Innovation Management Wisdom

Posts filed under 'Product Development'

Insurer Shifts its Mindset to Win Back Independent Brokers

A top-ten insurer wanted to improve its relationships with independent insurance brokers, the channel through which the company generated most of its sales. An experience management audit revealed that brokers had grown increasingly frustrated with the company.The company’s broker satisfaction studies showed declining ratings across the board. Some brokers had stopped selling some of the company’s products. Most company leaders guessed that high pricing and poor customer service contributed to broker sentiment.

For years, the only feedback that most managers viewed as credible was a closed-end broker satisfaction survey.  This provided no opportunity for managers to act on issues outside of those addressed in the survey.

We’ve seen organizations get tunnel vision from focusing too much on survey results before. The company’s numbers-driven culture served it well in pricing products and handling claims, but not in managing broker relationships. 

We scheduled a discovery session with the management team. We knew that when we aired our observations about the company’s focus on the broker survey, it would create a fleeting, valuable opening for managers to question the status quo. And, they did.

Several managers seized the opportunity to publicly criticize the broker survey process.  They said it didn’t address several recent breakdowns in the company’s broker relationship management process.  This got the attention of the rest of the team.  It also created a new openness among team members to learn what was really going on with brokers.

Whyze Group conducted one-on-one interviews with brokers in every region.  It turned out that brokers regarded the company’s underwriting and customer service operations highly.  Pricing was an issue among a small minority.

The real problem was brokers’ growing mistrust of the company. Brokers were increasingly suspicious that their hard-won books of business would be decimated when the company unilaterally withdrew products from some markets.  This had been happening with increasing frequency over the previous three years.

Some brokers simply stopped investing altogether in selling our client’s products.  They increasingly turned to selling products from competing insurers whom they regarded as more committed.

Adding to the mistrust, retiring brokers’ books of business were sloppily transferred to the brokers who bought them.  Sometime, multiple brokers divided these books.  There was little transparency in this process and perceptions of unfairness and favoritism prevailed.

Whyze Group facilitated the management team through design sessions aimed at increasing the transparency, accuracy and timeliness of these transfers.  The team also reconsidered making its contracts more favorable for brokers in light of the company’s desire to maintain flexibility in moving in and out of markets.  These and other broker experience innovations are being implemented with the support of the CEO and executive committee. 

October 7th, 2008

Food Processing Company Innovates Industrial Accounts Management Processes

Managers at this billion-dollar proteins processing company hired us to help them deepen relationships with supply chain partners like Campbell’s Soup. The company wanted to explore alternative account relationships that would add value to partners. In addition, the company wanted to understand the implications of migrating from the existing account team structures.

Whyze Group interviewed key company executives, reviewed internal documents and mapped the company’s national accounts relationship process. Whyze Group conducted detailed industry analysis and supply chain research.  In addition, we interviewed key managers of Malcolm Baldrige National Quality Award Winners, such as Solectron and Fedex, which successfully addressed similar partnering challenges.

One of the most productive shifts Whyze Group accomplished was reorienting managers from a supply chain view to a demand chain view. Our client’s downstream partners were closer to consumers. Downstream partners experienced pressures that shifted in response to consumers’ eating habits and budgets.

Whyze Group presented the executive team with three models for building deeper, more profitable relationships with its demand chain partners.  All three models were conceived with the intent to enhance our client’s ability to sense shifts in consumer demand, contribute insight to industrial partners and respond proactively to joint opportunities. 

Working together, we drew the implications on account team organization, skills, timing, activities and performance metrics. These partnering models have become foundations of the company’s partner strategy.  They’ve enabled our clients to build and strengthen relationships with national account partners.

October 7th, 2008

Maintenance and Repair Parts Wholesaler Innovates Small Business Customer Experience

This billion-dollar distributor of maintenance and repair supplies wanted to find ways to deepen its relationships with small businesses.A customer experience management audit revealed that the company relied heavily on research with large business customers to guide improvements in the customer experience.  Small business customers, however, were becoming far less loyal.

Whyze Group led in-store cue scans and focus groups with small business customers. These showed that small businesses have buyer personas and needs that are different from large customers. 

Small business customers’ usage of phone, internet and store locations correlated with these personas.  This helped the company to anticipate the expectations of small business customers depending on which channel the customer used. 

Whyze Group identified opportunities in sales, customer communications, products and pricing to deliver improved customer experiences to each small business persona. This became the foundation for redrafting customer communications and customer relationship management processes in ways that resonated with small business customers. 

We prioritized these opportunities to improve small business customer experiences in light of changes in the size and composition of the small business market.  Our analysis showed that the size and makeup of the small business market was likely quite different than the management team had believed.  We worked with managers to prioritize opportunities in accordance with assuring mutual benefits to customers and company.

October 7th, 2008

Insurance Company Reorders Marketing and Operations Priorities

A large insurance company had recently entered a niche market that several key competitors had announced they would also enter. Our client wanted to gain market share as efficiently as possible while managing its rate and underwriting risks. The president asked us to develop urgently needed intelligence and make recommendations.

Whyze Group reviewed the company’s advertisements, collateral, marketing plans, agent database and marketing research.  When we interviewed company leaders, we found that they were in disagreement on the company’s market priorities. We also learned that the company’s value proposition included features that exposed the company to risk, but these features were never validated as drivers of brand choice.

Whyze Group facilitated two workshops with sales and marketing leaders to specify the criteria by which the company would prioritize its target markets. We asked the team assign importance weights to each criterion. Using these two inputs, Whyze Group created an easy-to-use market prioritization tool that the company uses as an input to its sales and marketing planning processes.

We conducted 10 focus groups with prospective buyers to develop ideas for improving our client’s value proposition. The company’s product concepts and positioning were refined as we conducted the groups.

We learned that a key feature, which was costly to deliver, was difficult for consumers to understand or appreciate. Several other ideas emerged as potentially powerful differentiators. It turned out that our client was already providing some of these, but wasn’t promoting them.

We also surveyed 400 agents, a channel through which the company generates most of its sales. Agents’ perceptions of our client’s brand were positive. There was one key attribute on which our client was at a disadvantage, however.

Whyze Group formulated specific recommendations designed to dramatically increase agent-channel advocacy and end-consumer demand. We also outlined next steps for building the company’s market intelligence capabilities. This company is implementing a focused set of marketing and operations initiatives based on our recommendations.

October 6th, 2008

Global Food Company Taps Whyze Group and Customer Innovations to Help with Demand Chain Innovation

Atlanta, GA, March 10, 2003—Wayne Farms, LLC, one of the nation’s largest poultry producers, recently completed a collaboration with Whyze Group and Customer Innovations to strengthen its business-to-business relationships. Wayne Farms was looking for ways to add value and differentiate its offering among partners. Wayne Farms partners include Campbell’s, Nestle and other national restaurant, retail, and food service accounts.

The collaboration resulted in a plan to implement several significant changes to Wayne Farm’s business-to-business partnering processes. Whyze Group modeled some of the recommended changes from Malcolm Baldrige winners that integrate closely with their partners.

Wayne Farms is a billion dollar producer of fresh and further processed poultry and protein products. Customer Innovations, LLC is an Atlanta-based customer experience consultancy and a Whyze Group partner firm.

Whyze Group facilitates management teams’ discoveries and innovations of new customer experiences. Whyze Group applies a reliable and powerful approach, integrating deep customer experience insight, strategic innovation frameworks and executive alignment workshops to guide managers toward innovation breakthroughs. Clients include Rubbermaid, Zales, Nationwide Insurance, Grainger, ING, Humana, Dominion Power, Key Bank and nGenera.

March 10th, 2003

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