Houston, we have a problem

When airlines banned non-removable lithium batteries from checked baggage in 2017, smart suitcase manufacturer Away knew it had a problem. The first hints of trouble broke over social media as passengers reported throwing their suitcases in the trash so they could board their flights.

Rather than panic, the Away team took immediate action to get on top of the situation. They expedited production of removable batteries and shipped out kits that allowed passengers to remove the batteries from their suitcases as an interim solution. Within 24 hours, the Away website had a page dedicated to the issue while the customer experience team went to work with emails and phone calls.

The sky is the limit

A change in policy driven by the FAA and viral social media coverage could have put Away out of business. Instead, thanks to a focus on customer experience, the company has not only recovered, it is thriving. In May 2019, Away raised raised $100 million and is currently valued at $1.4 billion. To date, the company has sold 1 million suitcases and estimates that revenue for 2019 will reach $300 million.

So what lessons can insurers take from Away’s handling of the situation?We can point to the expediting of removable batteries as a factor, but the real difference was their focus on the customer experience. Away put the customer at the center of the journey, came up with a solution the moment they realized they had a problem, and they opened multiple channels of communication to address customer concerns.

Communication is key

The Away story bears out what Gartner has been predicting since 2014. Customer experience is the new battlefield and insurers’ communications can either be their greatest asset or worst enemy. So how can you leverage communication to ensure that your business delivers a great customer experience? Here are a few things to consider when it comes to your customer communications.

  • Communicate with your customers when they want, how they want. Away recognized the importance of connecting with their customers through every channel available. Your Customer Communications Management (CCM) solution should allow you to shift seamlessly between print and digital channels to deliver customer communications and mobile optimization is a must.
  • Make it personal. Away dedicated members of their customer experience team to personally interact with consumers for the duration of the crisis. Your communication solution should be responsive enough to adapt correspondence to individual needs at each touch-point in the customer journey. Providing on-demand, personalized attention can go a long way to resolving issues and retaining customers.
  • Empower your employees. Away was able to provide responsive, personalized care because they had the employees at the ready with the right tools to assist customers. Using a Customer Communications Management (CCM) platform with a centralized library of reusable text and image assets, automated workflows, and a user-friendly interface with drag-and-drop functionality will enable your front-line employees and business users to engage with customers while empowering production managers and approvers to proof, review, and approve changes to templates without relying on IT.
  • Promote collaboration. Cross-functional collaboration between Away’s executive leadership and the customer experience team allowed the company to quickly address customer concerns. When it comes to customer communications, automated workflows and centralized assets can shorten approval cycles and eliminate departmental silos. Role-based permissions ensure that changes are only made by authorized employees and that communications remain compliant with applicable regulations and consistent with your brand.
  • Get real-time analytics. For Away, social media provided a real-time source of customer feedback as the battery ban went into effect. Ensuring that your Customer Communications Management (CCM) solution provides analytics is equally important. A solution with dashboards that provide information on system activity, change management, job status, and delivery confirmation will enable you to follow-through on customer contacts and deliver a great customer experience while staying on budget and meeting critical deadlines.
  • Communicate from the cloud. For companies looking to automate workflows and eliminate silos, the cloud is the lynch-pin in your Customer Communications Management (CCM) solution. The cloud allows companies to centralize assets, manage changes, and audit user activity, while SaaS subscriptions reduce costs and speed time to market. When looking for a cloud-based solution, make sure it adheres to cloud native standards and open APIs that enable integration with databases and other services in your digital ecosystem.

According to a 2016 Gartner survey, 89% of companies expect to compete mostly on the basis of customer experience, versus 36% in 2012. With 64% of consumers more likely to recommend a brand to others if it offers a simpler experience and communications, companies that invest in their communication solution will have an edge over the competition when it comes to customer experience

References:

Lagorio-Chafkin, Christine. (July/August 2019). They Told Me to Get an MBA. I Started a Billion-Dollar Company Instead. Inc. Retrieved on June 25, 2019 from https://www.inc.com/magazine/201908/christine-lagorio-chafkin/jen-rubio-steph-korey-away-suitcase-airline-rules-battery-mba.html

Sorofman, Jake. (October 23, 2014). Gartner Surveys Confirm Customer Experience Is the New Battlefield. Gartner. Retrieved on June 25, 2019 from https://blogs.gartner.com/jake-sorofman/gartner-surveys-confirm-customer-experience-new-battlefield/

The World’s Simplest Brands, 2018-2019. Siegel + Gate. http://simplicityindex.com/