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Lisa Tanen-La Fontaine of LIMRA on Customer Experience Innovation in Financial Services

Oliver Cox

Finserv companies can leverage digital innovation to anticipate their customers’ unique needs — and deliver the products that meet them.


Digital disruption is challenging our preconceptions about quality customer experience. Traditional financial advisors are seeing increasing competition from robo-advisors with intuitive digital touchpoints and minimal intrusion, and traditional banks are facing competition from digital banks like N26 with little physical presence. 

This week, L&T sat down with Lisa Tanen-La Fontaine, Chief Marketing Officer for LL Global, the parent company of LIMRA and LOMA. LL Global is a nonprofit trade association focused on providing industry insights, knowledge and solutions to the financial services industry. Tanen-La Fontaine shared with us how financial services institutions can rise to the challenge of giving their customers a better, more helpful, and more intuitive experience.

Intuitive CX Can Meet Users Where They Are — And Where They’ll Be  

According to Tanen-La Fontaine, great customer experience is the backbone of the financial services industry. However, even in the age of digital first approaches, excellent CX doesn’t look the same for every organization. Companies like N26 and SoFi rely on their digital presence to attract a younger clientele, but excellent financial services CX is about tracing the customer journey beyond their digital lives. Tanen-La Fontaine is the first to point out that on this front, “digital-first companies have something to learn from the more established companies.”  

“Our industry focuses on CX because people are at the heart of what we do, we help people plan for financial security,” she explains. “But not every organization engages with customers in the same way, and customers have unique financial needs — people choose financial advisors for a variety of reasons. That’s why the industry needs to think about more holistic approaches to customer experience, approaches that account for the entire customer journey.”

While traditional financial offerings — life insurance or trust funds, for instance — largely link client acquisition to standard life events, today’s customer expects financial products to meet their unique needs. In a crowded market, traditional financial institutions can earn customer loyalty by leveraging digital innovation to anticipate meaningful life changes and meet their customers’ diverse financial needs. 

Tanen-La Fontaine points to John Hancock and USAA as two examples of financial services with personalized CX that considers the entire customer journey. The John Hancock Vitality program allows users to earn savings and other rewards by racking up activity points on an Apple Watch, FitBit, or other wearable exercise devices. Participating users have the option to receive customized dietary and exercise advice. Beyond encouraging customer engagement, JH can use the data they generate as a way to anticipate a customer’s specific insurance needs. 

Texas-based insurance company USAA is consistently recognized as a leading customer service provider in the insurance and banking space. It exclusively serves military personnel, and it invests significant resources in analyzing unique customer journeys. At any given time, a large portion of its customer — or “member” — base may be deployed abroad. In anticipation of their needs, USAA created an omnichannel experience that allows members to access all of their financial resources, anywhere in the world.

“When companies invest in customer experience like this, they’re going to see an increase in their number of policyholders and revenue dollars, but they’re also going to see greater loyalty,” Tanen-La Fontaine explains. Indeed USAA reported a remarkable 96 percent member retention rate in 2019. 

CX Begins with UX: A Case Study 

Tanen-La Fontaine oversaw the beginnings of a CX transformation project firsthand just a couple of years ago, when LIMRA decided to completely rebuilt its website and its CMS to improve user experience.  

“When we rebuilt LIMRA.com, we kept the end-user at the heart of everything we did,” Tanen-La Fontaine explains. “We did digital surveys and phone interviews with our users to ensure we were designing our site based on what they actually wanted and needed.”

One of the website’s most extreme transformations took place right on its homepage. “In the past, the prevailing wisdom was to put all the important information right on the homepage —so  that people would see it right away,” Tanen-La Fontaine said. “Now, we understand that people can’t really absorb all that information at once. You have to give users something meaningful and simple that invites further engagement.”

LIMRA’s old homepage consisted of three columns, each packed with text. The new homepage is sleek and image-based, introducing new information gradually as users scroll. The change has already garnered striking results.

Updating the website not only improved engagement, but it has also improved the organization’s relationships with LIMRA members. “As soon as we flipped the switch, we got messages from our members telling us how much their experience has improved and how much they appreciated it,” Tanen-La Fontaine recalls. “We’ve also seen that reflected in the metrics. It was incredible: an 115 percent increase in visits to our homepage and a 14 percent increase in research year over year.” 

Attracting new leads — and retaining loyal customers — is about putting the customer journey at the forefront of everything you do. Instead of focusing on what you would like the customer to know, superior CX begins with the customer’s wants, needs, and expectations. Today, customers expect a quasi-intuitive understanding of their financial needs. Finserv companies that can deliver will gain a decisive advantage.

Oliver Cox

Marketing & Innovation Lead

Originally from the UK, now builds custom strategies to share our clients' visions and stories. Novelist and musician in his spare time.

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