Allianz Partner USA’s new CEO talks about navigating the biggest industry trends

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As the summer of revenge travel draws to a close, consumers have given a clear indication of what they expect in the future: more flexibility, control and convenience. The new CEO of Allianz Partners USA spoke to SkiftX about how travel brands can provide better service amid operational challenges and labor shortage issues.

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When Jeff Wright took over as CEO of Allianz Partners USA in February, the insurance industry veteran was able to empathize with many of the company’s clients about the uncertainties of leaving home.

“I took a trip to Tortola and they still have proof-of-entry requirements,” said Wright, who took over as CEO after more than two years as the company’s chief financial officer. “I traveled a lot for work. The level of anxiety that is generated in the days prior to the test and entering the country is quite stressful.”

SkiftX spoke with Wright about how brands should evolve to relieve some of that stress, meet new customer expectations, and harness the power of partnerships to do what every travel company should do: provide the best service while helping customers. clients to discover the world.

SkiftX: Everything has changed in the last two years. What do you think is the biggest shift in traveler priorities?

Jeff Wright: The biggest change is the demand for flexibility and optionality. You can plan or book two or three different vacations due to the flexibility around cancellations. For example, a customer may book international and domestic travel because he doesn’t know what the testing requirements will be when the travel dates arrive.

As they anticipate the actual travel experience, customers also expect something to go wrong. They are looking for products like travel insurance to protect them. And despite those concerns, we’re seeing people want to get away more than ever. We conduct a comprehensive vacation confidence survey every year, and before the pandemic, we typically saw 43% of Americans planning a summer vacation. That jumped last year to a record 60 percent. This enthusiasm for travel is also driving more spending. Even as inflation concerns dominate the headlines, consumers in the US say they’re fine spending up to 20 percent more.

SkiftX: Customers are willing to spend more money, but they also have more options. What levers should executives consider to build brand loyalty?

Wright: We’re reaping the benefits of revenge rides right now. If you’re not providing customer service this summer, some customers may be willing to forgive you because of the challenges everyone is facing. But it won’t be that way for long, especially if the economy slows. With that in mind, travel brands need to get back to the wow-and-delight factor. For travel insurance, that may be a better use of instant benefits. For example, if we know you’re running late, we can get you some money to pay for dinner while you’re stuck at the airport. That’s how we think about it. But I think that’s true for all brands when trying to figure out brand loyalty.

Ultimately, loyalty comes from delivering value to the customer, and any product or service offered contributes to the customer experience and the value it delivers. Offering products that have little following, versus products that make a significant difference when your customers need them most, will certainly impact your brand loyalty. For that reason, it matters, and you’re choosing the right partner to help you deliver those moments that matter. So it’s not just about selling. Instead, it’s about selling with the same focus on service.

SkiftX: What does the move to a hybrid work model mean for travel? How should companies adapt to meet the needs of a different type of work-life balance?

Wright: There’s a new level of ease for professionals to work from different locations and turn more weekends into three-day weekends. It’s more of a spontaneous vacation than the traditional summer vacation you plan many months in advance. We call them micro-cations. Since the booking window occurs for weeks or even days, consumers aren’t looking for an endless array of options. We are focusing on simplifying the purchase decision for that consumer. They want us to deliver the right product at the right time. That’s really what they need for this type of trip. Travel brands need to focus on making every choice easy.

SkiftX: You took over as CEO about six months ago. What is your philosophy on the organizational structure and how is it developing at Allianz Partners?

Wright: Our organizational structure has been set up to run fast through agile teams, meaning each of our partners has a dedicated team to support your business. These teams have product experts, project management experts, technology experts, performance analysis professionals, and marketing strategists. There are no functional silos to break down, so things move very quickly. If there’s work to be done, you’re rallying all those teammates to sprint and deliver what the partners need.

SkiftX: As travel companies across all industries go through this unique time, why are partnerships so important?

Wright: This industry is a close-knit family. Travel agents, airline executives, cruise line executives, tour companies, car rental companies, insurance companies – we are all at the same table because we all have the same customer. There is no single company that owns the entire value chain in the travel industry. So I think we complement each other to find solutions to these complex problems. In this environment shaped by operational challenges and labor shortage issues, that spirit of collaboration is proving more crucial than ever.

SkiftX: Allianz Partners has a nearly century-long history of serving travel partners and travelers around the world. How do you build on the company’s past successes while remaining innovative?

Wright: I was originally drawn to the company as CFO because the culture is a blend of proven leadership with a bold entrepreneurial spirit. We are the first to do many new things. We were the first to have travel insurance in the airline booking process. We were the first to be part of an OTA booking route. We were the first in the event ticket insurance space.

As CEO, I see our role as continuing to achieve those firsts and push the boundaries, whether it’s with new products, new technology, or even being the leading travel insurer working with regulators to develop new laws. The travel industry and travel insurance will continue to evolve, and I am committed to listening to our customers and partners to understand what they need and create new solutions.

This content was created in collaboration by Allianz Partners and Skift’s branded content studio, SkiftX.

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