CXFS 2021


Here's How USAA Became the World's Favorite Financial Brand

brought to you by WBR Insights

Customer experience is the battlefield on which almost all business is won or lost.

When they interact with a brand, consumers want to know they can rely on being treated in the manner they expect. From first contact, right through the purchase process, and (perhaps most importantly) when things don't go to plan, you need to make sure your customers' experiences are first class.

When it comes to customer experience in the financial industry, few brands do it better than USAA. How, then, did the United States Automobile Association go from being a specialist insurance provider for military officers to one of the world's most beloved financial brands?


Of all the financial brands around, USAA has garnered a reputation for being a best-in-class example of excellent customer experience. Net promoter scores (the ratings given by customers after contacting customer services) for USAA in 2018 were, on average, four times higher than other banking providers - a crown which USAA has held for the past eight years.

Augmenting these impressive accolades is the fact that 64% of USAA customers report they are very satisfied with their experiences with the brand. To put that into perspective, Credit Unions average around 50% very satisfied, and credit unions traditionally score higher than banking institutions such as USAA.

"The $155 billion insurance and banking company handily beats all its competitors in a number of key loyalty categories," writes Ben Streeter for The Financial Brand. "For instance, research revealed that USAA members are the most likely to obtain an additional financial product or repurchase intention. Among USAA members, an astonishing 83% say they are likely to acquire more financial products from USAA. Compared to the next bank, PNC at 67%, USAA is ahead by a margin of 15 percentage points. Wells Fargo, whose brand has been beleaguered by a number of sales scandals, ranks last at just 49%."

A Culture of Customer Experience

USAA achieves these impressive statistics by creating a culture of customer experience throughout the organization, which always ensures it's at the forefront of their customers' thinking.

USAA encourages its staff, at all levels, to innovate and submit any ideas which could improve the customer experience. After all, your staff is also made up of customers, if not at your brand specifically, then at others. They are going to be ideally placed to tell you what they think would improve their experience.

"You have to realize, every employee here is a customer, a member, of USAA," said Vice President for Emerging Technology at USAA Labs, Darrius Jones. "You get your membership with your initial onboarding documents. This, combined with serving members every day, keeps employees in constant touch with how USAA does business. The good and also the bad, or if not really bad, then the doing business in a way that's, in an employee's eyes, not as efficient as it could be, or lacking in this great idea I can't get out of my head for how the experience could be improved."

For example, a security guard, who worked with USAA, came up with no fewer than 25 customer experience ideas for the company - all of which were patented and implemented. In fact, USAA receives over 10,000 such ideas from its own employees, of which nearly 900 have been awarded US patents.

One such innovation is described as the Shazam for automobiles. The idea uses augmented reality software which allows a customer to hold their smartphone up to a car they like the look of and get information on make, year, model, availability, price, and more. The innovation ties into USAA's history as a car insurance provider and, of course, the potential is there for the app to suggest USAA finance options if the customer needs to raise the cash for an automobile purchase or purchase insurance.

"USAA began piloting this augmented reality application, with the aim of making car buying easier for our members," said a USAA representative. "The app pilot allows members who are in the market to buy a car to point their mobile device at any vehicle (model year 2000 or newer) and immediately pull up information including purchase price, cost of insurance, similar vehicles for sale in the area, and attractive USAA 'best buy' cars to be considered as alternatives, all overlaid on the image of the car. The ultimate goal is to enable USAA members to understand the total cost of owning a vehicle without having to be at the dealership."

The app is presently being piloted with a view to a larger rollout once testing is complete.

Final Thoughts

Crafting a culture of customer experience is no mean feat. However, creating an environment where everyone feels their voice is heard is a huge step along the path to building a world-leading customer experience.

You can hear USAA's Executive Director and Senior Experience Owner, Deborah Cornwell, speak at CXFS 2019, taking place in July at the Westin Copley Place, Boston MA.

Download the agenda today for more information and insights.

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