Allianz Global Corporate & Specialty (AGCS) is one of the world’s largest B2B insurance providers, operating in more than 200 countries and territories. Felicity Holdgate is the company’s Global Director of Customer Experience, and is leading the company’s efforts to be a leader in the B2B CX space.

In this profile, she explains the importance of frontline staff, the future of B2B CX and what can be learned from B2C brands.

On starting out on the AGCS frontline

If you don’t recognise the daily realities of your market-facing staff, things fall apart.

I’ve spent most of my career at Allianz, but in market-facing roles for the most part. Those experiences set the foundations for my work as global director of customer experience, and informs how I approach things from head office.

Having spent time on the frontline, I’ve seen frustrated customers up close and also seen what our client-facing staff struggle with most. Those experiences together give me a great understanding of not only why we need to be customer-centric, but also how. Because it’s fine to deliver CX mission statements from HQ – but if you don’t recognise the daily realities of your market-facing staff, things fall apart.

On the future of B2B CX

B2B brands are more and more aware of the need to join up customer touchpoints

B2B CX lags behind B2C ever so slightly, but it’s catching up. In the last few years, at least in our industry, there’s been a rapid rise in digitalisation and self-service channels. And more specifically, the insurance industry was slower to get on board with CX, but in the last few years that’s changed. We’ve seen how customer expectations of their insurance provider have risen and how they’re more likely to select a provider that offers a better experience. Everyone’s got an opinion on insurance providers – but now they’re more willing to share it.

There’s still a lot to do. In the next few years, it’s going to become even more important to create 360-views of every customer, combining the operational data (O-Data) and experience data (X-Data) we have on customers. This won’t be a nice-to-have, but a must-have – the value of each customer to a B2B organisation is so high, not really understanding their needs is going to become an untenable position very quickly.

To that end, journey mapping is going to become even more popular. B2B brands are more and more aware of the need to join up customer touchpoints and understand the complete journey.

On borrowing from the B2C world

Gathering feedback at a transactional or operational level has given us really valuable feedback

There’s definitely some commonality between B2B and B2C, so I’m always keeping an eye on what’s happening in that area.

To give one example, feedback at a transactional level is something that’s quite new to B2B. There’s been some hesitation to go down to that level, partly down to the fact people think it’s too much of a retail gimmick, and also a fear of over-surveying customers.

But we’ve found gathering feedback at a transactional or operational level – and even using 5-star ratings – has given us really valuable feedback. Feedback we’d either get too late in an annual satisfaction survey, or not all.

On gathering CX feedback from frontline staff

It’s not just gathering customer feedback in new ways that’s setting us apart from rivals. It’s also gathering CX feedback from our employees, the people who know our customers best.

We have a network of CX champions around the business, from which we gather feedback on the current way we’re doing things and what customers are saying. We also spend a lot of time with colleagues in different markets in order to understand how we can tailor our offering for different cultures.

On linking employee and customer experience

The work I’m most proud of at AGCS

The biggest thing we’re doing though is starting to link employee experience and customer experience. We’ve piloted regular pulse checks on our employees’ views on CX. And during our pilot we’ve seen some fantastic ideas for how we can improve things for customers.

The future will be about linking EX and CX data, to prove out the case that happier employees lead to higher CX. And that by improving internal processes that a customer can’t see will actually improve their experiences.

For me, this is the work I’m most proud of at AGCS.

On the importance of a central CX team

We believe in a small, central CX team that drives strategy

Any CX team needs to consider the amount of autonomy they give people around the company, versus how much they control themselves.

For us, we believe in a small, central CX team that drives strategy and provides a framework for how local teams can better serve customers. But after that, we know that CX becomes more sustainable when it’s owned and driven forward by employees on the ground. Which is why Qualtrics helps us so much, as we can deliver real-time insights to market-facing staff and help them to see what changes they need to make.

On gaining experience around the business

Don’t lose touch with the people actually interacting with customers

If you’re starting out in CX, I’d recommend getting an education in all areas of your business. I know my experience in market-facing roles and working abroad has been instrumental in driving CX forward in AGCS.

You don’t necessarily need to have worked in every department, but you could do client visits or shadowing of your sales teams.

Basically, don’t lose touch with the people actually interacting with customers or engaging in work that really impacts experience.