5 Lessons from Chat with Cigna’s Global CX Head | Uniphore

5 Lessons from Chat with Cigna’s Global CX Head | Uniphore

5 min read

Great CX doesn’t exist in a vacuum. No matter what industry you’re in, there are examples of excellence all around. Few people understand this better than John Ward, Global Head of CX – Cigna, who shared his thoughts on customer experience and artificial intelligence on our podcast, Conversations That Matter. As head of customer experience for one of the largest U.S. healthcare companies, Ward is intimately familiar with the needs, preferences and expectations of the modern healthcare consumer. But that doesn’t keep him from exploring new ways to improve the Cigna experience and to create greater value for the more than 18 million patients it serves.  

Here’s a breakdown of the top five lessons on CX and AI he shared with us.

1. Start with the problem.

In today’s hyper-saturated CX solution market, it’s easy for companies to be dazzled by the latest innovation. However, the hottest tech breakthrough is only as good as the problem(s) it solves. Generative AI is the perfect example. “This has been the year of Gen AI,” Ward states, nodding at how businesses across all industries have embraced the nascent technology—often without having a use case strategy in place. He urges CX leaders to first ask the important questions: “What are the use cases, what’s the highest and best use of the [Gen AI] capabilities, how do we test and learn, and then [how do we] scale?”

The answer? “Start with the problem,” he says. “Understand the biggest, most pressing problems to solve, and then think about: what are the tools in the toolbox that we have to solve that? In some cases, it’s a Gen AI use case; in some cases, we’re going to find it might be another capability.”

2. Prioritize the human experience.

The rise of generative AI underscores the importance the CX industry (and the business world at large) places on capabilities. And as consumer expectations continue to grow, it’s easy to see why companies are increasingly turning to technology to fill CX gaps and create more seamless experiences—particularly when resources are limited. However, Ward cautions business leaders not to pursue tech capabilities at the expense of the human experience. Customers are human, after all, and the best experiences are the ones that feel the most human. That starts with understanding how we operate—and using technology to meet us on our most fundamentally human level.

“Within CX circles, there’s a belief that the Experience Revolution will be technology driven,” he says. “I don’t think it will be. I think it’ll be technology enabled, but it’s going to be human driven. [That’s because] at its heart, experience is about empathy and understanding. That’s where it starts: understanding what motivates humans. What drives humans, how do you drive behaviors? The tools and technology can help deliver on that, but not before you have that deep understanding.”

3. Nail down the basics.

Sometimes, creating more human experiences doesn’t involve much innovation at all. It simply requires looking at your existing processes for areas of improvement. The best place to start? With customer feedback, says Ward, who manages Cigna’s Voice of the Consumer programs. 
“We listen to customers. We spend a lot of time parsing through that data and that insight. What we hear more often than not is what customers consider really good experience sometimes is what we would consider kind of mundane. It’s just nailing the basics.”

Those basics often boil down to smoothing over friction points and shaving time and effort from the customer journey. It might not seem flashy or radically transformative, but that’s what customers largely want: the processes they’re already familiar with to simply work better. “There is a space for thinking of really innovative things,” says Ward, “but not before you nail the basics.”

4. Find inspiration everywhere.

While Cigna patients make up the customer base that Ward manages, he knows that customer expectations aren’t limited to the patient experience alone. Patients, after all, are customers of many other industries outside of the healthcare environment. And those experiences shape their impressions of what great CX is—and what it can and should be.  
“Customer expectations for what great experience looks like are only going one way—they’re going up,” says Ward. “In our space, great customer expectations aren’t informed by the best healthcare experiences that they’ve had or they’re having, they’re informed by the best experiences they’re having. Period.”

He encourages CX leaders to look outside of their industries for examples of winning experiences—and to think about what part (or parts) of those experiences might translate to their businesses. “What are the best experiences that people are having out there? What problems are they solving? And what is the applicability of those problems and those solutions to what we’re trying to do?”

5. Stay curious.

Above all else, Ward encourages leaders to stay curious—and to foster that curiosity within their teams. “It’s about creating the right environment and having the right talent,” he explains. “From an environment standpoint, it’s about empowering people to ask questions, to challenge and to have open discussion about different paths forward [and] different approaches.”

That curiosity applies to both external solutions and internal processes. Just because a company has always done something a certain way, doesn’t mean there isn’t room for improvement, Ward states. By encouraging team members to stay curious and to challenge the status quo, businesses can uncover problems—as well as potential solutions—that may have been hidden in plain sight. 

“Doing good CX work requires a problem orientation but being solution oriented,” he explains. “The problem orientation is only to frame what we’re trying to do. You have to quickly get into, ‘how would I solve that?’.” That’s where curiosity comes into play. And in an environment where it’s openly embraced and encouraged, it can pay off in a big way—for business outcomes and the greater customer experience.

Want to hear the full podcast?

You can catch the episode in its entirety below. Don’t forget to subscribe to Conversations That Matter wherever you listen to your podcasts.


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