CFO Spotlight Series: Survive the Unexpected by Prioritizing Flexible CX


Recently, we spoke at length to three leading CFOs to get an honest progress report on how they are coping with the impacts of COVID-19. The stories in this series shed light into some common challenges facing CFOs, particularly around customer service, and how they are doing their best to react.

“Companies can’t survive without happy customers. Even when staying afloat is the focus of the day.”

John Storey, CFO, Asurion

Our series highlighting how CFOs are coping with Covid-19 continues with John Storey, CFO at Asurion. He’s certain we’re in the middle of a once-in-a-lifetime shift for customer experience and he’s seeing us achieve change we never thought possible only months ago. 

Don’t put your phone in the microwave

Asurion is an industry leader in mobile insurance, technology, and support (and happens to be Simplr’s parent company). Who, you say? You’d be forgiven if you’ve never heard of them. But you may be surprised to learn that Asurion serves over 305 million customers worldwide and employs nearly 20,000 people.

If you’ve ever sought help when your phone got wet, chances are it was an Asurion professional who told you not to put it in the microwave with a cup of rice. Needless to say, service is at the core of Asurion’s business, and delivering exceptional customer experiences is at the forefront of its brand and mission.

How do we stay in business?

Prior to the pandemic, CFOs like John had a clear picture of their role as it related to CX: deliver excellent customer experiences in a cost-effective manner. That meant understanding the relationship between customer satisfaction and the investment in customer care. 

But, as John puts it, the pandemic saw an immediate shift in CFO priorities. There is now a single objective: Stay in business.

“CFOs saw sales and revenue fall off a cliff… stores closed, and consumers stopped spending. But everyone was stuck with the same pre-COVID overhead,” said John. “So now there’s a disconnect between cash coming in and cash going out. There needed to be cost reductions just to stay solvent.” 

CFOs were suddenly faced with tough decisions to make: Which fixed costs can I reduce or eliminate? Do I need to furlough my workforce? What needs to be cut in order to survive another day?

Align CX with demand

CX has always been paramount at Asurion. However, with the onset of COVID, significant challenges surfaced when it came to meeting this top priority. First, CX demand was no longer predictable as consumers were sheltering at home. Secondly, social distancing measures meant that call centers were no longer functioning as usual. Given these disruptions, it would have been easy for John to deprioritize CX when adapting to this new COVID world.

However, John knew that to remain a leader in its industry for the long-term, CX could not suffer and he set out to: “get CX back to pre-COVID levels or higher as quickly as possible and do so by shifting CX from a fixed cost to a variable cost model”

Mega-trends and tectonic shifts

To get this done, Asurion moved 5,000 customer support agents from call centers to work-from-home in 10 days without missing a single service level agreement with any of their clients. This was a tectonic shift for CX because most companies that had been planning on moving to a remote-work model had been looking at years, not days.

“We’ve actually seen an uptick in CSAT scores since moving our teams to remote work,” John explained. Not only that, digital engagement doubled. “As a CFO, this definitely caught my attention. We’re looking at the same CX quality with no facility overhead costs? And volume being directed away from live conversations over the phone to digital engagements via the web or messaging? That’s amazing.”

Variable-Cost CX is the Future

Now that we are adjusting to a new normal and are over the initial shock of the lockdown, John is considering the future and not just the day-to-day. 

“And now, my question is: do we need to go back to the way it was? Our experts are just as productive, our customers just as happy, and it’s a lower, variable cost,” he said.

John believes that with all the volatility in the market, there will be a massive disruption in the fixed-cost structure of companies and a new focus on how entities make fixed costs more variable.  

If we’ve learned anything from 2020, it is that CXOs, their CX departments and the businesses they support have to be flexible and nimble to handle the unexpected. With John’s advice to prioritize flexibility within CX, customer experience and customer service teams will be better positioned to respond and solve issues—no matter when the next big disruption strikes.