Stellar Service Brand USAA Puts its Money Where its Mouth Is

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USAA“We know what it means to serve” not only defines USAA‘s customer (military personnel and their families) but also its core promise to stakeholders: an unequivocal commitment to service. The organization has been recognized repeatedly, most notably as BusinessWeek’s #1 Customer Service Champ for both 2006 and 2007. So how does USAA deliver on what is actually quite a good tagline? USAA makes it eminently clear to recruits, trainees, and employees that service is their mission through traditional and novel educational and communication tactics; but there are two even bigger commitments to service that the organization has made.

First, the organization doesn’t time its nearly 13,000 CSR’s calls. Obviously managers encourage efficiency in addressing customer problems, and USAA is pushing to make its website more of a one-stop-shop for self-service. But freeing CSR’s from the tyranny of the clock can’t be underestimated. Most call centers measure their employee’s interactions down to the second so that they can staff as leanly as possible. USAA, on the other hand, is asking employees to provide unparalleled service, and giving them the time to do so. It means giving up some staffing efficiencies, but USAA is willing to make the investment.

Second, USAA rewards its CSR’s well. For 2007 employees received a 14.9% bonus, USAA reimburses tuition fees, and staff perks include a company-funded pension, free financial advice, and on-site child care and fitness centers. They’ve recognized a simple truth: if you want to hire and retain talented, hard-working people, you have to compensate them for their market value and their effort.

Even the most well-intentioned employees need the freedom, the authority, and the incentives to consistently deliver great customer service. USAA has structured its contact center operations and its total compensation around this lesson. It is one that all companies who aspire to provide standout service should take to heart.

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