While reading through the chapter excerpt “Types of Strategy: Which Fits Your Business?” the section on customer relationship and the example of United States Automobile Association (USAA) peaked my interest. As a loyal USAA customer for many years, I was interested in what the authors had to say about the company. I am not trying in any way throughout this posting to advertise or advocate the company, but I am a happy customer due to one simple thing they do right, all the time.
While USAA does have a very targeted market group, namely military service members and their immediate families, all of the people that I know personally that use the service are extremely happy with the company. This always boils down to one simple reason: customer service. USAA is multi-facetted in their services, providing not only insurance, but a myriad of financial services as well. Their banking strategy is not typical of other banks. They do not have branch offices that you can walk into and talk to a person; everything is handled over the phone or the internet. After 10 years of using the company, I have never stepped foot into their one branch in San Antonio Texas, but have never had a problem with them that was not quickly and effectively dealt with. This provides an interesting customer service perspective in an era of outsourced phone customer service. The wait time for talking to an actual person never seems longer than ten minutes, typically only a minute or two. While the menus to choose which specific person to speak with are sometime tedious, the ensuing wait to speak with a person has a short duration. The representatives are always helpful, polite, and happy. Once you have spoken with a representative, transferring to a different sector of the company (from banking to insurance for example) is an easy transfer handled from a real person to another real person. You don’t have to go back through the long list of menu options to return to a real person. This is the right way to handle customers and keep them loyal to the company. While customer service was not what attracted me to the company in the first place, it is what has kept me with the company for so long. Not having the myriad of branches all across the nation has allowed USAA to focus where they are strong and remain a leader in the customer service realm. They understand and know their niche of customers so well that they can provide targeted and helpful service in a non-traditional way for banks and insurance companies. You do not get a face to face interaction with a bank teller or an insurance policy adjuster, but you don’t need it. Despite this, USAA utilizes other technologies that provide you with a similar feeling and the one on one attention you would expect from a claims adjuster or a bank teller. This is the right way to handle customer service and keep down costs that can be transferred onto the customers in other aspects.
The authors of “Types of Strategy: Which Fits Your Business?” were exactly right when they stated that while USAA caters to a very specific market group, they do it well, understand their customers, and provide excellent customer service. USAA has defined what makes them distinctive, what gives them their unfair advantage, and what has led to their success. Even in a targeted market place that does not cater to the general public, USAA has proven that excellent customer service can set a company apart from its competitors.