QBE on why fixing disparate customer data is important

QBE Insurance Group is building out a single view of the customer, starting with fixing its data.

QBE Insurance Group is changing the way it views its customers as part of its overall digital transformation effort. According to the company's chief customer officer Bettina Pidcock, the best way to build a customer-centric organisation is to give a level of ownership to staff and ensure data is correct.

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Speaking at the Gartner Customer Experience & Technologies Summit 2018 in Sydney on Monday, Pidcock shared a customer story that all the industry buzzwords and software couldn't have handled without a "human" element present.

"We received a letter from a woman ... her husband had just died. She had been a customer of QBE since 1964 when she and her husband bought their first home," Pidcock explained. "She gave me a copy of this beautifully engraved policy document that she had, and it had her name and her husband's name on it."

Pidcock said after her husband died in June, she wanted to take his name off the policy and have it in hers only.

"Apart from the fact it took a few calls to get the right kind of information so we could do that, we said to her, 'sad news, but your husband took you off the policy in the 1980s'. She said, 'no, he didn't, that's when you went from a manual system to a computer system and you decided that he was the policy holder -- you put him there," she continued.

That meant QBE had to write the lady a new policy as she was no longer in the system. It was more expensive than she was paying -- approximately AU$300 more -- but Pidcock said the lady accepted the increase as she had been a customer for over 50 years.

"In December that year when her old policy would have been due, we sent her husband a renewal invitation for AU$730. She said 'that's how you treat customers, that's terrible'," Pidcock said.

"What you can see there is that with all the best will in the world, what our data tells us about our customers and what's really happening are often two very different things."

QBE is aiming to prevent this from happening again through its data stewardship program that sees data ownership as the responsibility of everybody who interacts with the customer.

"What we've been working on for about 12 months is to build a single view of our customer -- it's a big aspiration," she said. "It would be really nice if I could say now we understand everything about customers, we don't -- but the single view of customer is really making a massive contribution to a better understanding."

Pointing to the Banking Royal Commission, and in particular a report from the Australian Prudential Regulation Authority on the Commonwealth Bank of Australia, Pidcock said it's becoming evident that customers have choices and are exercising their right to move providers, highlighting that customer loyalty isn't going to get providers through bad customer experiences for much longer.

"What came through in that report loud and clear was that organisations that are successful financially sometimes lose sight of the voice of the customer and that actually creates a risk to them, and I think that's what we're seeing play out a little bit, not only the Royal Commission but even in terms of customers choosing to leave you and go to another competitor if they don't feel like you're actually listening to their concerns and their needs," she said.

"They've got choices and they're far more likely to exercise those."

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