Doing What Really Matters: Remote Engagement at Covéa Insurance
If you’re reading this magazine, you almost certainly know that keeping employees engaged is a crucial step in building good relationships with customers. Engagement has also been shown to contribute directly to productivity and profitability, so we should all be doing everything we can to make sure that our people are happy, motivated, and engaged.
One of the challenges of 2020, and one that is still at the forefront of our minds as we move into 2021, is how to look after our people, and keep them engaged and connected, when most of them are working remotely. We caught up with Sarah-Jane McCausland and Stephanie Cox of Covéa Insurance to find out about their Doing what really matters programme.
What matters to customers
Just as background, Covéa Insurance offers products from home, car and pet insurance to specialist commercial, high net worth and trade products. If you’re thinking that you haven’t heard of the brand, it’s because they mostly sell through brokers and intermediaries. You will certainly have heard of some of the respected businesses they provide the insurance behind, like John Lewis, RSPCA and AA, you may even have one of their policies without realising it. Big brands trust them to look after their customers because, within the insurance world, Covéa is known to be a very customer-centric organisation:
“Everything we do centres around our customers, they're at the heart of every single decision that we make, everything we do. All our process reviews are centred around making things better and simpler for the customer. A lot of companies say this but for us it’s part of our culture.”
Longtime readers will know that, at TLF Research, we set great stall by the phrase “doing best what matters most to customers.” We believe that successful organisations are those which identify what’s important to customers, and consistently give it to them. Insurance is not something that most of us buy because we want to, but that doesn’t mean that customer attitudes are any less important in the sector.
“Insurance is usually a grudge purchase, so we're always trying to remove those pain points and make it as simple and straightforward as it can be, to remove the hassle for people.”
When customers get in touch it’s an important moment of truth, especially if they are making an insurance claim. How did the Covéa customer experience programme get started?
“Our customer experience programme wasn’t about sales or marketing or getting more customers. It was driven by our people across the business who speak daily with customers, sometimes in the most difficult circumstances. Up until the point when someone makes a claim, they have bought a promise with no real idea if it’s going to prove worth it, that’s where our customer experience matters most.”
So the person a customer speaks to is really important. To what extent is the service delivered reliant on the attitude of employees?:
“We know that having happy employees is more likely to result in happy customers so we want people to enjoy coming to work. We want them to know that what they do matters and that they're making a difference so that it’s more than ‘just a job’.”
What matters to employees
It’s easy to say that employee engagement is something we want, but how do we go about actually creating it? Covéa Insurance believes the answer lies in making sure that you have a culture where coming to work is something you look forward to, where you have a clear purpose, a strong connection with the people you work with and where you can bring your ‘whole self’ to work.
“When you've got a business with over 1900 employees with a shared sense of purpose, it brings people together. We aim to give people the freedom to be creative about the way they do things so that solutions come from within, rather than a top down approach. You have to ask the people who you're trying to engage what excites them, rather than guessing, and involve them in the process.”
It can be difficult to “do culture” at scale, but that doesn’t mean it isn’t possible. Likewise, having a workforce that suddenly finds itself working remotely, and under new pressures from Covid-19 and the restrictions imposed, creates a whole new set of challenges that require creative thinking to overcome.
“Culture has always been a hugely important focus for us, but over 2020 with so many people working remotely we’ve had to find new ways of expressing this. Working remotely has really reinforced the importance of our values in helping to keep people engaged and spirits high. Much of this has been made possible through digital tools that keep people connected in a very human and personal way. For example, we’ve seen inside each other’s homes and (usually accidentally) met family members and pets, which puts relationships on a different footing.”
Although remote working is nothing new, having 90% plus of employees working from home is an unprecedented situation and companies like Covéa have had to learn fast how to maintain high engagement when people can’t actually be together in the same space. The pandemic has massively accelerated the shift towards digital and remote working and some of the learnings around how you can successfully connect with people from afar will almost certainly become permanent.
“Before the pandemic we had homeworking in some of our operational areas to help our people achieve a better work life balance. Almost overnight over 90% of our people switched to working from home, including roles that previously no-one ever thought possible.”
Doing what really matters
The Covéa Insurance “Doing what really matters” initiative is a customer experience community set up by the business to share and celebrate customer experience successes with colleagues through closed groups on the company’s networking platforms.
“It's a customer experience community, it’s a space for storytelling, it's a space for recognition.”
A Microsoft Slack channel that started as a space focused on customer experience, particularly around National Customer Service Week, has grown to become a companywide hub for people to engage with each other, recognise their colleagues, and interact.
“It started off as us wanting to tell the story about the customer, but it’s become so much more than that, it's now a customer experience community. This has really helped employee engagement through the pandemic. Every single person in our business makes a difference to the customer journey whether they are front line or working in our centralised functions, sharing these stories has kept people focused on doing what really matters for their customers, whatever their role.”
Covéa believe the initiative and channel will continue to evolve, and Sarah-Jane is particularly looking forward to developing it further.
“Of course we’re looking forward to when people can return to the office safely, but there’s also a real opportunity to continue with some of the great digital networking tools we’ve acquired so that people can stay connected and engaged with our culture, purpose and values, wherever they are based. The office will always be important and attractive as a social hub that supports employee engagement, but it’s clear that digital engagement is a permanent part of the mix and here to stay. ”
Can you interact in real time to replicate the community feel that comes with being in the office in person?
“One thing I think really works on our doing what really matters Slack channel is how instant everything is, so it does mirror office interactions. One of the interesting things that the metrics showed was that people engaged more with the real time posts than the click through content that they could read at leisure.”
What truly matters
It’s evident, on LinkedIn in particular, that some organisations have sent boxes of sweets to their people at home, or organised quizzes and cocktail parties online. These are great ‘pick me ups’ that bring people together and show employers care, but it’s also important to engage people on matters of substance as well, especially as the pandemic has gone on for much longer than many people expected.
“Employees have been at home for a long time now and companies need to go beyond the fun stuff and ensure they support employee wellbeing, productivity, engagement, and things like that. This is all part of the ongoing challenge in finding creative ways to help people maintain their focus and energy.”
The Covéa Insurance Doing what really matters community is fun and engaging, but at its heart there’s a serious purpose, focused on driving a better customer experience.
“Employee engagement is a key part of getting things right for our customers. You'll never get things right for customers if your people aren’t aligned with the company culture and values. People need to feel connected, respected and valued and that’s what our Doing What Really Matters campaign aims to do; shine a light on and create a forum for the great work that our people do.”
Timing is everything, so they say, and the pandemic has only heightened the need to feel a sense of community.
“As it turned out, people were crying out for the opportunity to connect with each other and share successes and ideas with colleagues focusing on a worthwhile goal. The timing really worked, we did a soft launch in mid-August and it just exploded!”
So what can we conclude from Covéa’s experience? The principle, I think, is very simple: involve your people — they know best what’s engaging — and use that to build a community. The community needs to have a meaningful purpose that resonates with everyone for it to attract engaging content. Covéa chose Doing what really matters because it was a way to help employees to focus on all the good work being done right across the business that was until that point largely invisible, especially with people working remotely.
“We all want to make a difference, it’s human nature. Our community was successful because it really resonated with that basic human need. It helped people to see and appreciate what they and others were doing through a wholly different lens to create a sense of pride, achievement and belonging.”
What really matters to your people, and what enables Covéa’s community to thrive, is the culture and value of the business, the commitment of employees to building the best possible customer experience.
Stephanie was appointed Corporate Communications Team Manager in June 2018 and holds responsibility for delivering the company’s external communications strategy, also being a link between the media and Covéa Insurance’s subject matter experts. Having joined Provident insurance in 2011, Stephanie has worked in various departments throughout the company gaining a huge amount of knowledge of the practice of insurance and Covéa Insurance as a business. After beginning her career as a Claims Specialist in the Operations department, Stephanie moved to Covéa’s Financial Crime Unit as a Validation specialist. In 2014 she took up a position in the company’s Marketing department which over the years has included roles in internal communications, event management and PR. Prior to joining the insurance industry, Stephanie worked in hotel and event management after completing qualifications in hospitality.
Sarah-Jane has worked for Covéa Insurance since July 2014 and has been the Customer Communications and Engagement Lead since January 2020. Prior to this role, Sarah-Jane was the Customer Experience Team Manager, having previously held the role of Customer Experience Lead. Sarah-Jane is responsible for driving the Customer-Centric Culture element of the overarching Customer Experience strategy, including employee reward and recognition, CX storytelling and CX education for both new starters and existing employees. Prior to joining Covéa Insurance, Sarah-Jane worked as a Sales Delivery Manager and Service Delivery Manager for the YBS Group, and before then was Buy-To-Let Team Leader For Barclays. Sarah-Jane has worked in the Insurance and Financial Services sectors for over 20 years and has always had a keen passion for employee coaching and personal development, and customer experience.