The Challenge

In 2017, Southern Cross, New Zealand's biggest health insurer, set itself an inspirational vision - to 'empower Kiwis to live their healthiest lives', moving beyond simply getting well to also keeping and staying well.

This strategic shift called for a more active, personal role in each member's health care journey. Yet with the generic, one-size-fits-all email it was sending to all Members, how, when and why Southern Cross communicated with Members needed to change significantly to reflect its new role of supporter and guide.

The Solution

Our job was to reimagine the customer communications journey and take it to market.

This involved three phases of work:
1) Envisaging the communication experience
2) Creating a single source of truth and marketing data design
3) Bringing the programme to life with dynamic content

Open rates - that's 37.3% higher than the industry sector average


Envisaging the new communication experience

Using a design thinking framework

Affinity ID and Southern Cross team members collaborated to reimagine the organisation's communications strategy by putting the customer at the heart of the conversation.

Guided by our user experience designers

Campaigns were re-examined from a customer's point of view, re-thinking the approach and targeting to move away from a generic newsletter-style communication, towards relevant, timely messages. A new customer journey was mapped, including a mix of wellbeing, education and partner offers to support each Member's individual journey.

Creating a single source of truth

Built from the data up

A single source of truth was created after first identifying the data required, amalgamating 18 disparate data sources, and interpreting data across a variety of channels and complex member-management systems to provide a single customer view that is updated daily within a secure encrypted data warehouse to drive communications targeting.

Smart expanding business rules

To interrogate data, Affinity ID data scientists developed a data flag system to store a library of business rules - expanding from 70 initially to more than 400 - enabling transparent re-use, saving time, and ensuring consistent application of customer flags across messages and campaigns.

Bringing the programme to life

Unique conversations with every member

To create event-triggered and timed messages served to all members at different life-cycle stages, our designers, writers and user experience experts collaborated with in-house data specialists and customer behaviour experts to map out key customer motivations and sentiment hierarchies for each message; ensuring each message did its part to motivate the desired behaviour or emotional-state change. This could be as simple as making new members feel welcomed or, for those at risk of churning, to see value in their plan and renew it.

The library of content and campaigns created included recognising key milestones in a member's life cycle such as "get well" messaging for fast and simple claims, life-stage event-triggered cross-sell of life insurance, a comprehensive onboarding journey, event driven voice of customer survey's, partner offers with life-stage targeted wellness articles and pre-renewal digital channel prompts.

Evolving creative

After our creative team heat-mapped previous customer communications, the Southern Cross website and contact centre enquiries, patterns emerged showing the information customers wanted to see first. As a result, the top four website FAQs were included in the new design, plus key policy information and login or register buttons for the member's digital portal, My Southern Cross. We rebuilt the communication template to a dynamic modular template which allows content to be quickly swapped out using existing module designs for the next communication, saving time and improving efficiency.


Our reimagined customer engagement programme led to significant results, including reducing cost to serve and delivering significantly higher member engagement:


We exceeded retention and growth targets


Uplift in digital engagement through 1:1 conversations


Uplift in Members migrated to My Southern Cross


Extremely high email open rates - that's 37.3% higher than the industry sector average


More efficient through operational and governance process improvements



Nexus Gold - CRM & Data Management
Nexus Gold - Production & Fulfilment
Craft Silver - Excellence in Data Strategy
Craft Bronze - Excellence in Personalisation