Many companies today have developed paths to greater engagement and greater profitability through recruiting the involvement of their customers. To restate the definition of engagement: it is the extent of a customer’s willingness to invest his/her discretionary time for a mutual benefit, and particularly for the benefit of a business.
MetLife sponsors and maintains a robust customer community with which it engages in many ways over time, from asking simple questions to testing ideas and products. In a simple yet powerful engagement exercise, the company asked community members to write a letter to a relative explaining why insurance is important. The customer stories that resulted from this exercise were deeply moving and very powerful. They described experiences that enabled the marketing group to understand where and to what emotional extent insurance is a welcome relief rather than a necessary evil. These stories continue to inform MetLife’s understanding of what customers value. They also enable MetLife to humanize and optimize its marketing and sales efforts.
MetLife has also leveraged stories that customers share with each other to drive advertising campaigns. In Poland, MetLife has low name recognition and market share but word of mouth promotion is unusually strong. One popular story customers were sharing there told of a claim from an elderly woman whose signature did not match the one on her policy. Normally such claims are denied, but in this case, an agent tracked the woman down, found her in a nursing home, verified her identity, and paid her claim. MetLife created a very successful television advertisement based on this story. And because real life customer stories like these increase authenticity and effectiveness, they give MetLife a significant edge over its competitors.
The insurance industry is replete with cumbersome product names such as, “Variable annuity with a guaranteed minimum withdrawal benefit,” or “Immediate lifetime annuity with return of principal.” The names attempt to describe function from a company perspective and end up confusing customers. In anticipation of a new product launch, MetLife turned to its customer community to share the product’s purpose and benefits. Customers provided not only the name, but also the emotions to evoke and the messages to convey within the product’s marketing and advertising campaign. In May 2013, MetLife launched the customer-christened “Shield” insurance product.
MetLife has successfully engaged customers in product development and in customer acquisition and retention. As well, MetLife has demonstrated such value in engaging customers in process redesign pilot projects that the CEO has mandated leveraging customer engagement in order to eliminate $100M in costs from the business.
*This post is excerpted from The Bingham Advisory: The Customer Engagement Trajectory, available for free download from the CCO Council website here.