Great teams of any sort are rarely great without great leadership. When I think of great team leaders, I think of Kristi Fox, Second Vice President of Group Client Relationships, at Minnesota Life, a Securian Company.
The Client Relationship Department at Minnesota Life includes 24 associates who manage group life insurance relationships nationwide. Many of those clients are Fortune 1000 companies. I've had the pleasure of working with Kristi Fox and her team, and have seen them in action. Their commitment, quality of service, and performance is the best I have ever seen. That's why I'm delighted Kristi agreed to an interview for this blog.
First, some dazzling statistics:
- The average Client Relationship Advisor's service tenure is 17 years;
- They retained 96% of their business in 2011. This is an extraordinary accomplishment;
- In 2011, 98% of their clients reported satisfaction with Minnesota Life and 98% would recommend the company to another organization. Additionally, the group life division has a Net Promoter® Score* of 89%. It is calculated by taking the number of customers who rate (on a scale of zero to 10) their likelihood to recommend the business 9 or 10 and subtracting the customers who rate their likelihood to recommend 0-6. Take a look at the companies in this press release to get a sense of just how good 89% really is. Here are the Key Drivers of Satisfaction as identified by the 177 clients responding:
- Minnesota Life is easy to do business with;
- Insurance plans are administered as agreed upon;
- Client Relationship Advisor takes ownership of customer issues;
- Minnesota Life is a valued partner for my company;
- Offers insurance plans for which the cost is worth the benefits received.
I must also mention that the independent market research firm, Gestalt, conducts surveys on Minnesota Life clients. Presenting the results of the last survey, Jan Wilson, president and owner of Gestalt, marveled at the high ratings. "These are, without a doubt, the highest customer satisfaction scores across the board that I have seen for any company in my entire career."
So you can see that I'm not the only one who feels this way. Their clients do as well-nearly every one of them.
Here is my interview with Kristi, where she shares a few of her strategies for unparalleled service, but certainly not all.
Dave Stein: That's terrific performance. Would you share with us the primary strategic drivers for success within your Client Relationship Organization?
Kristi Fox: The Client Relationship department's purpose is to create lasting relationships and by design we are separate from the sales department. This allows us to focus our attention on facilitating a successful partnership between each client and Minnesota Life, post-sale. We collaborate to improve cost efficiencies, introduce new services, and make sure we are continually aware of each client's strategic initiatives. We want to best serve the client, and believe we can do that by making them smarter at their own business, not ours.
Existing clients are treated the same as new clients. If our sales team is out prospecting about new products, services or technologies, the Client Relationship Advisors are sharing the same messages, at the same time, with current clients. One of the most critical components of our success is open communication. We're good, but we're also human. If we mess up, we fess up. We tell you what happened, what we're doing to make it right, and what processes we are putting in place to ensure it doesn't happen again. Usually, these situations result in a stronger relationship with the client, and improved solutions to apply across our business.
Dave: I know some of your clients need to buy group life insurance at the lowest rates. You aren't the lowest priced alternative, yet you've achieved these levels of customer loyalty and retention. Can you share with us some of the things you do to overcome the trend toward commoditization?
Kristi: We are convinced that service matters and that poor service comes at a price most large employers aren't willing to pay. As an employee benefits vendor, we operate as an extension of the client. Poor service reflects badly on them, which can impact their own employee retention and satisfaction, and ultimately jeopardize their own business results.
Our pricing approach falls in line with how we manage the rest of our business. We communicate regularly with clients on (group insurance) plan financials, review areas for improvement, trends in their industry or ours, and opportunities to minimize risk. We do not "acquisition price," so at renewal when sitting face-to-face discussing our recommendation, that history of transparency is already front and center in our relationship.
Dave: Client Relationships are all about people. Your people and your clients' people. Share with us a bit how this works.
Kristi: All of the people in our division operate under the philosophy that everyone is in customer service and that exceptional service shouldn't be an exception. We even developed our ad campaign around that theme. (See www.expectgreatservice.com.)
While we are experts at group life insurance, the foundation of what we do lies in treating people with respect. We treat others as they want to be treated. When you do that, you can build trust quickly. The result? Better communication and better results for everyone.
We are a technology leader, yet we know that our employees add the human touch to our high-tech service and are at the heart of our success. 96% of all of our employees stayed with us in 2011, consistent with previous years. Average staff tenure across our organization is 12 years, and over 50% have 10 or more years of service. That longevity and the expertise behind it translate into excellent service for our clients.
Kristi Fox is responsible for the satisfaction and retention of Minnesota Life's group life clients, many of whom are Fortune-1000 companies. She has been with Minnesota Life since 1995. Her department is charged with creating lasting relationships and they respond to clients in a way that reinforces Minnesota Life's commitment to their success.
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* Net Promoter® is a registered trademark of Satmetrix Systems, Inc., Bain & Company and Fred Reichheld.