[Video] USAA: Creating “Customers for Life”.

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Do “Customers for Life” really exist? As we all know, rather than tangible products and goods, the world is now dominated by intangible services and experiences. To keep up with this decades-long structural shift, brands must strategically refocus their core value propositions. In this terrain, USAA has consistently built a brand identity and reputation around superior service quality and customer (referred to as “Members”) experiences. With shared virtues and values built into every part of the business, USAA has created a growth and value creation platform that has the inherent power to both attract non-customers and retain existing customers for the long-haul, creating an army of passionate brand advocates and “Customers for Life”

Founded in 1922 by a group of U.S. Army officers, USAA has long been recognized for its exceptional service to active duty military and Veterans with a diversified financial services portfolio and a track-record of service innovation. By fundamentally optimizing every interaction as part of their innovation agenda, the USAA membership base has grown from 8 million in 2010 to almost 13 million today.

While innovations in the core brand proposition and financial offerings are highly aligned and responsive to Member needs, in today’s hyper-competitive world, they alone are insufficient to create the brand preferences, high emotional switching costs and defensible competitive advantages needed to drive sustainable revenue and growth.

Measured through customer lifetime value (CLV), the full vision of  “Customers for Life” cannot be realized until the full potential of the organization embodies it, the brand promises it, and the business model delivers it. This is service excellence and customer experience at enterprise scale. As the pragmatic manifestation of “making customer experience everyone’s job”, this operating principle is characterized as:

  • All employees are empowered to preemptively identify and bridge any gaps between customer expectations, promises and actual customer experiences;
  • All parts of the business are predisposed to consistently deliver superior experiences across customer journeys and delight at the moments that matter most to customers;
  • Innovative and unique service and experiential propositions are brought to market, providing memorable instances that truly surprise and “WOW” customers;
  • Service quality and experiences are connected to financial value drivers, and unit costs-to-deliver or costs-to-serve are optimized, even as customer volumes, customer expectations and channel choices increase; and
  • The virtues and values of service excellence and customer experience outcomes are embedded into organizational and operational DNA to create a durable and distinctive enterprise capability.

Instructions: On the journey to “Customers for Life”, how does your organization rate against these characteristics? Watch the USAA “Service Innovation” Video. Discuss among your team, identify how each element applies to your organizational context; and identify barriers and opportunities to tailor and implement for your organization.

Author:  Wayne A. Simmons


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