Digital Transformation: Bringing the Next-Generation of Customer Experience

Fawad Ahmad, SVP, Digital and Customer Experience, State Farm
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Fawad Ahmad, SVP, Digital and Customer Experience, State Farm

Fawad Ahmad, SVP, Digital and Customer Experience, State Farm

How does a 96-year, history-rich company like State Farm continue to be the largest insurer of cars and homes in the US? We look at how technology is impacting and shaping the future for customer expectations and marketplace demands—and then we embrace it!  We’ve been the leader in our industry for decades. And we plan to keep it that way. But, we have to capitalize on our years of experience and evolve so we can continue keeping promises to customers. We believe transformation and innovation will help our customers for years to come. 

  By improving the strategic alignment of IT and business priorities, we’re also transforming how we work  

That’s why several years ago, State Farm began a digital transformation journey. Changes were needed to better position us to improve our ability to drive pace, efficiently deliver capabilities and focus on outcomes. As we looked to modernize our network—simplifying systems and processes—we knew we’d face challenges as a result of legacy systems and the increased complexity they create, inhibiting efficient integration. But there is a lot of opportunity in those challenges.

Within the last year we’ve made efficiency gains by combining our three IT areas into one department, now referred to as enterprise technology. This more efficient structure includes the creation of small, persistent teams and is helping us deliver technology to our customers and the organization faster, and with greater quality.

By improving the strategic alignment of IT and business priorities, we’re also transforming how we work. We’re migrating to agile delivery methods across both business and IT areas, and improving the transparency of IT investment decisions and business outcomes.

When it comes to our digital transformation journey, what do we mean by “digital”? At State Farm, digital is more than just digital capabilities or channels; it is about processes and people. As we provide new and enhanced ways for customers to do business with us, we’re also changing and connecting business processes, and driving the culture and skills needed to continue to deliver work differently.

There’s certainly been a culture shift in terms of embracing new technology. But what’s remarkable is that our mission still revolves around the same core value in our DNA since 1922: serving our customers in the best ways possible. Now we have new tools at our disposal to deliver a next-generation customer experience.              

One way we’re driving skills is through our Enterprise Technology Dojo—a learning lab on agile delivery methods. So far we’ve graduated over a thousand employees through the Dojo, and we’ve seen amazing outcomes as a result.

We’ve been intentional in applying creativity and agile processes to move product faster to market, see how well it’s serving the needs we identified and adapting based on market feedback. We’re already seeing the positive effect of having co-located, small, persistent teams. Organizationally we’ve had to become more comfortable with failure and experimentation.

The primary driver behind anything we do at State Farm is our customers and meeting their expectations. As customers, we all want things faster, with better service, and we want it at less cost. Our digital transformation is about using technology to enable customers to do business with State Farm—however and whenever they choose.

One example is our redesigned website and mobile app. We’ve recently earned top ranks from industry benchmarks for these digital solutions—in particular for their real-talk language, easy facilitation of tasks, self-service options, and simple connections to people who can help (such as a State Farm agent or contact center representative) whenever customers want that personal touch.

We’re very intentional to not let the need for digital disruption overshadow the importance of human to human connection, but instead find the best ways for new assistive technology to drive deeper service on the human dimension, rather than replace it altogether.

Every part of our organization, across insurance as well as financial services is about serving our customers on their life’s journey, helping them achieve their goals and deal with the challenges and uncertainty that happen in life.

A differentiator for us has been using technology to build stronger relationships with our customers. Incorporating the “human” aspect has been a big part of our approach and a key to our success. We design first and foremost for the human, not the technology. We then ensure the latest in technology is serving their needs in meaningful ways.

What's significant about State Farm is the number of lives we touch and the sheer scale of impact we have—nearly 19,000 agents and 65,000 employees service approximately 81 million auto, fire, life, health and commercial insurance policies and 2 million bank accounts across the country.

We’re deeply embedded in our customer’s lives in moments that really matter. If we do it right, we can be the hero of our customer’s journey.  The role we can potentially play is massive, and we take that role very seriously. That's the power of State Farm—deep, localized connection at scale. And there's so much that we're doing through innovations in technology to support our mission of helping people manage the risks of everyday life, recover from the unexpected, and realize their dreams.

Digital Transformation is about using technology to enable customers to do business with State Farm—however and whenever they choose. It’s delivering solutions quickly by working differently and creating a culture of innovation within the organization. Looking ahead, the organizations that thrive will be those that can build IT networks to be automated, virtual, adaptable, secure, and most importantly—customer-focused.