UX Spotlight with Katy Cobian

Breaking Down Silos to Improve the Customer Journey

We sat down with CX Strategy Manager, Katy Cobian to learn more about her work at American Family Insurance.  AmFam has been around for 90 years but that hasn’t stopped them from evolving with changing technology and new customer demands.

Take a closer look and you’ll see that they have a progressive mindset and are dedicated to addressing their customer’s needs with the mission of helping them fulfill their dreams. To do this they’ve taken a company-wide approach to addressing every step of the customer journey.

What are the biggest challenges you face as the Customer Experience Strategy Manager?

My team is focused on helping the company understand what’s working and not working well for our customers and prioritizing experience improvements. We face a lot of the same challenges that are common across our industry. For example, how to simplify insurance. From the language we use, to the experience of purchasing insurance, making a claim and so on. How can we reduce effort and build confidence for our customers?

Another big challenge is channel integration. Our business model has historically revolved around the agent being there to guide customers through their insurance journey and help support their dreams. As we’ve added complementary self-service channels over time, we need to ensure that the experience is integrated across channels and that our customers feel as supported. For example, in a digital experience as they do when face-to-face with an agent in their office.

The third challenge is looking for opportunities to go beyond “fixing” the experience and design moments that matter. In our traditionally low-touch industry, can we find new and meaningful ways to engage with customers and add value to their lives?

What do you think AmFam is doing right with UX?

From top-down, we are committed to being customer-driven.  As we’ve grown, it’s important for us to come back to our values and reinforce that they’re pervasive across the company.  We’re continually working to better understand what motivates our customers and incorporating customer feedback throughout our design processes.

What do you think has made you personally successful?

I try to maintain a bias for action. It’s easy to get caught up in waiting for perfect or significant data when making the case for change, but there are a lot of steps you can take to get out in front of customers and gather empathy early on. One way we do that is to test the smallest assumptions with a small set of customers. We’re trying to adopt a Lean Startup mentality here and it really comes down to taking steps forward versus waiting for the exact answer or the perfect solution.

What concepts are influencing your work?

We’re shifting our orientation toward customer journeys rather than channels or business silos and experimenting with journey analytics. How do we combine data in new ways to understand how a customer is moving through touchpoints within a given journey? Where are the pain points and peaks in effort so that, when we think about redesigning, we can have a holistic view. We’re thinking about both what’s happening for the customer and what’s happening on the back end to deliver that journey. By looking at the data through a new lens, we hope to find new ways to solve our customers’ problems.

Another thing I’ve read recently is a Fast Company article about the shift from design thinking to system thinking. Making sure that, as you design, you really are getting into the ecosystem view and understanding all the impacted pieces as our worlds and companies and products get more complex. How do we make sure we’re taking the whole system into account with humans at the center?

What UX trends are ahead for this industry?

The pace of change will never be slower than it is today. With changing technology come changing consumer expectations, and insurance is hustling to keep up. Companies will continue to balance big data opportunities with the ability to rapidly gather qualitative insights and move quickly based on those insights. Having the right tools and the right culture in place to support that is really important. I think AmFam is making great strides toward that.

Contact us to share your story and be featured on a future UX Spotlight segment!

At Handrail, we believe conducting user research is a critical part of creating a successful product or service. So we interviewed UX professionals from various industries and in different phases of growth in order to gather insights and strategic advice. And now we want to share those interviews with you!

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Jennie Banta

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