Jessica Srinivas Content marketing manager @ LogRocket

Leader Spotlight: Experience-driven culture with Mustafa Altay

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Mustafa Altay Leader Spotlight

Mustafa Altay is the Product, UX, and Service Design Director at Allianz-Turkey. He joined Allianz in 2022, bringing more than 20 years of experience in IT, UX, product management, and strategic management.

Prior to joining Allianz, he served as User Experience and Interactive Technology Manager at Turkcell. Mustafa regularly contributes to industry conferences and forums and has a proven track record in guiding teams to increase the efficiency of the UX delivery process.

We recently connected with Mustafa to learn more about digital transformation initiatives at Allianz and his role within the company. Mustafa offered his thoughts on the types of user data that are most useful for decision making. He also shared insights on how to foster an experience-driven culture.

Our conversation has been edited lightly for brevity.

Could you tell me a bit about Allianz, your role within the company, and how that supports the company’s overall objectives?

I joined Allianz about six months ago as a director of product, UX, and service design in the digital insurance division of Allianz-Turkey. I previously worked at Turkcell, one of the largest telecommunication companies in Turkey, where I led the UX design team and interface development team. I’ve also worked in banking, finance, and manufacturing.

Allianz-Turkey is one of Turkey’s leading insurance companies and is making significant investments toward a vision of becoming a truly digital insurance company. Right now, our app is mainly focused on customer service, but our plan is to transform it to be a platform for lead generation across all activities. We want our app to be the user’s first contact when they come to Allianz.

Allianz-Turkey has around 4.5 million customers, and approximately 1 million are active online users. We have around 20 percent online penetration in our customer base right now, but we’re focusing on growing that penetration.

Our website is largely managed by our global organization, but my team is responsible for Allianz-Turkey’s mobile app, and I’m leading the app’s digital transformation strategy. Allianz has the most advanced app in its sector, but we still need to add more functionality and usability features. Also, we have to provide more touchpoints for our users. That’s partly why I’m heading up this project — user experience is my primary expertise.

You’ve been with Allianz for a relatively short time, but you’re already heading up a large, high-visibility project and managing a new team. What about your role at Allianz has surprised you?

This role itself was a big change for me. I was hired because of my experience understanding and designing from the user’s perspective. However, my previous roles were related to understanding user needs and implementing strategy rather than developing strategy. For example, at my previous job at Turkcell, I was responsible for around 20 different consumer products, but I was not setting the UX strategy for those products.

Transforming a traditional insurance company into a digital insurance company is an ambitious goal. That ambition makes me happy and also surprises me. It’s exciting to determine and implement the UX strategy for the Allianz app. This role is a big step for my career from a decision-making perspective.

It’s clear that understanding users’ perspectives, their needs, and even their pain points is critical for this project. Can you talk a little about your process? How do you collect user feedback in order to make decisions about your app?

We collect user feedback from three sources. First, we analyze customer feedback from our call center and try to address any identified issues. Second, we have customer support forms that can be submitted on our website or our app. We consider these first two feedback sources to be reactive touchpoints because the user has reached out to us with a problem.

We also collect feedback from a third source that provides a proactive touchpoint. Our customer experience department works closely with our customers, conducting research about the digitalization perspective of Allianz and providing monthly voice of the customer (VOC) reports. The VOC reports is the third touchpoint.

It’s important for us to think proactively about our users. We want to sense their needs before our users are aware of them and address problems before they occur. We conduct usability tests to better understand what our users think about our app and any changes or updates we make from a digital perspective.

We consider the voice of the customer data, as well as the information from our call center and our app customer support form, in our decision-making process.

It sounds like the combination of reactive and proactive data gives you a good perspective for decision making. When you’re collecting user feedback, what metrics do you find most useful when considering UX features?

I mainly look at Net Promoter Score (NPS). It’s important for us to understand user click-through on every page of our app. We want to increase user engagement, so understanding the average time each user spends per session is also important to us. Click-through rates and conversion rates on lead forms are important for us as well.

One thing we found isn’t very important is user dropoff. Users come to Allianz reactively when they have a problem, so our app usage is dependent on claims. Our primary KPI is customer coverage expansion.

In your past role at Turkcell, you worked on increasing the efficiency of the UX delivery process. Can you talk a little bit about what that means? And do you have any tips to share?

Turkcell is a very large company; it has 20–25 different digital products. Each digital product has its own development and delivery processes, especially from a design perspective. At the time, the products were managed by outside digital agencies. Turkcell was spending a lot of money but was unhappy with the quality of the resulting products.

There were two major pain points: budget and design quality. A team was organized to address this, and I was selected for the manager role. I invested one year working closely with other digital product designers.

I organized an agile team to work closely with (and have dotted-line responsibility to) the product teams. I worked with top management and convinced them that, with this approach, I could assure them of the quality of the output and also decrease budget spend.

When the project began, we had 15 designers and frontend developers. Just one and a half years later, we had an in-house team of 10 people and 60 full-time UX designers and frontend developers who were outsourced. This model provided more flexibility for expanding the team as needed. It’s harder to increase or decrease in-house resources.

Following this approach, we increased the efficiency of the delivery cycle and reduced budget by 20 percent. We began with one digital product and by the end of my tenure had worked on 95 percent of Turcell’s digital apps.

I would imagine that to increase UX delivery efficiency, it’s also important to have the backing of other departments within your organization — you talked about this recently as a panelist at the UXIstanbul Conference. How are you working to foster an experience-driven culture at Allianz?

At Allianz, we mostly make decisions according to data — raw data. This means we follow user behavior across our app, across our website, and across the IVR (interactive voice response) channels. But we need to remember that our users have other needs, too.

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As I mentioned previously, our users come to us reactively — usually when they have a problem or some kind of issue. To provide the best service, we need to be able to empathize with our customers.

We can’t sense customer emotions from IVR or an app, so instead, we are developing and investing in usability tests. These tests will enable us to keep our customers close and get feedback from them before they come to us.

This is one instance in which we’re starting to change from a data-driven company to an experience-driven company. Data-driven customer centricity will be our primary objective and the main influence of our company culture for the coming years.

Has it been difficult getting other departments on board? To help them understand the importance of thinking about projects from a customer experience point of view instead of just looking at the numbers?

Oh yes, it can be very difficult. Other managers know they need to touch the customer, but they don’t know how. Also, large organizations tend to make changes slowly. They have to synchronize the goals and agendas of each department.

Different departments have their own KPIs. Our team is trying to align the digital KPIs throughout the organization, and we are trying to include other functional leaders in the decision-making process for our digital products.

If the goals of different departments are misaligned, that must impact the product. How do you balance the short-term, immediate user needs of your product with a longer-term view of the product and where it might go?

That’s a tough question — it can be difficult to align those two perspectives. It’s human nature to want to see results as soon as possible, but if you’re only looking at immediate results, you’re not seeing the big picture.

Companies want to reach their revenue goals and meet their KPI targets as soon as possible. But by taking a longer view, we realize how important it is to retain customers. High churn rates are one of the main factors that cause companies to lose revenue. Many companies ignore this and only focus on immediate results.

Also, when we begin to talk about strategy, people have very different perspectives. Our top management decides what the company’s short-term and long-term objectives are, but these don’t always trickle down to each function.

It can be hard to align the KPIs of each function with the KPIs of individual employees. To address this, we’ve aligned 20 to 30 percent of the KPIs of each squad with those from top management. In this way, squad members can see how they are contributing to the overall revenue of the organization.

In UX and product development, everything changes so quickly — frameworks, digital products, software. How do you keep up with all of that?

Understanding industry and technology trends is important, but it’s equally important to invest in yourself and increase your exposure to different perspectives because digitalization is directly related to different approaches: technology, psychology, sociology, and ethics.

I try to follow industry leaders within my organization, on LinkedIn, and by attending different conferences. I also believe it’s important to keep learning. I’ve completed three master’s degrees — in global management and digital marketing, business analytics, and business administration — and I’ve recently applied to start on a fourth in psychology.

In order to be exposed to and better understand different perspectives, I intentionally chose very different schools for my graduate studies. One of my degrees is from one of the biggest universities in Turkey, another is from a small, rural university, and another is from an international business school in Madrid.

Next, I will be studying at a private university in Istanbul. I’ve spent a lot of money, but I’ve gained different perspectives and have been exposed to a variety of cultures and ideas.

Also, Allianz invests in its employees. We can attend conferences and other industry events, and we can take advantage of the company’s employee educational programs and online training.

Allianz has around 55 different entities across the world. That’s a lot of customers and employees with very different perspectives and backgrounds, so I believe it’s important to keep learning, to challenge yourself to stay current, and to think globally.

Jessica Srinivas Content marketing manager @ LogRocket

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