USAA’s Covid-Driven Customer Experience Innovation in Insurance and FinTech


Wayne Peacock became CEO of USAA, the San Antonio-based insurance and financial services giant, in February 2020, rising from his previous role as chairman of the P&C insurance group following the retirement of CEO Stuart. Parker.

Just 14 days away from his job, Peacock has faced a global pandemic that has forced rapid changes at the company and industry level. It made Peacock think about how best to serve customers. [“members,” in USAA-speak] in an unprecedented environment, while addressing and staying one step ahead of the changes Covid brings for employees as well.

For me, as a consultant and customer experience specialist, I was intrigued to hear about the Covid-focused customer experience (and employee experience) innovations that Peacock and USAA have made in reply.

Micah Solomon, Senior Contributor, Forbes; Customer experience specialist and customer service consultant: Why is customer experience innovation so important in times of stability, and maybe especially now?

Wayne Peacock, CEO, USAA: Our primary member is the military community, which inspires us to create products and services that meet their expressed need for convenient digital tools and competitive pricing. Innovation allows us to serve the military well today and into the future, so that we will be as relevant to the next generation of military families as we have been for the past 99 years. Under normal market conditions, providing top-notch products, advice and services requires rapid adaptation and openness to new business models to meet the needs of these members. The onset of the pandemic has accelerated our innovation efforts, with members looking for ways to stay healthy and save money while relying more on digital interaction with their financial institutions.

Solomon: Did you deploy new technologies during the pandemic to adapt the service to the new needs of members?[customers] and employees?

Peacock: Apart from the internal communication tools that became popular at the time, here are a few examples:

we increased contactless complaints to speed up the insurance claims process, keep our members safe and get them back to life faster. We use Telematics Activated Automatic Claims (TEAC) to verify the date, time and location in the claims process when a member is involved in a car accident. Although there are fewer accidents today than in the past, the severity has also increased. This accelerated the next phase of TEAC, proactive accident detection. This technology allows the USAA to proactively contact a member if their use of our telematics application detects a collision.

We recently flew augmented reality glasses with field adjusters. By wearing them, the person in charge of the experts can see the damage without being physically present. The pilot eliminated 160 hours of travel time for four adjusters over a three month period resulting in more effective training. USAA is now entering a production test period with 250 pairs of augmented reality compatible glasses distributed to experts.

We are now using machine learning to digitize paper medical records and create summaries for the applicable life insurance underwriting. This results in a significant reduction in time. Manual summaries took up to five days, but machine learning reduced the time to one day and improved accuracy.

As long as technology adopted by members, Our data shows that drivers are moving faster than before the pandemic, possibly due to the fewer cars on the road, so unfortunately any reduction in crashes has been offset by an increase in crash severity. This inspired us to accelerate the deployment of our behavior-based telematics application SafePilot, which is now available in the majority of states. SafePilot enables more members to save up to 30% on their auto insurance policies by driving safely. Last year, registrations increased by 200%. We also know there is a demand for pay-as-you-go models, which is why we recently announced our intention to acquire insurtech Noblr to provide usage-based insurance to our members.

Solomon: How have you seen the behavior of customers (members) change during the pandemic?

Peacock: Some key changes: More and more members have switched to our digital channel to interact with us. In addition, our mobile interactions increased by around 17% shortly after the pandemic was declared, and mobile use significantly extended to the elderly; Baby boomers have become a major mobile audience, suggesting they have adapted to mobile during the pandemic. Additionally, when much of the country went into lockdown, members’ spending behaviors also changed. Discretionary spending on things like travel, restaurants, and luxury items has declined, and savings have increased. With the re-openings, spending on discretionary items has increased to pre-pandemic levels.

Solomon: Your San Antonio campus is so massive and centralized, with – before Covid – such a buzz in the air all day long. It must have been (at best) strange to see him reduced to a reduced crew.

Peacock: Before the pandemic, approximately 15,000 people occupied our headquarters in San Antonio. After sending people to work from home, it was surreal to come into the office and see so few people in our usually busy hallways. Currently, more employees have returned to our offices, but we are far from our pre-pandemic population. [When it is safe, I do look forward to hearing that buzz, full-throttle, in the air as before!]


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