USAA embraces digital transformation to improve the customer experience


The United Services Automobile Association is a $27-billion-dollar, 95-year-old company that focuses on the military and their families, offering a full range of financial services. The company has plenty of data, and trying to bring the established company through the digital transformation is not always easy for the entire organization. The organization has partnered with IBM Corp.’s Global Business Services to effectively harness data and improve customer experience.

“Our channels tended to be owned by different siloed leaders that were not thinking laterally or horizontally across the experience the member was facing. … We are really here to make sure that we’re providing … direct interaction with our membership to make those compelling experiences as we possibly can,” said Allen Crane (pictured, left), assistant vice president of USAA.

Crane and Glenn Finch (pictured, right), global managing partner of cognitive and analytics, Global Business Services, at IBM, joined Jeff Frick (@JeffFrick) and Peter Burris (@plburris), co-hosts of theCUBE from SiliconANGLE’s live streaming studio, during the IBM Chief Data Officer Strategy Summit in San Francisco. (*Disclosure below.)

Crane and Finch discussed how a company, nearly a century old, is moving forward with 21st century technology and yielding significant results in improving the customer experience.

Small steps for a big company

The first step in the organization’s digital transformation began with an effort to bring the siloed data together to craft better experiences for members online, trying to avoid that expensive call to the call center. The company is seeking to learn from past data what is driving the customer, Crane explained.

The next effort is to bring understanding to an internal audience by showing them the benefits of the data. User adoption is usually a significant undertaking in a company the size of USAA. Finch comes across this in many cases with customers and noted that, fundamentally, you are asking people, from the CEO to the end user, to do something that is different from what they usually do.

“Today it’s more about, how do we get someone to adopt something that feels completely wrong?” said Finch.

Allen believes the aha moment happens on the job. “It’s finding what’s important to that business user, and sometimes it’s an insight that saves them money. In other cases it’s the analyst [that] comes in at a time of crisis with a shared enemy of the situation that bonds people together. It comes down to trust,” he said.

Cognitive and the customer experience

Finch warns that the concept of evolution for a brand and a reputation like USAA is to enable cognitive assets with the proper learning capabilities, so as not to erode the brand.

“We have a cognitive manifesto that says we’ll start here and we’ll stop here. We are not going to go in the ‘ex machina’ territory with full cognition and humans are gone. We need to make sure that IBM is protecting the brand reputation,” he stated.

Right now, Crane explained how the company is working in the text analytics space. This project is ingesting two years of speech data from call centers every day and mining it for emerging trends with customers and the member service representatives. For example, trends involving Millennials and payments made with Apple pay are providing insight.

“Besides words and language, we are getting into things like babies crying in the background to be able to detect things like life events, because a lot of your financial needs center around life events,” said Crane.

USAA is using these cognitive technologies to bring its business units together to improve the customer experience and finding opportunities for all parties.

Watch the complete video interview below, and be sure to check out more of SiliconANGLE’s and theCUBE’s coverage of the IBM Chief Data Officer Strategy Summit(*Disclosure: IBM and other companies sponsor some IBM CDO Strategy Summit segments on SiliconANGLE Media’s theCUBE. Neither IBM nor other sponsors have editorial control over content on theCUBE or SiliconANGLE.)

Photo: SiliconANGLE