CX Speak

The most AMAZING CEx Lessons from Northwestern Mutual’s CEO – John Schlifske

Written by Sonal Jaiswal | Evangelist, Customer Guru

The Northwestern Mutual is a Milwaukee based financial services company that offers a variety of insurance and investment solutions. Among many other services, Northwestern Mutual also provides consultation on wealth and asset income protection, education planning, retirement planning, investment advisory services and business planning. Started in 1857, it provides holistic financial services to its clients.

On the first look at the website, you are greeted with this mission statement:

“As achieving financial security is becoming more complex for more people, we’re finding ways to make it easier than ever for clients to create a lifetime of financial security. We do it unlike anyone else and it starts by putting CLIENTS first.


Northwestern Mutual

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You are also greeted with the warm smile of a beaming Chairman and CEO of the Northwestern, John E. Schlifske, as seen above. He featured in the ‘Highest Rated CEOs of 2015’ list released by Glassdoor with a 95% approval rate from the employees. This is a company that has the customer at the heart of its business and is headed by a person who is loved and admired by his employees. That is a lethal combination!

Schlifske is known to be a stickler for improving customer experience and for innovation. Here are some amazing lessons that we can learn from the honcho.

“We are constantly focused on improving our relevance with clients, policyowners, potential clients, and so on.”

Now that is the mark of a company that is customer centric! The company is more than 150 years old but has not been complacent about understanding what drives its business – the customers.

It has consistently focussed around maintaining the connect with its customers, understanding their needs and subsequently evolving and creating products for them.

“The innovation we have driven at Northwestern Mutual is not around product features or social media – although we’re in good shape in both areas, –but how our relevance to our clients has evolved and strengthened over the past 15 years.”

It is a well-known fact that companies that fail to change with changing trends and changing requirements of their customers fail miserably. However, Northwestern Mutual is the archetypal example of a company that did change and that reaped rewards in return.

A few decades back, the most relevant product for Northwestern Mutual was its life insurance. But the requirements of people have changed since and they are looking for a lot more than just a life insurance. Northwestern Mutual identified the changes in needs of its customers and worked proactively, developing a multitude of other products and services such as education funding, disability care and financial planning services that would cater to the new needs.

“We are very service-oriented and we have all sorts of service metrics to determine, for instance, how fast calls get answered and how quickly the policyowners’ questions are handled.”

The focus of Northwestern Mutual has always been customer experience. It has looked at every opportunity to improve the customer experience and to delight the customer.

In the words of the CEO himself, “The single best way we measure service quality is something we call persistency; it’s the inverse of our lapse rates. Our persistency is the percentage of people in a given year that don’t let their products lapse. Our persistency rate is in the 96 to 97 percent range.”

“We have spent a lot of time over the past several years focusing on how we need to get better. Even though we’re arguably the best company in the industry, we can’t rest. We constantly have to raise our standards – the best must get better in order to maintain preeminence.”

We’d like to end with some words that show the true mark of an amazing leader that will keep pushing himself and his team to deliver nothing less that excellence always!

Are there any other business leaders that have inspired you and your organization to do better? Do let us know and we will be more than happy to publish some customer service excellence lessons from them.

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