Women in Insurance Leadership 2019—Kristin Guthrie, ICW Group

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After 15 years in aerospace, Kristin Guthrie shifted gears by moving to insurance in mid-2016. “I was looking for something more rewarding than simply meeting or exceeding financial goals,” says Guthrie, the SVP of customer experience for San Diego-headquartered ICW Group Insurance Companies. “While financials are critical, I also wanted the opportunity to enrich lives.”

In her relatively short tenure, Guthrie is already well along at turning all of ICW Group’s 800 employees into “an army of customer experience advocates” while also helping launch a new customer retention offering that’s safeguarding nearly $250 million in revenue.

Still, aerospace left an indelible mark on Guthrie, who attributes her CX passion to Cessna Aircraft’s Six Sigma program. “Although most people associate Six Sigma with ‘lean,’ it’s primary focus is improving the customer experiences,” she says. “Importantly, it advocates using your customers’ yardsticks – not company metrics – for measuring success. It’s about delivering both” profit and top-notch experience, she explains.

At ICW Group, Guthrie’s charge is developing and implementing formal CX programs to support the company’s existing deep cultural commitment to delivering exceptional experiences. To start, Guthrie and her 15-person CX and marketing team designed an enterprise-wide CX certification program. Participants develop plans for removing two existing experience pain points, “each with ROI for the company and the customer,” she says. “The program ends in an enterprise-wide expo, similar to a science fair.”

By making CX concrete and relatable, certification interest skyrocketed from a 20-person graduating class during the first year to 245 applicants for the following year. Other internal efforts include packaging CX as a product, complete with a dedicated “CX project catalog” containing carefully honed messaging. “After all, inspiring and compelling humans within our four walls should receive the same amount of effort as customer-facing messages,” Guthrie says.

Externally, Guthrie is applying a combination of strategies to uncover CX needs and execute profitable solutions. For example, ICW Group has adopted a CRM and linked it with Survey Gizmo. “For certain indicators, any customer response below a ‘10’ automatically generates a notification to the appropriate employee, or group, to take action,” she says. In this way, specific incidents get addressed while collecting cumulative data for identifying and remediating systemic issues.

“For each survey indicator, we’ve quantified the impact of moving the needle a certain amount,” Guthrie says. “This helps us determine where to invest.”

For the customer retention initiative, Guthrie’s team wanted to offer policyholders a free-of-charge service related to the workers’ comp market. To evaluate which service would generate sufficient returns, the team devised a unique survey methodology.

“We placed a dollar value on each of five potential offerings,” Guthrie says. “Customers consistently selected an HR hotline,” which is supplied by a third party, “Registrants have exceeded our forecasts by 200 percent,” she reports. “Utilization is about three times higher than expected.”

Looking to the future
Beyond her efforts at ICW Group, Guthrie not only foresees a bright future for CX but also for supportive technologies. To that end, Guthrie predicts today’s “lazy AIs” will evolve into truly additive tools. “Currently, many AI offerings shift the burden of the work onto the customer,” she says, but “AI technologies will evolve to facilitate those enriching customer conversations by automating the mundane.”

“CX isn’t a department,” she concludes. “It’s every person invested with the authority to make a difference.”

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