Wayne Peacock: Retaining customers with data

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Wayne Peacock, Executive vice president, enterprise strategy and marketing, USAA

Wayne Peacock,
Executive vice president, enterprise strategy and marketing, USAA

Everyone at USAA is focused on the member experience. Can you talk a bit about your role?

My role is to enable our team to derive insights about our members and about the competitive landscape so that we can formulate strategy to build our business for the next generation. I’m also tasked with creating a strong culture in our front-line teams so they deliver every day to our members and help create an exceptional member experience that differentiates USAA in a pretty crowded financial services field. Lastly, my role is to make the most of the great brand building that happens every day and create a compelling story about why USAA is a place for military families. More and more that story is becoming primarily about engagement and enabling members and employees to tell that story on behalf of USAA.

USAA members do tend to champion the cause. What makes them so loyal and vocal about their allegiance?

As I’ve travelled the country talking to our members they’ll typically start with, “Oh, I’ve been a USAA member 40, 50 or 60 years.” I think it speaks to knowing our members and caring about them better than any company in America. Our mission is to help military families build financial security. The fact that we’re member-focused means that everything begins and ends with taking care of them. And that’s just good business, because members are easier to keep than they are to acquire. If we offer them good products and services, and members stay with us for a lifetime, we’re going to deliver better financial results, which give us the financial strength that we need to be prepared to serve the next generation.

How are new technologies changing the way you foster relationships?

It’s clearly more complex than it used to be. It won’t be long before 19 in every 20 customer interactions will happen over a digital platform. When someone truly needs help they still want to engage with a live person, but it’s really becoming an augmentation to what we’re providing digitally. I think the frontier right now is transforming the digital interaction to seem more human and emulate more of what we can deliver person to person. That opportunity to serve, to build a relationship and take great care of our members will depend more and more on our digital platform and also on data and analytics.

How does data help you do that?

It’s easy to push out a lot of content online. It’s a lot more complex to present an offering that is important and relevant to our members. Our 10 million members interacted more than one billion times in 2013, so being personalized and relevant every day across channels requires a very complex algorithm. We have a really robust program that allows us to understand every day—and I hope intra-day in the not too distant future—how our members interact with USAA, what they’re saying about us, and what financial services they’re using. We synthesize all of that into a 360-degree view of the member that we use to be more relevant and personalized and to offer new programs and products. We’re beginning to ask how we can use all this data to better anticipate member needs and respond in real time and in a personalized way.

What are you doing with data?

We do mostly inbound listening. We pick up feedback from social media, contact-center interactions and other structured data. We connect all of that to provide insights to our business leaders. We’re also beginning to use data to drive unified messages and offers at point of sale and point of service. The next phase is to reach out more to solicit feedback to create a much more participatory community—but quite frankly our first challenge is making sense of what we already have. There’s really fascinating work going on to truly understand member behavior using data, both opportunities for us to do more and opportunities for us to improve what we’re already delivering. Ultimately, we’re trying to figure out what is interesting and valuable to the emerging generation of consumers and stay ahead of them so that five or 10 years from now we’re just as relevant as we are today.

Are you doing more tactical things like looking for signs of attrition?

There’s definitely a defensive opportunity to see patterns where maybe we’ve missed the mark. We’ve built models to predict some very interesting things—from whether someone might leave the association to when an active duty member might be about to move into civilian life. More and more we’re playing ahead rather than merely responding to what’s already occurred. Our ability to be ahead of the game, to anticipate, is absolutely essential and we have to deliver across devices and channels. We’re getting better on how to do that.

Can you provide any wisdom to marketers who might be one or two steps behind you?

The opportunities are only limited by your organization’s imagination, but at the same time you can find yourself working on many things without focus. So we’re trying to experiment with these capabilities to predict better, but then focus our efforts on near-term opportunities that truly matter for our members and for the business. For us it comes back to the member journey, the important points in our members’ lives where we can make a difference.

How has using data changed your organizational makeup?

It has been a unifier. We’ve become more consistent in how we store, maintain and use data. It puts everyone on the same page about the opportunities and the challenges. One source of truth across the enterprise is a very powerful unifier.

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