- By Clint Wheelock
- February 2, 2023
Dan Barnhart is Lead CX Consultant at Transamerica Corporation, the Cedar Rapids, Iowa based company which is part of Aegon, a group of various companies and investment firms operating around the world, offering life and supplemental health insurance, investment, employee benefits, and retirement services. Barnhart was in a Georgia-based band briefly before becoming a technologist in marketing at Coca-Cola. In the 1990s, Barnhart joined his father’s advertising agency in Denver, where he started the digital division of the company. He shifted direction after 9/11 and started his own agency, Malenke|Barnhart, landing a succession of clients—Qwest Communications, Disney, Ford, and Quiznos. After a successful decade he sold his company and opened a recording studio and started working on sound design and music for gaming firm Ubisoft, The Voice, and other clients. Barnhart also provided consulting services for a period of time before he was recruited to join Transamerica.
Most Significant CX Challenges
For Transamerica and its some 25,000-strong workforce, its biggest CX challenge currently is the technology integration of the company’s many legacy systems. Transamerica as a company dates back as far as the San Francisco earthquake of 1906. “It’s really deep, broad, and mature,” Barnhart says, of the wide variety of systems that can be found serving the company’s millions of customers spread across its multiple lines of business. Like all companies, Transamerica knows that it needs to improve its Net Promoter Score (NPS), the metric that measures customer loyalty.
CX Success Stories
Transamerica switched to Qualtrics three years ago in a major implementation move that Barnhart qualifies as a CX success story, especially when Transamerica’s size and heft are considered. Another success that leveraged Barnhart’s extensive background in experience management and visual design was realized when he was tapped to help rethink and redesign forms that are completed by millions of customers, advisors, and agents each year. He and his teammates worked to simplify and revamp some of the company’s forms, potentially saving hundreds of thousands of pages of paper a year across multiple business lines. And working across operations, finance, marketing, and other groups, Barnhart and team racked up another CX win when they created the Transamerica Employee Panel (TEP), an in-house team consisting of approximately 600 employees that Transamerica can leverage as a knowledgeable resource to serve as survey respondents or subjects of inquiry in the company’s research initiatives.
Barriers and obstacles in various forms exist in all enterprise organizations. At Transamerica, accessing data can be a layered, circuitous process, requiring approval from IT and other departments. And a single line of business may have 10 to 15 databases associated with it. “Like all companies, you get under the hood and things are much more spaghetti-like than you imagined,” Barnhart notes. Getting systems to “talk to each other” is a constant, ongoing concern. “Luckily, there’s a lot of great energy toward giving folks an exceptional customer experience here so everyone is galvanized to make things happen,” Barnhart declares.
Despite some growing pains that Barnhart said was experienced by Transamerica during the Qualtrics implementation, the move to a new solution made a significant difference, with Qualtrics succeeding in pushing Transamerica capabilities forward rapidly into a more mature and complex CX ecosystem. At the same time, a place continues to exist for traditional research technologies and methodologies, including good old qualitative research that Barnhart conducts with agents and advisors around the country.
A goal for Transamerica in the future is to continue to work toward being at the leading edge of customer experience by employing emerging practices and technologies. At the same time, Barnhart is well aware that “everybody is in survey overload”. Employing tried and true methodologies like one on one in-depth interviews where a real human sits down and talks to another real human, as he has successfully done in the past with brands like Disney and Ford, are still very important.
Predictions for CX Market Development
Over the next few years, Barnhart believes that predictive analytics—and the deeper insights springing from that process—will become even more important and useful for CX. ML and AI will be bigger forces in CX as well, thanks to their increased and more pervasive use in CX and call center solutions. Barnhart also believes in reciprocity: Although CX needs to evolve as a practice toward better integration with marketing and technology groups, practitioners in the two camps must likewise do their part and attempt to increase their understanding and appreciation of CX.
Above all, the focus must be on the customer journey, to be used “as a map, rather than a pet project,” Barnhart says. “The journey is the winner.”
About the CX Innovator Series
The CX Innovator Series is an actionable and educational industry initiative that showcases the best practices that leading end-user executives are using within their organizations to shape their community’s experience. The series is a collaborative effort between Dash Network, Sleeping Giant Labs, and Team Wakabayashi. Using expertly curated executive interviews combined with quantitative research from consumer surveys, the CX Innovator Series provides tangible insights and a deeper understanding of how successful companies are utilizing CX programs resulting in positive business outcomes.
The CX Innovator Series is made possible by support from our lead sponsors: Concentrix, eGain, Tealium, and QuestionPro. If you would be interested in participating in the CX Innovator initiative, either as part of an end-user interview or as a supporting sponsor, please contact us.
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