Geeta Wilson, Humana




Geeta Wilson


VP of consumer experience


Humana



When you think about industries that have traditionally delivered the easiest and most compelling customer experiences, the health-insurance biz probably isn't the first one that comes to mind. Or the third. Or the nineteenth. Fairly or no, health insurers have a reputation as being almost willfully difficult in their dealings with customers. Given the stultifying waits for a phone rep, there are many, many people who have their insurance provider's on-hold music permanently burned into their memories.

That's why the change that Wilson and her team have effected at Humana is so stunning. Nearly alone among insurance providers, Humana bends backwards to provide a customer experience that feels, well, human. Wilson deflects credit for the company's successes – “I've only been on this journey for three years,” she says – but people inside and outside Humana identify her as one of the primary drivers of change.

After honing her chops at NCR, Wilson arrived at Humana to found the company's FastStart Consumer Experience lab. The goal of the new unit was to challenge existing conventions and, in doing so, evolve Humana into an organization with which customers wanted to interact – as opposed to one that customers interacted with only when they had no other choice. “A mindset shift had to happen,” she recalls. “There was a lot of support for us to do right by the consumer, but getting there is always harder than you think it will be.” The lab's defining ethos? To be “scrappy, not crappy.” That comes straight from Wilson's official Humana bio, by the way.

Selling internal audiences on the shift, not surprisingly, ranked among the most urgent priorities. To accomplish that, Wilson and her team focused on a few smaller projects and notching some quick “wins.” They also enacted an open-door policy that continues to this day; “drop-in Thursdays” remain a FastStart mainstay. “Within a month or two, 250 of our senior leaders came through for a day. They got their hands dirty by doing some of the rapid experimentation themselves,” Wilson says. “[Leadership] had always been supportive, but once they got a taste of that, they really understood.”

For other organizations hoping to get their customer-experience house in similar order, Wilson runs off a list of essential actions. She says that team members must learn to wear many, many hats (“one day we're testing the efficacy of the language we're using, the next we're training interns about startup thinking in large organizations”) and accustom themselves to juggling challenges (“you better have some resilience”). She notes, however, that it's not just possible but necessary to have fun along the way. “We start each morning with a jam – somebody picks the music – and a jolt. We have a huddle and go through the work we're doing. We share life moments. It's all part of the mentality,” she explains.

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