Giving Farmers a Reason to Care: A Story about Creating Extraordinary Customer Centricity

Giving Farmers a Reason to Care: A Story about Creating Extraordinary Customer Centricity


Some companies can continue to tick over and maintain customer support – but what happens if you dig deeper? What if you discover your market share has been stagnant for 30 years, and you need to do something drastic to build the business and therefore profits?

This was the challenge Farmers Mutual Group (FMG) faced in New Zealand. The rural insurance provider had been applying the same tactics and keeping clients for many years. But it wasn’t growing, and didn’t know what current customers thought of them….if in fact customers cared at all!

Consumer insights can make all the difference to unlocking pretty staggering levels of growth. However you first have to understand your clients, and how they view the service you provide or the products you offer.

With a desire to make a difference and grow, FMG engaged Nielsen to provide customer insights via research. So the Brand team dusted off their gumboots and headed out to meet with FMG’s customers to work out what they thought of the company, and what really concerned them.

The results were rather confronting. While the company thought they had good brand equity, some of the initial feedback wasn’t quite so complimentary. And the research showed that what farmers actually cared about wasn’t exactly what FMG expected. The key concerns their customers had surrounded managing risks to their farms, land, livestock and/or machinery. This is what kept farmers up at night. However this isn’t what farmers saw FMG solving, despite risk reduction being at the heart of insurance protection.

This changed the conversation and made FMG realise they needed to put the customer at the centre of everything they did. In essence, the company needed to make people care about the services they offered by caring about the problems their clients had.

A raft of hard decisions were made by FMG – about how to structure the company, who it hired and how it sold its products. By removing third party brokers this ensured that FMG managed all of its customer relationships directly. They needed to employ the best and most engaged workers, who in turn provided the best support and advice.

Communication also needed to change and respond to customer concerns. This involved examining some of FMG’s own data to solve problems – for example reduce the number of tractor fires just by looking at the cause of most claims: bird’s nest fires. By providing education via online videos and direct marketing campaigns, FMG raised awareness of the problem caused by fires which in turn halved preventable incidents; a win-win for all parties.

In another example FMG created ‘Lifestyle Block Owners Manual’ for new lifestyle block owners, offering advice and a directory of local services to help them to integrate into the local community and mitigate the risk of owning a small farm.

While the process hasn’t been easy at times, the results speak for themselves. Overall satisfaction and recommendation levels are now at an all-time high, more than doubling in the last three years. The brand has also won awards for employee engagement, and was recently named the second best large employer in New Zealand by IBM Kenexa.

Key learnings? Partnership is essential in these sorts of deep dive explorations. Nielsen’s brand research team worked incredibly closely with FMG to gather the most honest and useful insights possible. The FMG leadership team then took these findings and applied them with rigour, making the hard decisions that ultimately have proved best for the company. And Nielsen continued to measure and provide insights, while consulting with FMG on how to apply them.

And with revenues growing by over 50 percent from 2011-2014, and profits reinvested in the company enabling premiums to stay as low as possible, everyone wins. Now farmers have a reason to care about FMG, and the risk protection the company offers.

These insights were presented live on stage at Nielsen’s Consumer 360 conference (July 31 – Aug 1, Fairmont Resort, Blue Mountains). Farmers Mutual Group (FMG) is New Zealand’s preferred rural insurance provider focused on the control of risk. Over 100 years old and 100 percent NZ owned, FMG have a dedicated focus on putting clients at the heart of its business. Faced with challenging times and declining market share, FMG’s Executive Team realigned the business to drive customer centricity. Customer feedback loops at multiple touch points, continuous customer research and employee feedback, all underpin a customer focused discipline of operational excellence. The outcomes are exemplary, with outstanding shifts in customer satisfaction and advocacy scores.