Monika Schulze is Global Head of Customer & Digital Office at Zurich Insurance. She talks to WARC about the vital role of CX, the impact of ‘insurtechs’ and what she’s learned from working with start-ups.

Describe your day job and what its biggest challenges are right now.

We serve around 50 million customers worldwide at Zurich Insurance Group. In a world where digital technologies are giving customers more control, customer experience management is essential. Our aim is to offer our customers a great experience at every touchpoint they have with the company, as well as to build loyalty and increase both retention and product density.

Focusing on customer experience management is, in my view, the single most important investment a brand can make in today’s competitive business environment.

To give some context, here are some numbers: today, 89% of companies compete primarily on the basis of customer experience – up from just 36% in 2010. But while 80% of companies believe they deliver “super experiences”, only 8% of customers agree (Bain & Co).

One of my biggest challenges is convincing everybody that customer experience is important to drive business results. In other words: the biggest mistake companies can make is not focusing on customer needs and seeing technology as a starting point of all discussions.

How are agencies helping to meet those challenges?

To start with customer input and feedback, we are using Net Promoter Score (NPS) which is a management tool used in customer experience programs. NPS measures the loyalty of customers to a company and it allows you to monitor improvements in a product, service or organisation.

We are working together with Medallia, a pioneer and market leader in Experience Management. They are providing us not only with a technical platform, but also strategic advice and best practice cases from other companies.

What role does strategy play in helping to meet those challenges?

We work closely with our colleagues from strategy to shape the customer agenda. For Zurich, the digital transformation required is driven by customer experience. We start with our customers’ feedback analysing their journey. We then define must-win areas, where we want to be better than the competition and ideally delight our customers so that they come back and buy more. Technology is an enabler to get to this position. The customer need, however, is the starting point for defining a superior position in the market.

What’s the biggest lesson you’ve learned this year?

One way that Zurich fosters innovation and out-of-the-box thinking is by working with start-ups. I am personally involved in the partnership with CoverWallet, a start-up that makes it easy for businesses to understand, buy, and manage insurance online. Zurich has acquired a minority stake in the company that builds on a commercial partnership between CoverWallet and Zurich in Europe.

My biggest learning was in the management of conflicts between of the different teams. One area for conflict of interest between a corporation and a start-up often arises because of differences in the way performance is measured. It is best to anticipate and address them quickly, before the relationship doesn’t work anymore.

How do you expect your category to develop into next year?

In an increasingly digital world, digitising the customer experience is a key priority. Customers expect frictionless, connected services that are easy to interact with. They are embracing digital channels and technologies such as connected cars and smart home solutions.

Insurtech companies with pure-play digital business models, such as Lemonade for private customers or CoverWallet for small businesses in the US, are using digital applications to turn the process of buying a policy or filing a claim into a fast, simple and satisfying experience.

Insurtechs are leading the way by rethinking, streamlining and simplifying the entire customer experience. Many big insurance players are partnering with those start-ups to develop more agile and innovative digital propositions.

What tech are you investing in or scaling up?

Digital marketing capabilities are increasingly needed, and this is why we are working with partners like CoverWallet in order to learn and improve. At first, I was challenged why I wanted to partner with them, as their value proposition was seen as an IT front end. However, the convincing evidence for me was their lead generation ability and the high rates of conversion to sales. Marketing today is much less about traditional advertising and sponsorship deals, and more about data, digital customer journeys and influencing the sales funnel.

Monika will be speaking at the Festival of Marketing which takes place on Thursday 10th and Friday 11th of October at Tobacco Dock, London.