The continually growing customer loyalty landscape demands unique strategies for brands to stand out among the competition. For one company, they return to the root of loyalty: superior customer service.
Loyalty360 CEO, Mark Johnson, recently spoke with Eugenia Blackstone, Chief Marketing Officer of Iris Powered by Generali (Iris), a global identity and cyber protection company that prides itself on going above and beyond to serve its partners and their customers.
Personal Crimes Need Personal Support
“We are people first and tech-forward,” says Blackstone. “It’s not what we do; it’s how we do what we do.”
Cyberattacks and identity theft are extremely personal and invasive crimes. According to Blackstone, Iris uses a combination of constantly evolving tools in a continually evolving space to help consumers protect themselves against identity fraud. However, if a customer finds themselves a victim of fraud, Iris provides compassionate, caring, and expert assistance in resolving or restoring their identity.
“It is a combination of powerful tech on the frontend and human, caring resolution support on the backend. It is the optimal solution for our partners.”
Rebranding Effort Reinforces Loyalty to Iris Name
Iris Powered by Generali is a global B2B2C identity and cyber protection company founded in 1983. Iris was one of the very first identity theft resolution providers in the U.S. in 2003, leading with a simple mission they still carry today: bringing customers from distress to relief – anytime, anywhere. Iris is owned by the multinational insurance megahouse, Generali, which carries a number of business units under its umbrella; the most recognized being travel assistance and travel insurance. Recently, the company rebranded from Generali Global Assistance to Iris Powered by Generali to help further differentiate themselves in the identity and cyber protection space.
Says Blackstone, “Specifically for the identity and cyber protection business unit, there was some confusion around what services we offered. When you are offering such great services like travel assistance and insurance, sometimes that’s what people tend to default to those services when thinking about Generali Global Assistance.”
To eliminate confusion and highlight what the company provides as far as global identity and cyber protection, the business unit was rebranded as Iris Powered by Generali, commonly referred to simply as Iris.
Identity Fraud and Cybercrime Don’t Discriminate
Fraudsters and scammers don’t care where a person lives, how much money they make, or what kind of education they have; anyone is a potential target.
Stresses Blackstone, “If you have an identity, you’re in their crosshairs.”
Iris believes that any company that sees value in protecting the identity of its members and customers should consider offering identity and cyber protection.
“We tend to partner with organizations who see value in the mission to keep the identity of their members and customers safe, but also sees value in partnering with a company that has the technical capability to do that.”
Having the skillset and expertise to provide those services is key but keeping the customer in the forefront is the piece that will keep loyal customers returning, especially in the extremely personal arena of identity theft and fraud.
“Behind any identity theft incident is a real human being with a life that has been impacted by this situation,” Blackstone explains. “Good customer service has become a lost art, but it is especially important in a time of crisis. People who fall victim feel violated; it’s scary and chaotic. They don’t want to feel like a number or just another phone call.”
Customer Loyalty is Contingent on Personal Experience
Having the right expertise in technology is important, but having a human touch makes for the ideal partnership.
Blackstone states, “Our partners have choices, so we are honored that they continue to choose us.”
A loyal consumer is one who makes an active and conscious choice to choose the same provider each time a need arises, and then consistently chooses that same provider time and time again; however, there is more to it.
According to Blackstone, “In exchange for that good or service, the customer should actually feel good about the interaction. They aren’t using you because they don’t have any other choice, or because it is merely a transaction of convenience for them. They feel good about giving you their business.”
Blackstone stresses that loyalty must be earned repeatedly. For each phone call or online interaction, every time a consumer connects, the business must earn that loyalty. Some Iris partners choose to white label the company’s services. In that case, it is even more imperative that the business performs exceptionally as they represent that brand to the end-user.
“Our number one mantra is we must do no harm,” says Blackstone. “Our goal is not to just meet their expectations. Every time our aim is to surprise the customer in a good way, to exceed those expectations, and that attitude sets the bar higher. We don’t want to be good; we want to be great.”
That level of customer service is reflected in customer loyalty and retention. “Our NPS scores are consistently in the 80s, which is unheard of in most industries. We also have a 99% client retention rate over a ten-year period.”
Holding Back Can Move You Forward
“We are a people-first, technology-forward provider,” explains Blackstone. “We understand how important and critical the technology is, but we hold the customer experience just as high.”
That attitude translates to a conscious decision regarding adding superfluous features to the program. Blackstone states that the company does not merely add features for the sake of adding features, saying “Number one, we make sure that there’s value there. Whether it is going to better protect the customer, or it makes the program more intuitive, or increases ease of use. There has to be a reason why we’re adding it, not just because it’s a new feature available or a competitor is offering it.”
While this may strike some as unorthodox, this practice of holding back on additional features has been positively received by Iris partners and end-users, saving both money and added frustrations.
“We are mindful of the key features we add,” adds Blackstone. “It’s a waste of money if the end-user is not going to use it and it diminishes the overall value of the product. As a result, you may not get the engagement with the customer that you’re looking for.”
Identity Thieves Are Cropping Up Everywhere
Identity theft has been on the rise ever since the age of computers, with fraudsters coming up with new tricks and scams faster than ever. By researching the market first, Iris learns what key features are needed first and then evolve with the market.
“Fighting identity theft and cybercrime can be a little like playing Whack-A-Mole,” says Blackstone. “You get one area under control, and fraudsters will pop up somewhere else and find another way to scam someone.”
Iris recently launched a new product called ScamAssist® to help prevent consumers from falling victim to scam solicitations. Iris’ certified Resolution Specialists will investigate the solicitation on behalf of the end-customer, while also offering proactive advice and guidance to help minimize their risk of fraud.
Says Blackstone, “Before chip and pin security, new account fraud was a big issue and now it’s making a resurgence. To address this rising issue, we enhanced our identity monitoring and alerts to include a new feature called High Risk Transactions.”
Consumers are asked to verify their identity when signing up for or signing into almost any online account, banking account, or financial service, and when calling customer service. While this ensures that the institution can accurately verify the consumer’s identity, it also means that the consumer’s personal information is routinely required and shared for verification. If this information is exposed in a data breach, then it becomes easier for the consumer to fall victim to identity theft or fraud via impersonation. These are referred to as High Risk Transactions (HRT), since the institution is granting or creating privileged access based upon who they believe they are dealing with. A fraudulent HRT alert indicates that someone is attempting to open an account, takeover an account, or make an update to an account on behalf of someone else. Being notified of and addressing that alert quickly can be very beneficial in reducing a consumer’s risk of fraud.
Loyalty Programs Are Low-Hanging Fruit for Fraudsters
“If there is anything out there that a thief can use to steal your identity,” says Blackstone, “they can and will do it.”
Loyalty rewards programs are particularly low-hanging fruit to fraudsters as consumers are not safeguarding or monitoring the accounts connected to loyalty programs the same way they would with bank accounts or credit card accounts.
Blackstone adds, “Many consumers are guilty of using the same passwords across multiple accounts, and loyalty accounts are no exception. We encourage customers to frequently change their passwords, and if an account is breached, to check all accounts associated with that same password and change them accordingly.”
There are certain precautions consumers can make to deter identity theft and fraud:
Use strong, long, and unique passwords
Don’t click unfamiliar links
Don’t get tricked into giving out personal identifiers
Install online data protection software
Put in place a second line of defense like multifactor authentication, etc.
It is important to note that anyone can fall victim.
Pandemic Causes Shift Toward Emotional Loyalty
Fraud, identity protection, and cyber security are all very emotive topics, not only for marketers, but for end-users as well.
As Blackstone explains, “Coming out of COVID after people had been stuck inside dealing with stress and, in some cases, tragedies, it has made people reevaluate the need for and desire for some kind of emotional loyalty.”
Identity theft is one of the most personal and invasive crimes that can happen. Working with victims requires a personal touch and engagement on an individual, personalized basis. In the aftermath of the pandemic, between labor shortages and supply chain issues, good customer service has become crucial to building trust and emotional loyalty.
“We can’t turn back time, but we can use our knowledge and expertise to undo what has been done and treat victims like human beings in the process,” says Blackstone. “People forget what you said, but not how you made them feel. We think those words couldn’t be any truer for people in this space.”
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