A Passion for Service

Felix Thomson

Content Executive

The Financial Services Forum

Susan Ring believes passionately that outstanding customer service is the key to commercial success. She explains to Anthony Thomson how she puts the principles into practice at UnumProvident.
For us in the Forum, marketing strategy is the focal point in financial services. That is not your background, so what exactly does marketing mean to you?
It is about ensuring that we are really clear in identifying and understanding customer needs, and making sure we have a really good appreciation of that right across all the different customer sets. We sell through independent financial advisers (IFAs), so it is really important for us to understand what their needs are, but also the needs of their customers – employers, employees, individual buyers. Then we can create solutions that fulfil those needs. Also, everyone within the organization needs to have an appreciation of this, and to act on it, and therefore to be marketing the company in everything they do on a day-to-day basis.
When I came in, there was an LED display asking “What are you going to do for your customer today?”
That’s really important to us as an organization. We are actually celebrating National Customer Service Week, so there have been all sorts of activities designed to make people think about the customer. Not just in terms of what they are doing on a day-to-day basis, but also in the broader context of delivering that service. We have had people in from CIS, one of our individual private label partners, to talk to staff, and we have had job-swaps with customers – some of our staff are going to their organizations and some of their staff are coming to us, to improve the level of understanding and awareness, and to develop relationships.
By “customers”, you mean the actual endcustomer, not the intermediary?
Yes, but we are hoping to do it with intermediaries as well. We have also done it with our parent company in America. Five employees have just come back from the States – incredibly enthusiastic, with all sorts of bright ideas – and there will be a reciprocal visit by Americans in January.
So does everyone come back when you send them out to all these wonderful places?
Yes they do, and the buzz and level of energy it creates makes it incredibly worthwhile. We like to think that we are very customer-focused as an organization. These sorts of activities help us to place the customer at the centre of the business, and to instil an approach that is not just a one-off event but continues throughout the whole year.
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