November 05, 2009

During his presentation at the 2009 Insurance & Technology Executive Summit, AXA Equitable EVP and CIO Kevin Murray discussed the major impacts of the economic crisis on his organization.In the presentation, "Managing in Crisis: Adapting to Changing Enterprise Priorities," the 2009 Elite 8 honoree recalled that, as a result of the crisis, AXA Equitable was impacted in three way main ways: products (especially those that had annuity guarantees), capital constraints and customer service.

The customer service impact was felt almost immediately. When the financial news really started to sound ominous last fall, AXA Equitable's customer service areas experienced increased call volumes and calls that lasted two to three times as long as usual. To get a better idea of what was happening, Murray used the carrier's call center technology capabilities to listen in on incoming calls. What had changed, he discovered, wasn't simply that more people were calling in or that people were staying on the phone longer. The nature of the calls had changed.

Here are some examples of what customers were saying, according to Murray:

"Oh good, you answered the phone. My money is still there."

"Thanks for talking to me. Would it be OK if I called back tomorrow?"

"I'm driving down there. I'm going to take my money and put it in my mattress."

The crisis had significantly changed the kinds of customer service interactions the carrier was having. AXA Equitable's customer service team, temporarily at least, had to change its approach. Problem solving wasn't as important as reassuring customers, on a very basic level, that the company was stable and that their money was safe.