Jody Bews-Hair, Head of Customer Experience, Southern Cross Health Society
Is it possible to create a successful customer lifecycle communications programme without large-scale investment in new CRM technology?
The short answer? Yes.
I speak from experience, having built a data framework that enables Southern Cross Health Society to have personalised digitised conversations with its members – without a centralised CRM. Needless to say, there were a few challenges along the way.
Southern Cross is a not-for-profit Friendly Society whose core product offering is health insurance, covering more than 870,000 Kiwis. In 2018, the business set an ambitious goal - to lift the health and wellbeing outcomes of its members by focusing on wellness, lifetime health improvements, and extends its proposition beyond getting well to keeping well and staying well.
The task for the customer experience team was to support this larger value proposition, at the same time lifting engagement, increasing member touchpoints and moving members to cost-effective service and engagement channels – all while reducing churn.
We devised a strategy to evolve member communications from organisationally-centred messaging to a communication flow that reflected the life-stage, lifestyle and lifecycle of each of our members. We would create hyper-personalised, highly relevant conversations with our members to remind them of the relevance and importance of the Southern Cross in their lives.
This transformative project was guided by three imperatives. The first was recognising the nature of a personal lifetime relationship, not only with personalised onboarding and lifecycle communications but also by leveraging data to ensure touchpoints and content met members’ needs for recognition.
The second was starting new conversations, with a focus on developing a dialogue and relationship to support future conversations on personal lifestyle and wellbeing practices. Our third imperative was migrating members to our digital channel, My Southern Cross, for policy management and a CX-optimised electronic claims channel.
To do all this, we worked with a specialist data-marketing agency to create a fully customised external solution which could do essentially the job of an enterprise-wide CRM.
Internally, we had to reconfigure a policy-centric set of systems to enable customer-centric communication. This required defining, agreeing and developing one source of customer truth across members’ unique personas, behaviour, health, and wellbeing journeys.
It involved systems definition, integration, data fusion, transformation, and interpretation across a variety of channels and complex member management business process engines.
An infrastructure and security environment was installed to transport a member’s information for replay, securely embedded in the relevant and ‘next best conversation’ environment within the right timeframe and channel.
Creatively, we needed to show that we understood our members’ unique needs in a genuine way, so we designed and developed a creative framework that moved away from replaying all the complex details of a member’s full policy to them, to providing what they need at each stage of life.
By analysing the complex spectrum of real-life interactions, from how members interacted with our communications to how they contacted Southern Cross and why, we were able to construct a focused and thoughtful communication framework. Drawing on creative insights and data science, we created powerful and timely conversations delivered at the most relevant times.
Our email communications evolved from a wordy, colour-heavy template to more dynamic modular templates that quickly communicate key information. Refreshed imagery mirrors the life stage of the member, and smarter functionality reflects the way communications are used by members.
For example, new members now receive a simpler, warmer welcome thanks to a redesign, which has reduced the number of disparate messages in each communication and takes the member through a defined set of stages to answer their key questions and concerns.
These emails are highly customised, with more than 100 dynamic content variations. Rather than leading with a business-focused headline and full-width image, we shed email conventions and took our copy lead from postcards, greeting the member by name, followed by a relatable headline relevant to their life stage.
For existing members, we introduced event-triggered and timed messages that acknowledge milestones in a member’s lifecycle, as well as ‘get well’ messaging, seasonal wellness tips, promotion of relevant partner offers and policy renewal prompts.
We also developed a programme to trigger surveys to understand issues or frustrations with key proof points in the customer journey. A feedback loop on the quality of content, timing and targeting was established to enable prioritised agile improvements in communications.
The all-important results? We have met our growth and retention targets, migrated 75 per cent of members to multiple digital channels, and delivered operational and governance process improvements. Plus, those highly personalised, highly relevant conversations have seen a significant lift in digital engagement.
Now that we have proved the model, bringing the CRM in-house may be the next step. In the meantime, technology has enabled us to deliver human levels of service at a scale not humanly possible.