2018 has been a notable year for customer experience transformation. KPMG Nunwood’s 2018 UK Customer Experience Excellence (CEE) analysis points to a number of organisations that have dramatically improved their positions in the CEE rankings, with five of the 10 biggest movers coming from the financial services industry. The insurance company Direct Line is one of these, and indeed is the most transformed brand in the 2018 research, having climbed an impressive 138 places over the last 12 months to rank 65th. It’s a result that’s symptomatic of a sea-change amongst financial services organisations, with many companies investing in programmes with a leaning towards Integrity, and focusing more keenly on the needs of those they are serving.


A moral customer experience

Indeed, an aptitude in Integrity is crucial for any brand hoping to achieve customer experience best practice. It makes up one of The Six Pillars, and the latest research indicates that the Integrity pillar has a 20 per cent impact on customer advocacy and a 17 per cent impact on future loyalty.


For Direct Line, making headway in this pillar has been a key consideration of its customer experience transformation. The brand appears to have an understanding of the time-poor people that it serves; it aims to deliver “speed, simplicity” and “a quick and straightforward customer experience” that is free from “middlemen, fat commissions, the forms and the jargon.” And this penchant for Integrity highlights just how much Direct Line values the moral compass; phrases such as “fat commissions” and “the jargon” imply that an alternative customer experience could be one in which consumers are deliberately misled with complicated wording, all in the sole interests of making a profit.


Indeed, addressing this pillar has been essential for the financial services sector as a whole, as it has been haunted for many years by unfavourable stories regarding mis-sold insurance and fudged LIBOR rates. Consumer trust has been significantly tarnished, and companies such as Direct Line have made a conscious effort to reassure customers that they are truly looking out for their best interests.


And for Direct Line, it’s an initiative that has paid off. The company has grown to become the UK’s leading car insurer and gives more than 13,000 car insurance quotes daily, as well as issuing a new Direct Line policy every 10 seconds.[1]


And crucially, in terms of loyalty, Direct Line claims that “99 per cent of customers would buy again,” which suggests that its CX endeavours leave a lasting impact on the people that it serves.[2]


Changing the world

However, customer experience best practice cannot be achieved and then disregarded; it’s a process that must be continually fuelled by the latest customer insight, affording brands such as Direct Line a tantalising glimpse into the lives of the people that it serves. Because of this, financial services organisations are required to continually reinvent themselves in response to acquired data, even using the information to innovate and solve problems that customers didn’t realise they had.


One project that Direct Line is heavily invested in is that of The Smart Crossing. It’s a bold reimagination of the traditional zebra crossing, which Direct Line believes is out-dated. “The first road crossing was invented in the 1930s,” the brand says. “Since then, city life has changed. But pedestrian crossings haven’t kept up. 7,000 incidents happen on Britain’s crossings every year. What if we could rethink how a road works, and design a crossing that can see what’s happening on it, and adapt itself to help stop accidents from happening at all?”[3]


It’s an ambitious vision for a road of the future for which Direct Line is hoping to secure investment and council backing, using cameras and artificial intelligence to create a pedestrian crossing that is more organic and, overall, safer for people to use. And by throwing such support behind this venture, the brand is presenting a broader spectrum of motives. Undoubtedly, it’s a business that needs to make a profit in order to survive and grow, but Direct Line is also conscious of the safety and quality of life of its customers, and is invested in their ongoing happiness.



There is also evidence of this ethos in the brand’s social media usage. For instance, many of Direct Line’s posts on Twitter are empathetic and advisory, offering tips and solutions that could potentially stop people from encountering difficulties. One example of this can be seen in a tweet from March 1st 2018, which Direct Line issued during the so-called ‘beast from the east’ which brought a dramatic deluge of snow and high winds. It’s an eight-point infographic with essential advice on what to do in preparation for flooding, such as fitting air brick covers and flood boards to block doorways, and clearing drains and gutters of debris.[4]


The big picture

However, the key take-away for any company hoping to achieve a similar customer experience transformation is that the process is holistic, and never-ending. Direct Line is a first class example with many effective strategies that can be adopted, but no single technological innovation or heartfelt social media post will foster true customer loyalty or advocacy. Transformation is a many-cogged and infinitely adaptable machine, powered by an ongoing stream of insight and a true passion for enhancing the lives of the people being served. It’s an awesome task, but the reality is that, for many companies, the journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step. 2019 could be the year to action lasting change. 


Download the 2018 UK Customer Experience Excellence Analysis in full.


[1] https://www.directline.com/about-us

[2] Ibid.

[3] https://www.directline.com/smart-crossing?cmpid=000/motor/soc/facebook/organic_TSC_180321/link/p3video/0

[4] https://twitter.com/DirectLine_UK/status/969614773905174530