By Connections Editor
“Every interaction, every touch point that we have with an Applied Systems customer is an opportunity for us to make our support better, make our services better and augment our products,” says Kris Hackney, Applied Systems Executive Vice President of Customer Experience. “We’re constantly leveraging multiple channels to get that feedback.”
In an interview with Connections, Hackney shares her perspective on working with customers to achieve excellence.
How does Applied Systems support its users on a day-to-day basis?
Hackney: I am responsible for the client-facing organizations within Applied Systems — that’s around 700 people or about half the company. We live and breathe our customers every day. Applied Systems is very much a customer-oriented culture; we want our customers to stay with us in perpetuity. And we want them to be happy and recommend Applied to their peers in the industry.
We have a world-class support team. We’re about to expand our support to 24/7 later on in 2017, and we’re really excited about being the first in the industry to do that. Our support team has world-class metrics in terms of response time and issue resolution. Our services team has grown exponentially over the last few years. We staff our customer experience team with individuals who have walked in the shoes of insurance professionals, so most of the people in our services organization, in consulting and training, have personally written insurance, run operations in insurance agencies and so on. We’re keenly focused on ensuring that our customers get everything they possibly can out of their investment in Applied Systems technology.
How does Applied Systems go about teaching their own staff how to use products? How do you approach training?
Hackney: We hire a variety of different people, so we have a variety of onboarding methods. We do hire people with insurance industry experience, but we also hire people who are just out of college, who need to learn how to work at a software company, who need to learn the technology. Our team members use Applied University, which is a great way to get to know our technology. We have insurance classes inside of Applied Systems, which help acclimate our new employees to the life cycle of insurance, and we do a lot of shadowing, mentoring and hands-on learning.
Ramping up a really skilled resource at Applied takes some time. We want individuals who answer the phone or come to an agency to do training to be knowledgeable and demonstrate a depth of experience to our customers, so we invest a lot of time and energy in ramping up our people.
Aside from the traditional phone calls and online support, how does Applied go about making sure that they’re hearing from customers?
Hackney: There are a lot of different channels for feedback. We have the traditional support channels — email, chat and phone. We have the Applied Community, which is our online portal for our customers. We monitor the Applied Client Network forums to see what the buzz might be there so that we can leverage that feedback. We also have the Product Advisory Community, or the PAC, which is a really important mechanism for both Applied Client Network and Applied Systems to hear directly from our customers around feature requests, as we prioritize what we’re building in the product. We also do an annual customer survey, and we spend a lot of time analyzing the feedback in that survey. We personally call individuals who have given us tough feedback so that we can hear directly from those customers and understand their concerns. Every interaction, every touch point that we have with an Applied Systems customer is an opportunity for us to make our support better, make our services better and augment our products. We’re constantly leveraging multiple channels to get that feedback.
We are focused on serving our customers. I named a lot of formal channels of interacting and providing feedback with Applied, but you also have a senior management team at Applied Systems who cares to listen. Our emails are open, and our doors are open — so reach out if you have an idea. We’re here to listen.
Are you involved with anything that will go on at Applied Net? If so, what can users expect?
Hackney: I am indeed, yes! Having been around software for most of my life, I’ve been to a lot of user conferences and I can tell you that Applied Systems and the Applied Client Network really put on an absolutely world-class conference. This September, we’re really excited to once again put on the largest event in our industry in the world. We have a great program coming together — more than 200 education sessions with content and interaction that is applicable to any role in the agency. Whether you’re principal, a CSR, operations manager or executive leader, there’s something for you. The curriculum is absolutely fantastic. Whether you’re one of those Applied Client Network members who makes it every year or you’re someone who’s thinking about whether it makes sense to make the investment, I can tell you that it absolutely does!
What would you like to see Applied Client Network accomplish in 2017 and beyond?
Hackney: I think Applied Client Network has a great mantra around "users helping users." and I think that one of the most important areas ahead for Applied Client Network is member growth. Continuing to help Applied customers who aren’t members recognize what Applied Client Network offers that is augmentative to that from Applied Systems, continuing to deepen your education offerings and continuing to highlight the opportunity to meet new people and learn from other agents and brokerages are doing with Applied technology ultimately will drive more membership.
Why do you think it’s important for members to connect/network and look beyond their own agency/brokerage?
Hackney: Learning from others is so important. Even if you’ve been in the insurance industry for 30 years, you may not have stumbled upon a particular scenario or thought of a particular way to engage with your insured. Interacting with people through Applied Client Network gives you a sense of the art of the possible, and it can make you a better agency/brokerage. Those agencies/brokerages who have built a network through Applied Client Network are ultimately gaining because they’re constantly learning new things; they’re pushing the envelope in terms of how they’re serving customers. Why wouldn’t you be part of the Applied Client Network and take advantage of what your peers can offer?
On a lighter note, do you think the Chicago Cubs will repeat as World Series champs in 2017?
Hackney: I’m not originally from around here, but I think the Cubs have a strong young team who is highly likely to win another World Series sometime very soon. There’s no city that can celebrate a world championship the way that Chicago can.
What’s the worst or most difficult job you’ve ever had?
Hackney: I’m going to turn this one on its side because I am lucky in that I have honestly liked every job I’ve ever had. Maybe I’ve picked them well. So I’m going to tell you about my favorite job: That was working for the Minnesota Twins when I was in college. I worked in fan relations, which was good preparation for customer experience at Applied Systems!
What’s the coolest thing you’ve ever done?
Hackney: The coolest thing I’ve ever done is climbing the Sydney Harbour Bridge in Australia. There is a beautiful view of the harbor and the opera house, and you’re kind of on the top of the world there. There’s kind of an insurance tie here too, because I can’t believe they let people climb the Sydney Harbour Bridge!
Kris Hackney, Applied Systems Executive Vice President of Customer Experience, has been in the software industry for just over 20 years. She came on board with Applied Systems in 2012 — her first insurance industry position. Hackney’s background includes software, predictive analytics and data mining. Today, she is responsible for services, support, cloud and customer advocacy.