How brand strategy can build a stronger customer experience

Zurich is on a mission to transform its customer exprience, redefine its brand purpose and change the perception of the insurance sector as a whole

“I’m here to make insurance loved,” said Zurich’s group chief customer officer, Conny Kalcher at an event on brand engagement and customer communications, supported by Vonage, a global business cloud communications leader. Insurance is, in short, not entirely beloved. 

It is, however, essential for individuals and for business, alike; a fact emphasised by the pressures of the pandemic. According to Deloitte, the perennially under-trusted sector actually become more trusted by business owners during the Covid-19. Zurich, though, was not content to simply be relied upon in times of need. In fact, it wanted to transform its relationship with customers and fundamentally reframe their understanding of insurance.

That’s why Kalcher was brought in from the Lego Group in mid-2019. After a career spent making people love a simple plastic brick, Kalcher turned her focus to the task of defining Zurich’s brand purpose, setting out its customer experience strategy and delivering a brand that would be more relevant to people’s lives. “We have a strong brand,” Kalcher said. “But what do we stand for? Why are we here? We had to start this journey of defining our customer value proposition in much more detail.” She says the company underwent a rebrand, building its brand framework and purpose at the same time.

The new purpose, ‘Create a brighter future together,’ connects the company’s 150 years of heritage with its sustainability and societal objectives. It’s smart business, too, for an insurer, to be focused on the future. The disruption that is already occurring due to climate change and Covid-19 means more claims. If companies like Zurich can work to prevent further climate change, it is protecting not only its customers, but its future as well.

To that end, Zurich attended COP26 to address the positive changes that can be made to improve the future. In its ‘Closing the gap on climate change’ report it says of the drive toward net zero, “Governments can kick-start the drive to net-zero by working with industry and investors, engaging citizens in the process, and focusing on key policy changes. But without further action, the risks of a disorderly transition, with all the social and economic costs that would involve, will increase. Failure to make progress in the short-term will have consequences for the long-term.”

The focus on a brighter future supports Zurich’s customer strategy. “You cannot connect with your customers if you’re not emotionally connected to them,” Kalcher said. The conversation had to change. “We don’t want to have a conversation about doom and gloom and what is going to go wrong. We want to have an optimistic conversation with our customers.”

That change had to start from the inside. Employees were empowered to have deeper conversations, to understand the problems their customers were having and address them in a meaningful way. And the result is a company that speaks less about its products and instead helps customers understand how they can be protected and where Zurich can help them thrive in the future.

But it’s not just about customer service and corporate culture. Zurich has also been working to improve its reputation by communicating about its purpose and values more openly. “We are Swiss, so we’re very polite. We don’t talk about these things,” Kalcher says. “But this is what customers want to hear. They want to hear that we’re building a forest in the Amazonia and we’re donating a million trees. It’s meaningful to customers. It’s not something you sweep under the carpet.”

A stronger brand and better customer engagement has enabled Zurich to deliver on its promises and to improve its employees’ pride in the business. But the future demands even further personalisation, greater engagement and richer digital experiences. Kalcher says understanding customers is of the utmost importance. “It starts with really, really understanding where your customer is going and then delivering to them and then innovating.”

And, Kalcher adds, it’s important to remember that digital is not an end goal, but a tool to achieving a better customer experience. “We’re not all going to win by going digital. We’re all going to win if we’re unique in the way we go digital based on our understanding of customer needs.”

Kalcher’s goal is to make insurance loved, one customer at a time.