On Tuesday, May 17, the Chief Marketing Officer Institute will reveal the winners of its "CMO of the Year" award for leadership excellence. As we did last year, CMO.com is publishing exclusive interviews with each of the nine finalists, who discussed with the CMO Journal the strategies and tactics they employed to achieve marketing success at their respective organizations.
>> Category: Large Organization
>> Company Description: Zurich Financial Group is one of the world’s largest insurance groups, and one of the few to operate on a truly global basis. Our mission is to help our customers understand and protect themselves from risk. With over 60,000 employees serving customers in more than 170 countries, we aspire to become the best global insurer as measured by our shareholders, customers, and employees. We offer a wide range of general and life insurance products and services for individuals, small businesses, midsized and large companies, and multinational corporations. We have strong positions in North America and Europe, and growing positions in Asia-Pacific, the Middle East, and Latin America.
>> Highlights: The recent financial crisis impacted consumer trust in businesses across all industries, but for Zurich, the economic situation created opportunity and urgency. Specifically, 2010 marked the capstone for a three-year enterprise-wide marketing and brand transformation campaign led by Arun Sinha and his team. Zurich launched the most extensive global campaign in Zurich’s history in the midst of one of the worst financial meltdowns of all time, which included an advertising launch in 140 countries (TV, print, digital, out-of-home, etc.), plus a transformation of Investor Relations activity, a new digital relationship marketing system, innovative social media, 45 programs to improve customer satisfaction and loyalty, and -- most importantly -- an effort to put customer centricity at the heart of Zurich Financial’s business strategy. An innovative employee engagement program helped create the culture of customer centricity. In other words, there was a complete transformation of the business based on customer centricity both internally with employees and externally with customers, journalists, investors, regulators, and opinion leaders -- a transformation from traditional insurance company to a marketing-driven, customer-focused organization.
>> The Conversation:
CMOJ: For the first time in your company’s history it was listed as one of the top 100 Best Global Brands for 2010 by Interbrand. That’s quite an achievement that clearly didn’t happen overnight. As you look back to your first few months as CMO four years ago, what was the single most critical decision you made that laid the groundwork for that recent recognition?
AS: That’s an interesting question. I would say that there was no single decision, but rather, a confluence of observations and actions driven by business objectives that led to the creation of Zurich HelpPoint. We were diligent about creating five marketing priorities, getting agreement from the Board, and embarking on an extensive change management program leading to the transformation of the company. The insurance category was in need of a transformation, and we seized the opportunity and began to move the company from a traditional insurance provider to a customer-centric enterprise. Research findings from an extensive customer survey revealed that there was a significant trust gap, with only 1 in 10 people believing that their insurance company could be trusted. HelpPoint helped Zurich to solve this trust gap, leading to a better, more customer-centric perception of the company.
CMOJ: As part of your efforts to transform Zurich, you developed a new company philosophy and a new, differentiated positioning: “Zurich delivers when it matters, so you feel valued, taken care of and treated like an individual”. Of course, that looks good on paper, but how did you drive that philosophy throughout the organization so that in the “moments of truth” it was acted upon by your employees?
AS: We took HelpPoint and transformed it into a global communications platform aimed to better understanding insurance customers' wants and needs by treating each customer as an individual, not just a policy number, and making it clear that “help is on the way” by delivering when it really matters. We realized that in announcing the arrival of HelpPoint, the company needed to bring it to life and allow people to “experience” it. This called for an approach beyond traditional advertising. We felt that one of the best ways to demonstrate that we had “a new way to help” was to give people an opportunity to discover this in a more experiential sense.
A targeted cross-section of marketing programs were utilized to deliver this. We created a roadmap of current products, sevices, and solutions as well as the future state. We had to build confidence with our employees that they really can deliver when it matters -- that it’s -- not just a marketing goal. Many new customer programs were re-launched to be HelpPoint-specific.
We then commissioned an innovative and effective e-learning module for Zurich employees. The 20-minute interactive experience was completed by over 3,000 employees in the first month alone, giving us an extraordinary 90 percent compliance rate. Our employees became engaged in the process and are the best brand ambassadors. At the same time, we leveraged innovative marketing programs to communicate to the external audience about our brand promise worldwide in 140 countries.
CMOJ: Compared to industries and brands that connect more emotionally to customers, it would seem that insurance companies -- even a great brand like Zurich -- runs the risk of falling flat (or worse) in the realm of social media. Nevertheless, your team has added a social media presence to enhance your efforts. Tell us more about how you’ve gone about that task.
AS: Social media is a valuable channel for Zurich and one that perfectly fits into our customer-centric philosophy, as it supports a life-long direct customer relationship. Zurich has distinguished itself from competitors by being one of few financial services company to embrace and capitalize on social media, enabling us to participate in important conversations and relationships that would otherwise go ignored. We have added a social media presence to enhance HelpPoint Advocate's main mission of being an objective resource for all insurance customers. HelpPoint Advocate can be found on Twitter under the handle of @HlpPntAdvocate. Online videos of Zurich senior leaders on YouTube and the Advocate Twitter feeds also work in tandem to provide interesting HelpPoint-related content to the media and promote this content to an already-engaged community. As a result, the company was cited by the New York Times and BusinessWeek online as the pioneer in leveraging social media tools to promote customer-centricity (HelpPoint) among the employees and customers.
CMOJ: Describe the relationship you have with your CEO, Martin Senn. What are his expectations of you and your team -- and how are those expectations measured?
AS: Martin is a fantastic leader with a very customer-focused vision of the future. He expects this vision to be embraced across the organization, and we have all rallied in support of that mandate. We measure our success through quarterly customer benchmarking and satisfaction surveys and lead-generation analytics. Zurich’s global initiative to be the best insurance provider worldwide as measured by our customers, employees, and shareholders has been recognized by our brand movement.