“I deeply believe we need to have a brand that proves to customers that we are a reliable and responsible company, that will be able to support and protect them through sometimes dramatic events or very long periods of time, and—last but not least—that offers a great value for money based on services.”
How has AXA used service innovation as a pillar of growth and in order to differentiate itself in the industry?
AXA teams worldwide strive every day to redefine the standards of the insurance industry—we know it’s a bold statement, but this is what our customers expect from us and it explains why we put so much focus on innovation.
In our industry, most innovations that truly change customer experience are based on service. Besides, they are the ones that are the most difficult to replicate by competition: It’s much more challenging to sustainably provide a great service than to copy/paste the terms and conditions of an insurance policy!
Over the last few years, we have therefore structured and systematized our approach to innovation: We focus on limited but truly effective and differentiating service innovations, test them, roll them out across the AXA Group, and communicate them to our clients.
Let’s take two concrete examples of our recent successes on innovation: “Home care after hospital stay” and new services on “bodily injury case management.”
With Home Care after hospital stay, AXA commits to deliver, within 48 hours, a domestic care service (home cleaner, home health aide) after a hospitalization. This is a service that deeply simplifies our customer’s lives at a moment when they need our help. This service was successfully launched in France and Spain.
With our new services on “bodily injury case management,” we completely changed the way insurers are dealing with victims. When a person is injured and becomes disabled and dependent, his/her everyday life changes radically. A whole new set of needs is created. Our new services on Bodily Injury Case Management propose to add to or partly replace the traditional financial compensation, with adapted services for the victim.
If some injuries can unfortunately not be fully repaired, these services make a huge difference for our client and strongly resonate with the fundamental noble purpose of our business.
What are the challenges that a brand with such a wide geographical presence faces in terms of offering a consistent customer experience?
Our first challenge is to have a common brand identity worldwide. We have achieved this through the launch of our new brand positioning and we are continuing to do so by deploying the AXA brand everywhere. As a concrete example, we launched the AXA Brand in Romania recently.
Our second challenge is to build a common tool to measure customer experience. This is what we have implemented with our “Customer Scope” survey. In 2011, we will measure customer satisfaction for more than 2.5 millions customers in 33 countries.
Our third challenge is to embark employees and top executives towards the delivery of a great customer experience. This is something I personally promoted, notably by introducing the “Customer Scope” results into the bonus of the Executive Committee of each country.
Our last challenge is to launch global services. We started to move one step further in 2011 by identifying services that had the potential for being global. This strategy was concretely illustrated in 2011 by the launch of the Taxi Joker service in Switzerland, after a successful implementation in France a few years earlier. This service is strongly linked to prevention: in France, young drivers (18-25-year-olds) represent more than 25 percent of traffic-linked death. Very often, this is due to drunk driving. Prevention programs have been developed, but drunk driving remains the leading cause of death among young people. Taxi Joker was created to prevent those accidents by offering our young driver clients the possibility to get a free taxi if they are under the influence of alcohol or drugs.
Another example of our global services is the "Pick-Up and Delivery" service that we are now proposing in Germany and France. After an accident, when the car can still be driven, we pick up the damaged car at a place and a time decided by the customer. We handle the expertise and repairs and then, we deliver the repaired car at a place and time that is convenient for the customer. This is a breakthrough innovation that redefines the way to deal with car insurance. With this service, we are really exceeding customer expectations.
How does the global strategy encourage the local operating units to develop synergies?
Our Ambition AXA strategic plan is largely a bottom-up exercise, reflecting the priorities of our local entities.
Indeed, we are convinced at AXA that in order to be closer to clients and distributors, and remain attentive to their needs, the insurance business has to preserve a local dimension. On the other hand, as a global group and a leading brand, AXA must fully leverage its scale notably to improve customer experience.
This was the rationale for setting up two “global business lines” in property and casualty insurance and in life and health insurance. Thanks to these lines of business, we can share more swiftly and disseminate expertise.
At the end of the day, this “matrix” organization speeds up the rollout of common solutions that enhance our service quality and the appeal of our products.
Is integrating technology and social media into the customer experience a priority for the brand, and how do you plan to accomplish this in a way that it offers a seamless customer experience?
Our priority is to be where the customer is and where they are searching for our brand. This means for AXA:
- Being a multi-access brand: reachable in physical agencies, on the internet (websites, aggregators), by phone, on mobile, and iPad (applications and dedicated mobile sites).
- Being an active brand on social media: We already have great local initiatives (El Talisman in Mexico, Road Prevention in Ireland) and we have just launched a global initiative on Facebook (AXA People Protectors), which will be progressively deployed locally.
What are the brand’s most important corporate citizenship initiatives and how do they help in differentiating the brand?
In line with our core mission of being people protectors, AXA has had a long commitment to corporate citizenship, with the objective to build a safer and stronger society. One of the best examples of this long-standing and significant commitment is our employee volunteer program, AXA Hearts in Action. AXA Hearts in Action celebrated its 20th anniversary this year, and counts more than 20,000 AXA volunteers.
In addition, in 2009, AXA launched a new Corporate Responsibility (CR) strategy with the aim of embedding CR into the way we work everyday. To give more visibility to this commitment and to allow all entities within AXA to contribute, one theme—very closely linked to our brand and core business—was chosen as a focus for the Group: Risk Research and Education.
As of today, this theme is embodied in the risk prevention work being done in each AXA entity (for example, on the product side, the Joker Taxi cited earlier), and in two global corporate citizenship initiatives:
- The AXA Research Fund, which has dedicated $EU 100 million over five years to fundamental research on the risks that threaten the environment, human life, and society.
- The AXA-CARE three-year partnership to help vulnerable populations in emerging countries to better face climate risk thanks to research, education, and prevention.
We know that risk research, education, and prevention are at the same time severely underfunded and highly effective. We believe that our commitments in this area are unique, and that the impact on our stakeholders—and on our brand—will be significant.
What are the challenges and opportunities on the horizon for AXA and for the industry at large?
It’s no surprise that the highly volatile environment we’ve faced over the last three years can be quite challenging—although I consider the insurance industry has been remarkably resilient, fully playing its role of shock absorber for its clients.
Looking ahead, the long-term outlook for the insurance industry is good, because we are addressing global growing needs. If you look at the increasing number of cars worldwide, at the frequency of natural catastrophes, at the increase in life expectancy, you’ll see that the need for insurance is more important than ever.
To seize these opportunities, I deeply believe we need to have a brand that proves to customers that we are a reliable and responsible company, that will be able to support and protect them through sometimes dramatic events or very long periods of time, and—last but not least—that offers a great value for money based on services.
When we achieve this, we truly redefine standards in our industry. This is our ambition for the AXA brand.
ABOUT HENRI DE CASTRIES
Henri de Castries began his career in the French Finance Ministry Inspection Office, auditing government agencies from 1980 to 1984. In 1984, he joined the French Treasury Department, where, in 1986, he played an active role in several privatizations before being appointed to oversee foreign exchange markets and balance of payments for the Treasury. In 1989, he joined AXA's Corporate Finance Division. In 1991 he was named Corporate Secretary, responsible for dealing with the legal aspects of the reorganization and merger of Compagnie du Midi with and into the AXA Group. Two years later, he was appointed Senior Executive Vice President for the Group's asset management, financial and real-estate businesses. In 1994, he assumed the additional role of overseeing North American and U.K. operations. In 1996, Henri de Castries played an active role both in preparing for the UAP merger and in managing the subsequent integration of the two groups. In 1997, he was appointed Chairman of The Equitable Companies (which later became AXA Financial).
Henri de Castries was Chairman of the AXA Management Board from May of 2000 to April of 2010. Since April 2010, following a modification of the corporate governance structure, he has been Chairman and CEO of the Group. In addition to his professional duties, Henri de Castries sits on the board of the Association pour l‘aide aux jeunes infirmes, an organization dedicated to helping disabled youth, and is chairman of AXA Hearts in Action, AXA's volunteer community outreach program.