Best CX Companies List profiles: CGU personalises SME services

Winner of top honours at the inaugural Best Customer Experience Companies List 2014 shares how its efforts to personalise SME products have transformed the way it interacts with customers

From left: Fifth Quadrant's Kristi Mansfield, GCU's Grant Pattison, and Oracle's Thomas Fikentscher
From left: Fifth Quadrant's Kristi Mansfield, GCU's Grant Pattison, and Oracle's Thomas Fikentscher

Personalising and streamlining the customer experience for thousands of SMEs seeking business insurance has seen CGU take top honours at the inaugural Best Customer Experience Companies List awards for 2014.

The list was developed and presented by customer engagement strategy consultancy, Fifth Quadrant, and supported by CMO and event sponsor, Oracle.

CGU’s senior manager of sales and marketing technology, Grant Pattison, told CMO improving the customer experience of Australian SMEs began as a top-down project led by new company CEO, Peter Harmer. SMEs are a multi-billion dollar sector for the insurance industry.

The question Harmer was seeking to answer was this: How can CGU best service SME customers who aren’t being looked after as well as they should be?

“For Peter, it came down to three things: We didn’t have appropriate share in that market; we also didn’t know enough about SME customers; and we didn’t have a culture of innovation and fostering new ways of working,” Pattison explained.

To meet these challenges, CGU set up a small team tasked with innovating the way the business dealt with SMEs. They were given four weeks to come up with a minimum viable product, and proceeded to wade through the technology, cultural and process changes required across the organisation to make it a reality.

“Peter gave us clear direction not to be held down by the weight of the organisations,” Pattison commented. “We have 15,000 employees and like any large organisation, there’s a lot of process and it takes a long time to get things through. Peter wanted to do something different.”

Building a cross-functional team

After an initial meeting, a multi-disciplinary team was created and given clear accountabilities. Pattison said it was important to get the “best of the best” around the table. This included expertise in customer experience and desirability, and someone who understood both the business and technical side of technology.

“I make this distinction because there is no use having someone who just knows how to plug widgets together, you need someone that also understands how to use technology in emerging business models as well,” Pattison said.

Underwriters and designers of products were also involved. “But we kept the team as small as possible because the more people you add, the more you start to create your own weight,” Pattison said.

CGU then partnered with best-of-breed technology and customer experience implementers including Fifth Quadrant, Deloitte and It also embraced design thinking methodology to help improve its innovation process. This was centred on four key principles: Being human centred; being collaborative; being experimental; and being optimistic and ambitious.

“Within the four-week process, we told the executive committee what it was for, how much money we needed to design what we were designing and when, and we were lucky enough to get it granted,” Pattison said.

“Having pressure and time to drive something drives innovation. And that drives the outcome and provides a focus for the team. Of course we started with a much larger scope than what we ended up with, but we all knew what we were striving towards.”

What CGU ended up with is a personalised digital platform providing SMEs with a quick and easy way to secure business insurance. The front-end is customised depending on whether the SME is in carpentry, farming or an IT professional.

Importantly, it has cut down a 60-question process to just eight questions, allowing an SME to obtain an insurance policy in less than three minutes. Consumers are also provided with statistics around what their peers are doing and advice. One example cited by Pattison was that 44 per cent of customers chose $5 million worth of liability.

CGU undertook extensive customer research to get to this point, a process that included speaking to 50 small business owners. This generated more than 1800 data points. Through synthesis and ideation, key insights were derived to generate 96 key customer findings and six overarching insights.

“The customer feedback part of the process was a totally foreign experience,” Pattison said. “We’d never really done two-way mirror interviews, click or eye tracking from an online customer experience point of view, and we’d never gone out to pizza shops, farms and IT organisations and said ‘why don’t you have professional indemnity insurance from CGU’.

“But validation has been proven here that it was insightful and right thing to do.”

Read more: Best CX Companies List profiles: Bupa's Voice of the Customer project


CGU commenced the SME project in July. Pattison said the initial metric was simply meeting the short turnaround time and selling its first SME premium by Christmas.

“That was a phenomenal timeframe for a large enterprise, and the actual technical build time was 12 weeks,” he said. “That’s why we started with the goal of just selling one policy, which we did. Then we said we wanted to get to $100,000 worth of revenue, aiming for the end of February, and we got that.”

In addition, CGU was looking to lift its Net Promoter Score (NPS) score and implemented a mobile text-based feedback process so new SME customers could rate their customer experience. Pattison said the average rating was nine out of 10.

“We had been using NPS as a measurement in the business but not consistently,” he said. “This was a consistent channel. Because it’s a cloud and mobile-first platform, mobile is the best way to get to these customers, but even that was new to us. It was also quite easy for customers. If they responded with a five, we’d call them and ask how we could make it a better experience.”

CGU is now looking to add extra occupations and propositions to the platform, and seeking adjacent relationships and partnerships to complement its offering. Recent partners include SME accounting vendor, Xero, and cloud storage player, Dropbox.


Pattison said the SME initiative was positioned as a ‘small wheel project’ within the organisation, pointing out CGU has a “massive” back-end project underway to transform its products and services, known internally as ‘cudos’ (CGU underwriting and distribution operating system).

The smaller-scale project provided plenty of learnings for the wider business and executives, he said. In fact, the lessons for the underwriting team alone were worth the investment according to CGU’s CEO, Pattison said.

“A business insurance policy usually takes 60 questions to underwrite and no customer wants to go through 60 questions to get a policy. We can now get that policy done in under three minutes,” he said. “That learning right there has been fed into this much bigger and transformational program for the whole business.”

There were plenty of challenges along the way, a big one being technology. Pattison said it made a conscious decision to shield customers from the back-end legacy hurdles, and had to manually complete several tasks early-on to prove the business case and value in automation long-term.

Culture was another factor. Because of the small team, a number of high-profile staff weren’t a part of what was happening.

“Peter was happy for it to be positioned that way as he believed it created a positive tension in the organisation,” Pattison said. “People on the outside wanted to see what was happening on the outside, and people on the inside were motivated because they were doing something new.

Overcoming these hurdles was made much easier by having CEO buy-in, he said.

“Everything is a lot easier when you have executive sponsorship that brings the budget, the authority, the needs and the timelines,” he said. “Peter really backed us and removed a lot of roadblocks for us. He gave us a small amount of money in the first round.

“And because it was sponsored by the CEO, we didn’t want to let him down.”

Topping the Best Customer Experience Companies list

The top Australia’s Best CX Company 2014 award was based on three components: The organisation’s best customer experience initiatives as evaluated by a judging panel; consumer votes on these initiatives; and a score determined through Fifth Quadrant’s CX Maturity Audit assessment, which looks at seven key CX factors including CX management, leadership, business and customer data strategies.

Pattison said he was delighted to have gained the respect not just of industry peers, but also customers.

“It’s great to get an award and it’s great recognition for the team here,” he said.

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