask the customer how it went.
And then if I think about how many customers take a survey compared to how many phone calls we have, it’s trivial. So for us it is about how can we leverage the data that we already have and get more actionable, as well as real time, insights?
Sankar explained that if Nationwide sends a customer survey two days after an interaction with the organization, and then the customer responds two days after that, by the time it comes back it’s hard to meet the customer’s expectations in a reasonable, efficient manner. He added:
By the time it comes back, a significant amount of time has passed. With something like XM Discover, a call comes in and you can evaluate the call right away, maybe a few hours later, and the insight is already there for you to take action on.
Also, a lot of the time in the customer survey you rely on the customer to give you actionable insights. But with XM Discover, during the entirety of the phone call, you can understand emotions that you cannot always understand from a customer survey perspective.
You can say, was the customer happy, thankful, frustrated? Was the overall positive? Negative? What was the perceived effort from a customer perspective? Things that we cannot get from the survey.
XM Discover is also being used as a tool to coach and train Nationwide frontline representatives – particularly with regards to ensuring that they meet the necessary financial regulations on any call. Sankar said:
We are in a very highly regulated industry. So there are certain phone calls where we need to use specific language, when you open the call. The question is, how do you ensure that?
The customer survey is not going to know if the call center rep used the right language or not? Our associates are unbelievable, they’re very diligent, but they are humans. Errors crop up. With XM Discover you can look at every single phone call and ask, was that language used? And then you use that for coaching and so on.
Change management is needed
Sankar noted that through the use of Qualtrics – in particular XM Discover – the understanding of the customer problem increases, because of both the amount of data being collected, as well as the granularity of that data. He said:
We are better able to understand what it is that we are failing at, right? The other thing is the focus narrows, because sometimes the surveys are too broad.
And it’s not just call centers, which do have a tonne of data. We do ingest data sources from other places as well: emails, customer emails, chat conversations, social media, everything that goes into XM Discover.
You then get a holistic picture of what it is that’s happening. But at the end of the day the call center data does trump everything, just because of the number of calls we get through.
However, it hasn’t been a case of plugging in XM Discover and letting the call center agents and customer service reps get on with it. Sankar is aware that receiving such data requires proactive change management to ensure that the frontline staff know how to respond effectively. He said:
I would say change management is a big thing. It’s a very advanced tool. And so this is not something you can give to a frontline rep and say go figure it out.
My team, we try to operationalize XM Discover. Along with that comes storytelling…coaching…how do you leverage this data? Because if I tell a frontline rep, ‘well, the customer sentiment is positive for us’. They’re like, ‘what does it mean like when the sentiment is positive?’
So there’s a lot of change management that goes on. We are getting much, much better, at a faster rate. To the point where we are now able to take the data, understand the insights and take actions immediately. Things aren’t perfect, but definitely a lot better than when we first started. The change management is significant.
Sankar’s team is also working with the call center and customer service representative to provide feedback more regularly, so that Nationwide is able to quantify the benefits that it is seeing through the use of the tool. The traditional customer surveys do help measuring trends over time, where Nationwide tracks customer response scores, but it is also focused on efforts to get quantify the real-time benefits of XM Discover.
In terms of advice for other organizations that may be considering the use of similar technology. Sankar said:
I would say get started. A lot of times we think we need to make this perfect. But just get started. You’re going to learn and there are always going to be some pitfalls. We will work through those things.
Also what helps us is having a focus. For example, at Nationwide, we have something called customer experience principles. Those principles tell everybody at Nationwide what an ideal state experience looks like. Having that is helpful, because then we can focus the data on: ‘these are the experiences that our customers want from us’. So it shapes our wider customer programme, in terms of understanding the data that’s important for our customers, but also for our business.
I think having that focus helps, but for me, the number one thing is just get started.