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Zurich Insurance’s Customer-led Culture Transformation


At the recent Experience ‘19 conference Monika Schulze, Head of Customer and Digital Experience at Zurich Insurance Company, shared how changing the company’s culture has led to Zurich’s customer experience success. “It’s not an easy task to shift the mindset of people to think of the customer first,” said Monika. Here’s their story.

Zurich Insurance was founded in 1872. Its relationships with 60 million worldwide customers had mostly been delegated to intermediaries. Implementing a CX program involved moving a traditional company into the new world. 

The Five Pillars 

Zurich began working with Medallia in 2012, expanding into new countries and divisions over several years. Despite the program’s growth, there remained internal resistance and the inevitable challenge of aligning all global offices on a common approach and vision for success.  Monika and team addressed that challenge by creating a clear framework based on five key pillars, complemented by the unique cultural strengths and energy of each region. 

  • Incentives: How do you get employees invested in your CX program? While monetary incentives have their drawbacks for some companies, Zurich initiated a transactional NPS incentive system that signaled the importance of CX goals for the company. Employees are paid based on CX scores as well as qualitative metrics such as number of touchpoints, closed-loop metrics, etc.
  • Leadership: How do you get leaders to buy-in? Zurich’s top 100 leaders made a commitment to talk to customers on a regular basis through closed-loop calls, bringing them closer to the customer and frontline employees, and more importantly, facilitating support for investment in CX improvement initiatives. 
  • Journeys: How do you broaden your business purview? Before implementing its current NPS system, Zurich’s program focused mostly on claims. But since only 20% of customers ever file a claim, they never connected with the remaining 80% doing business with the company. “We realized that we cannot optimize for organizational functions – we have to optimize across the end-to-end customer journey,” said Monika.
  • Actions: How do you take people from numbers, to insights, to action? CX feedback is only effective if it’s acted on. During business reviews, Zurich requires all its leaders to share actions and how they are impacting NPS scores.
  • Business KPIs: How do you correlate data to business results? All country reviews at Zurich involve sharing how the customer and business numbers come together. For example, in some countries, NPS is correlated with retention to show the impact on business results. “The Medallia team really helped us by pushing us to figure out what we wanted to achieve with our CX program – retention, new customers, product density?”

Act, Change, Communicate, Get Emotional

“Since its implementation in 2016, it’s a different world at Zurich,” said Monika. “Our program has resulted in a significant cultural shift in the company.” Case in point, in January, Zurich celebrated its jump from 188 to 12th place in the UK Customer Satisfaction Index – in just one year. And Zurich overall has doubled its touchpoint coverage in that same time period. 

Today, the customer has a seat at the table, literally. In Zurich offices around the world, there is a blue chair in meeting rooms to underscore that the customer is always at the table. And last year, for the first time, a customer was showcased at their annual conference. The customer partnered successfully with Zurich on an early retirement plan, and has a Zurich logo tattoo to celebrate that! 

It comes down to communication. “You have to specify how you acted, what changed, where you succeeded, and you need to constantly celebrate progress with your teams,” Monika shared. And it is critical to get both employees and customers emotionally involved. 

“In the insurance industry we tend to focus on disasters – car accidents, house fires, etc. – and then find solutions. Now we encourage our colleagues to look for positive relationships, and prevention.” Zurich has launched a global marketing program around “customer heroes” showcasing employees delighting customers.

“It’s really important that you put yourself in your customer’s shoes in every single thing you do,” observed Monika. “We have partnered with Medallia to implement an extensive program in 25 countries so far. Medallia and Zurich speak the same language, and we speak about the same things.”