Building Customer-Centricity for Microinsurance

Project Brief


Pioneer Microinsurance (PMI) is the largest provider of microinsurance products and services in Philippines. The organization is a part of the Pioneer Insurance Group, and has grown rapidly since its launch, from just 27,000 policies issued in 2009 to over 10 million in 2016; its line of products and services cater specifically to consumers at the base of the pyramid. The impact that their organization has in helping customers put their lives back together following such events is a focal point in how senior management approaches its daily operations in the present, and plans for the future moving forward.

PMI’s growth and popularity brought the organization to a pivotal crossroads: senior management was keenly aware that they would need to expand operations rapidly to capitalize on the market demand their products garnered. However, this growth needed to be supported with systems and structure that would facilitate this expansion in a manner that is in line with the ethos of the organization, which is predicated upon empathy and compassion for their customers. It was critical that this empathic approach was not diluted in any way as the organization expanded, and that there be a clear articulation of this culture of putting their customer’s needs first in a manner that it could be operationalised and built upon.

Twin Challenge of Making Processes and People More Customer Centric

Growing pains are an unavoidable reality for any organization expanding its operations. Maintaining the guiding principles that served a smaller group so well, become much more challenging as a company increases its size; this is the reality that PMI found itself in.

PMI senior management, from its inception, built their expansion strategy around harnessing the talents of the millennial generation, and particularly with those whose experience and expertise are in fields outside traditional insurance practices (e.g., marketing, psychology). Managing this kind of staff requires a different approach than tried-and-true tactics in order to best capitalize on their positive energy. The challenge for senior management at PMI then was to identify approaches that provided structure whilst also providing staff with the freedom to be creative and self-determined.

Journey Towards Customer Centricity

The organization commenced their customer centricity journey with a series of projects seeking to assess where it currently stood, whilst also identifying critical processes needed to keep their customers at the forefront of all engagements. Working with the World Bank’s Consultative Group to Assist the Poor (CGAP), PMI engaged with Quicksand, a human-centered design and innovation consultancy, and CoCoon, an organizational design and change management consultancy, to translate the learnings from these previous engagements into a clearly articulated change management strategy. In order to complete their journey towards customer centricity, it became clear that the team would need to collectively develop frameworks that develop and foster specific behaviours and activities.

Designing the Transition, Bottom-up

The Quicksand team engaged with headquarter and field staff, as well as customers, to better understand the perceptions, challenges, and opportunities that would, or could, impact the development of customer-centric behaviours; this was accomplished through interviews, workshops, and observations. The behaviours which emerged from these engagements were: Collaboration, Empathy, Problem Solving, Business Acumen, Communication, and Leadership.

These interactions proved instrumental in directing the subsequent design efforts for developing the change management toolkit (i.e., onboarding and training programs, a performance management system, and a remuneration and rewards strategy), particularly with respect to identifying the customer-centric behaviours that staff needed to develop, be trained on, and evaluated against.

The tools developed to assist PMI’s journey towards customer centricity were created in an effort to keep these six distinct behaviours at the forefront. These will act as the lenses in which performance is measured and rewarded, are the foundation for the onboarding program, and were even personified as superhero characters that serve as the training program’s overall narrative.

Gradual and Integrated Change Management Framework

The resultant frameworks were co-created with PMI staff, and with guidance from the CGAP team. These were tested through workshop engagements in context and refined based on emergent insights. These engagements facilitated the design of interconnected modules that independently address specific needs and collectively provide the necessary road map for ensuring alignment throughout the organization on its customer centricity objectives. 

Onboarding: The onboarding journey focuses on key themes: training relevant to the employee’s role/job; onboarding with regards to PMI’s strategy and business processes; sensitisation to PMI’s core values; and lastly, onboarding on customer centricity specifically for which a series of modules were designed. The modules are diverse and look to cover broader theoretical aspects like financial behaviors of low-income customers and strategies to work at the Base of Pyramid, organization’s point of view on customer centricity and skills (human centered design, qualitative research, ideation, and prototyping). 

Training: A training program was designed to provide a fun and engaging format that reinforces key customer centric behaviors through role play, team-work and a gamified activity. The program was built as three-week problem solving challenges, that took the participants through the typical design thinking process. Customer centric behaviors were embodied in superhero characters (called Defenders of Customer Centricity), that guided players to achieve pre-determined tasks - both individually and collectively - while learning certain foundational principles of human centered design.

Performance Management System and Remuneration & Recognition: A dashboard for tracking employee progress in developing customer centric behaviours over time was created in an effort to quantify performance against the learning and training modules. This dashboard is connected to a framework that rewards positive performance such that there is a clear personal benefit above and beyond that of the customers.

The on-boarding program provides new employees with the foundational knowledge they require to be both effective in their new roles at PMI, which is particularly critical for staff joining from different fields and backgrounds, and to be customer-centric in all of their activities. The training module builds off of this foundation by revisiting the customer centricity behaviours in a fun and engaging manner whilst also providing practical, real-world experience in using design thinking tools to help address a pressing organisational challenge. Employee performance is evaluated based on an employee’s ability to incorporate the learnings and behaviours in their daily activities, and this is factored into compensation. Therefore, the individual elements represent a robust system for establishing, nurturing, and rewarding customer centricity for all staff.

Looking Forward

The experience of developing the frameworks for building a customer-centric organization was an affirmation of the design thinking process. At a macro level, these frameworks were designed by capitalising on the same skills and approaches that they seek to train PMI staff in, specifically working in multidisciplinary teams, engaging with people in their context, ideating and prototyping, and keeping the individual or individuals being designed for at the center of all activities.

The overarching challenge moving forward is for PMI take the next step in their customer-centricity journey: moving from abstraction to execution. The frameworks designed to facilitate this will need to be piloted to identify and address any pain-points and adjust accordingly. Approaching such a program with an understanding that it will need to be fluid and constantly evolve will greatly aid in achieving the end goal.

As reflected within the design thinking process, this journey is not a linear one; it is cyclical and iterative. Revisiting the same approaches utilized in the initial development of these frameworks as the organization continues to grow and expand will help ensure they remain impactful. This approach will be most reflective of the organization’s customer centric ideals as doing so will only serve their customers in more and better ways.

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