Generative UX Research Sprint

We built a team to dive into insurance rate increase communications. We deployed generative research methods to focus on customer behaviors and needs.

Everyone hates when their insurance premium goes up. Our goal was to learn why and then what we could do to improve the customer experience and retention. Initially, we focused on the policy renewal time only. However, we discovered there was much more in play, impacting the customer relationship.

To achieve our goal, I assembled a cross-functional team with CX, Marketing, Product and Front Line experts. Together, we devoted 7 weeks to building a new end-to-end strategy for rate increase communications that would be delivered to our 13 million customers.

I played the roles of Sprint Facilitator, Research lead and Project leader.

our solution

We designed an end-to-end strategy with three main focuses.

1. Create partnerships with customers,

2. Generate tangibility with our service-based product and

3. Produce transparent communications for cross-channel use.

Rate Communications | Problem Definition

To get started defining our problem, I had each team member tell a story about how they have worked with rate increases and how rate increase has impacted them, personally.  We then created a massive mental map to create a shared learning. The map began to reveal our internal knowledge and highlight gaps on where to dig deeper. This was a great exercise to get people with all sorts of backgrounds and communication styles, working together fast!

From there, I ran a session to create a big empathy map to better combine what we knew about the customer. This helped focus around the pain points that have collectively understood. Finally, we repositioned our customer's struggles into How-might-we's (HMWs) to address gaps and plan our research questions. This was fairly difficult - we didn't know what we didn't know yet but by pulling everyone's collective mind together, we were able to start somewhere.

How Might We's

HMW create customer partnerships so that customers become well informed, feel valued and are empowered?
HMW communicate with personalization and simplify the message of rate increase?
HMW increase tangibility with our service based products?

I choose to use a Generative Research method to get closer to what our customers actually do vs. say (credit to Elizabeth Sander, author of Convivial Toolbox). I felt that by doing an activity, we'd learn more about the customer’s decision making and reactions. Using a Generative Research method, gave me a great opportunity to coach my teammates on participatory design.

I ran an ideation session with the team to come up with our methodology. We landed on creating a board game to simulate 3 "renewal periods" (insurance talk for having a policy over 4 years), presenting the customer with different “rate” related events throughout their three renewals. We asked them if they wanted a rate communication at each event to gauge level of engagement required.

During the game, we had the customer draw communications for us and markdown how they felt after each "event" and renewal period. This enabled us to collect numerical data along with the qualitative data from the game. The conversations that ensued were immensely valuable to our understanding of customer behavior and their perception of value.

It was interesting to learn that customers wanted communications as often as we offered, before their renewal. One of our hypotheses was that they may not want to hear about increases or impacts at all ("don't poke the bear"). The real piece of insight was that the more frequent the person received communication from us, the more unlikely they were to shop.

We distilled the data and generated personas based on the customer interviews. The personas generated a greater customer empathy for our ideation and inspired thought as we entered into the next phase of our sprint. We listened a lot to what the customers were saying and how they were saying it. There were some clear cut groups that emerged.

Our 2.5 weeks of research painted a new customer journey that uncovered a bigger problem. The entire customer relationship was flawed - not just at renewal.

Customers would pay and then have little to no interaction with their insurance company (only ~20-25% have claims in any given year) and yet their rates just continue to go up. Then at renewal, insurance companies ask for more money even though the customer (in most cases), did not "use" their insurance.


Excited to begin solving and armed with customer insights, I ran the team through several ideation sessions to see how we could solve for our biggest customer issues.

We used a lot of methods to generate ideas but the one I loved the most AND got us the most impact for was from a book called Think Wrong. In the book, there was a particular activity called "That's Odd". The concept is that you walk around with a teammate for an hour or so outside around the city. You document the weirdest things you see and then bring in a top 3. You write these weird objects down and everyone gets to pull 1 from a hat. This "weird thing" then becomes each individual's personal inspiration for ideation. It sounds wild - but give it a try!

With 100s of ideas we narrowed them down by team voting and gut checking the ideas against our 3 HMWs, customer journey and main insights. This shaped our top 10 list to create prototypes and start testing. The technique we used was called Lightning Decision Jam (see video below, sorry for the curse words)

I love this technique because it allows the team to quickly move through ideas and decisions with little effort. Post Jam, the method also creates an action oriented game plan!


Our tests proved we were on the right track and so we did some iterations and retested with an online community to get faster feedback. The team then switched gears to ranking our final results against impact and effort as we started to prepare our final report for stakeholders.


We pulled everything together by creating a story and set of strategic recommendations from on our customer research, application of insights, and concept testing. I Focused on the collaborative nature of our diverse team which helped to gain buy in across the diverse stakeholder set.


In the end, we were able to influence several major functions at Liberty Mutual; Marketing, Product, Service and Digital.

Our work directly impacted marketing materials that were sent out to customers at their renewal and during the policy period. Our suggested changes for the service reps were adopted and implemented. The digital teams have taken our direction and begun to implement changes to the customer account pages that will help explain rate and help find ways to reduce rates. And finally, our product teams are now working to develop new customer centric products that would enable customers to get more "use" out of their insurance but also help them live a more safe and secure life.


It was difficult to tailor our story because the underlying issue found was with our product offerings and pricing structure. There was also a mindset of "don't poke the bear" meaning don't alert the customer of a shopping moment. We used this as a constraint and thought through how we can improve our customer relationships with these obstacles.

Our success was accomplished through a diverse team. If we would have provided insights from a CX perspective only, we would have likely not gotten anything through. Having influence across the journey on our team, helped us tremendously. We all win when we're inclusive.

I also learned that revolutions need small wins to start. As we delivered our recommendations we made sure to show stakeholders stepping stones for how to get to our ideal state. I like to call this "make it real" - where we reveal the ideal state and then show what it might look like in 6 months and also what it might look like in a week. This gives hope that the ideal state can be accomplished and gets things in motion right away. Breaking things into manageable sizes helps to motivate stakeholders.

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Drew DiPasquale