In high tech, it’s easy to become disconnected from the reasons why we innovate and who our products and solutions impact. At Genesys, we work with companies who make an impact on the daily lives of their customers, from providing exceptional services in health care to ensuring the financial future of families. And these companies remind me daily of who we impact with our products and solutions—and why.
One of the treasures of my work with our customers is sharing knowledge with some of the biggest names in business. And, most importantly, these business-savvy innovative leaders still connect at a human level throughout their organizations.
In my interview, Nan Ferrara, Executive Vice President of Operations and Continuous Improvement (CI) at Voya Financial Inc, shares how leading a company by bringing human-centric practices can positively impact both employees and the customer experience.
Q: Tell us a little bit about Voya and your organization’s core values.
Nan Ferrara: Voya Financial helps Americans plan, invest and protect their savings—to get ready to retire better. Finances can cause a great deal of stress; we are committed to enabling Americans to achieve a secure financial future by holistically addressing their financial needs, while also improving their communities and the environment. We know that this combination is critical to our success.
One of the ways that we demonstrate our values is through our Voya Cares program. As experts in retirement, investment management, individual life and employee benefits, our company is uniquely positioned to make an impact in the lives of people with special needs, as well as their families and caregivers, by helping them think differently—and holistically—about planning for their financial futures. Voya Cares provides educational resources, as well as help navigating government benefits and leveraging various legal tools to help people impacted by special needs achieve their desired futures.
Our operating philosophy is also rooted in the belief that, as equally important as “what” we accomplish, is “how” we accomplish it. We put a lot of focus on our talent and culture strategies, including building a common leadership model, which outlines leadership behaviors for all. As a result, these behaviors are used to measure how employees achieve their results via their everyday performance as part of midyear and annual reviews. Individuals are promoted and rewarded for modeling the right leadership behaviors.
Our strong culture, combined with having the right talent, helps promote problem-solving, the exchange of ideas, communication and teamwork—and that ultimately creates value for both the business and the community.
Q: You’ve led Voya’s Continuous Improvement (CI) efforts, which have shaped the direction and modernization of a very institutionalized industry. Tell us more about CI and how you’re integrating it across the company.
Ferrara: Prior to rebranding as Voya Financial, we were a company brought together by legacy acquisitions. Employees identified with their legacy companies and we did not have a common culture. We engaged McKinsey & Company in 2011 to conduct an Organizational Health Index survey, which benchmarked us across other companies in our industry. The “Ah ha!” moment from the survey was the fact that our people would go to heroic efforts for their respective companies. We knew we had to harness that passion and channel it into what would soon become Voya Financial. When we launched Voya and rebranded, we had an opportunity that most companies never get—a rebirth.
To support the company’s cultural transformation, we formed a committee of cross-functional leaders led by our CEO. The committee identified CI as one of the key drivers to transform the Voya culture. CI is both a philosophy and a management system that represent a new way of working. It embraces transparency and encourages people at all levels of the company to problem-solve every day to deliver more value to the customer.
Having our CEO and leadership drive CI has been central to its success. As of January 2018, more than 95% of Voya employees have experienced the power of CI.
Q: What have been the business improvements?
Ferrara: CI has the highest ROI for Voya. In addition, we’ve seen significant improvements in quality and processes, a reduction in error rates and improved employee engagement. With CI, we have experienced a real behavioral shift: We’ve gone from problem-solving within teams, to looking at the full end-to-end customer experience—collaborating across businesses and problem-solving horizontally, rather than vertically. We’re operating as One Voya to problem-solve and better serve our employees and customers.
Q: What have been some people results?
Ferrara: When we rolled out CI, we did so in a very methodic, deliberate way to ensure its success. Now, our people have a system that enables them to use tools, skills matrixes to develop their people and a problem-solving framework that empowers those closest to the customer to problem-solve in a standardized way.
We also engaged leaders who understand how employees are delivering for customers, who provide regular feedback and coaching, teach their team members how to solve problems and create an emotionally safe environment where employees trust each other and can engage in meaningful dialogue about their work.
When we talk about CI, we refer to it as the greatest training program on Earth; it’s truly a talent incubator. It stretches an individual and gives him or her a stage to demonstrate their leadership. One of the things that surprised me during our CI journey is the large number of strong female leaders who stepped forward to be change agents. CI gave them the platform to demonstrate their leadership skills and, as a result, they’ve gone back into the business in leadership roles, which advances our commitment to inclusion and diversity.
Q: At Genesys, we talk about connected moments. Technology is a vehicle for people to connect. We feel that enabling your agents and team members with great tools and technology connects them better with their customer—who they are talking to, why they called and how best to serve them. And we also understand that having happy, highly engaged agents at these moments allows your Voya brand to shine. What is the importance of enabling your agents for success and how does that translate to happier customers?
Ferrara: With the Genesys Customer Experience Platform, we’ve mined rich data that has enabled us to pinpoint areas for improvement. For example, prior to adopting the Customer Experience Platform, we knew that we were experiencing higher than normal transfer rates within our retirement call center. But we didn’t have the data to back up our assumption. With supporting data in hand that validated our concerns, we conducted root-cause problem-solving and developed solutions that have reduced transfer rates in the call center by 45% as of mid-May.
And, for the month of June, we’re conducting a pilot program leveraging enhanced survey functionality of the Customer Experience Platform. Any customer who elects to take the existing After Call Survey and provide a survey score of 1, 2 (bottom 2) or 5 (top response), will be presented with the ability to leave a comment with specifics on their interaction with our CSAs. This Voice of the Customer initiative is designed to enhance customer service through coaching and process improvements, identify best practices to share across our contact centers and celebrate our employees who go above and beyond to provide service excellence.
Q: In the era of digital transformations, and with the increasing headlines of privacy and data protection, trust is top of mind for many people. In the practice of customer experience (CX), trust is a key pillar- one that is not easily built, but so easy to lose. Millions of people, from individuals to families to companies in the U.S., trust Voya to plan, invest and, most importantly, protect their savings. What are some ways you build and protect that trust for your customers?
Ferrara: How we support and service our customers is paramount. We consider it our core responsibility as a financial services firm to behave ethically, operate with full transparency and protect customer information with the highest integrity. Additionally, cybersecurity is an important part of how the company delivers on our commitment to help customers secure their financial future. Voya continuously strives to improve the technology, processes, and people on anticipating emerging threats and staying ahead of them. An example of this has been our outstanding progress on phishing awareness with our employees, which has dramatically improved in the last few years.
Q: Innovation can be an overused term across industries from technology and finance to manufacturing and construction. But it’s about how customers evolve, being able to meet their needs for today and anticipating what they will need tomorrow. What are some ways Voya is innovating with their customers?
Ferrara: With CI serving as the foundation, everything we do is viewed through the lens of the customer. We believe that it is everyone’s job to innovate and, in doing so, approach every task by asking the question, “How are we enhancing the ease of doing business with Voya?”
Examples of innovation include the myOrangeMoney® online, an interactive educational participant website that helps people understand how their current retirement savings translates into potential monthly income. It is a no-cost, digital tool available to 3.7 million participants in 46,000 retirement plans. After using the tool, 80% say they know what steps to take to improve their retirement outlook.
Additionally, Voya has received DALBAR awards for communications excellence and superior commitment to serving customers. DALBAR, Inc., is an independent research firm that evaluates, audits and rates the business practices of financial institutions. The awards, which are considered a mark of excellence in the financial community, recently recognized Voya for their participant website, the Retirement business for the mobile app and Investment management for investor financial statements and quality services provided by the contact center to mutual fund investors.
We’ve also recently launched an Automation Center of Excellence, with a focus on automating manual tasks, which will free up employees to focus on critical thinking to anticipate and meet customers’ needs.
Q: A business challenge that faces all of us, regardless of industry, is retaining customers and increasing loyalty and wallet share. What trends do you see for the future of customer engagement?
Ferrara: Our goal is to provide the right solutions and an effortless experience for existing and future customers. The planning and financial decisions people face can be overwhelming; we want to demystify and decode all perceived obstacles around retirement. We view financial security holistically and work with our clients to break down the steps and provide the right solutions to meet their changing needs. We also believe in demonstrating empathy and genuine concern for customers. We don’t just listen to them, but we hear them and seek to understand their spoken—and unspoken—needs.
Central to the success of our business is establishing and maintaining trust. We approach every interaction with customers as a “moment that matters,” and as an opportunity to develop a trusting, meaningful relationship to last “to, and through, retirement.”
Great Customer Experience Begins With You
Across all industries, providing excellence in customer experience starts with the individual—and continues with each team member. As leaders, it’s our job to create a culture of empowerment and engagement so each team member can bring their best to our customers.
We must model the behavior we want each of our team members to exemplify. Empathy both for our team members and for our customers will create powerful moments—to connect, build trust and foster lasting relationships.
Nan Ferrara Bio
Nan Ferrara is executive vice president of Operations and Continuous Improvement (CI) for Voya Financial, Inc. (NYSE: VOYA), which helps Americans plan, invest and protect their savings — to get ready to retire better. Serving the financial needs of approximately 14.7 million individual and institutional customers in the United States, Voya is a Fortune 500 company that had $8.6 billion in revenue in 2017.
Ferrara oversees the overall growth strategy and performance of the operations organization, as well as the company’s Continuous Improvement (CI) efforts, a key driver of Voya’s strategic transformation that she has led since joining the company in April 2012. Under Ferrara’s leadership, the CI management system has been integrated across the company and has created a high-performance culture that has led to dramatically improved business results. Ferrara also serves on Voya’s Executive Committee.