There is no other brand in the world that epitomises customer experience best practice like USAA (United Services Automobile Association). For the second year running, the financial organisation has topped the United States’ Customer Experience Excellence (CEE) rankings, achieving a score that puts it significantly ahead of every measured brand in the USA. It’s a remarkable achievement that has come about as a result of a dedicated commitment to the customer, who is at the forefront of every decision that is made. As such, USAA achieves consistently high scores across The Six Pillars – scores that are, as yet, unparalleled.

USAA was established in the 1920s by a group of army officers, who discovered that it was difficult for them to receive car insurance owing to the perception that they belonged to a ‘high-risk’ group, being in the employ of the US military. When these officers agreed to take a different approach and self-insure each other, the United Services Automobile Association was born. It is now a thriving organisation, both in terms of its customer experience management and its financial success; in 2015 the company’s total revenue exceeded $24 billion.

Indeed, the brand’s pithy and clever slogan is an indicator of its continued customer experience best practice. “We know what it means to serve,” the USAA states, reassuring customers that it is committed to their wellbeing, whilst empathising with the kind of lifestyle that active servicemen, and their families, have undertaken. The pillar of Empathy points to the company’s expertise in this area, standing at an impressive 21 per cent ahead of the sector average, although it has not come about without hard work. The training that USAA gives to its employees is thorough, and steeped in military experience, with its workers receiving bona fide deployment letters and ‘meals ready to eat’, all with a view to helping them get inside the customer’s mindset.

This desire to empathise can also be seen in the organisation’s technological innovations. USAA understands that it can be hard for some of its customers to keep an eye on their finances whilst they are serving abroad, and in response to this need, it has developed a mobile service that enables individuals to text USAA with their account number, and then receive a reply informing them of their balance. It also offers a cloud-based cell phone application, which uses social media technology to help people stay in touch with family members who have been posted abroad.

One of its most recent innovations, though, is its use of biometric authentication technology. It enables Apple and Android phone users to gain access to their accounts using short voice commands, or even by looking into the device’s camera and blinking. It provides customers with an extra layer of security at a time when individuals’ mobiles are becoming loaded with large amounts of personal data, such as passwords, card details and photos. The technology is designed to make customers feel better-protected, and more ‘looked after’ by the organisation that they have trusted their money with.

As one customer explained: “I have a USAA credit card. I enjoy their fraud alert department – they really look after me. Once I tried to make an out-of-state purchase, and they called me to make sure it was okay before approving.” Another individual stated: “Recently had to file an automobile accident claim and was very pleased with the help I received from the customer service rep… They were very helpful and efficient and took care of setting me up with both a repair shop and a car rental agency. I could really tell that they wanted to give me as much help as possible.” The desire to ‘give as much help as possible’ is one that sums up USAA, and it is also a key factor for customer experience best practice in general.

USAA’s customer-centric organisational design plays a key role in its continued success. It has moved from the rigidity of a structured organisation, to a structuring process where resources are deployed in the best way to meet customer needs – organising the business around the customer, managing journeys, not functions.

USAA has described its structure as being designed for innovation and superior customer service. The success of this design is clear from its continued position at the top of the US Customer Experience Excellence rankings.