Delta Dental of Washington

Growing a leadership position


Delta Dental is the leader in providing individual and business dental coverage in Washington state. Maintaining that leadership position requires truly understanding the customer journey, in order to be able to create plans and services that best match customers’ needs. Northbound is Delta Dental’s ongoing partner, focused on continually improving the patient experience.


Help the market leader maintain their leadership position by better understanding customers, creating new products and improving services, while also creating programs that employees can align their efforts around.


  • Qualitative and quantitative research and insights
  • Persona development
  • Customer journey
  • Product concept training

Aligning the organization to make meaningful change

Delta Dental approached Northbound to validate their four existing customer segments. Through qualitative research, the Northbound team conducted dozens of interviews and dug deep into the aspirations and motivations of people throughout Washington state. The resulting insights enabled Northbound to turn existing customer segments (defined by age, education, gender, and income) into personas that were defined by attitudes, behaviors, and motivations. Key areas of focus included:

  • Lifestyles, values, beliefs, and aspirations
  • Perceptions about dental care, dental insurance, and Delta Dental of Washington
  • Dental care behaviors
  • Barriers and motivators to action regarding dental care, dental insurance, and lifestyle choices

These new personas provide a unified understanding and clear direction for Delta Dental’s internal teams. As a result, they’re able to develop more meaningful and targeted product, marketing, and customer support programs.


Improving the innovation pipeline

The Delta Dental of Washington product innovation team was responsible for developing new products and plans aligned to the new personas. But how do you turn ideas from multiple individuals into concepts that the company can test with their customers? Northbound brought a rigor to the process, developing a product concept template, leading workshops for the innovation team on how to write concepts, and then reviewing everything for continuity. Once the concepts were completed, Northbound undertook quantitative research with customers to learn which concepts fell off the list and which concepts rose to the top and thus merited further exploration and development. The Delta Dental team now has a playbook to ensure work across the team is consistently aligned with strategy.


Streamlined feedback for happier customers and more relevant results

Annually Delta Dental conducts a patient satisfaction survey to gauge how the company is performing. Over the years, the survey had become a catch-all for a variety of topics, many having nothing to do with patient satisfaction. The survey was long, drop-off rates were high, and there were questions about the accuracy of some of the information gathered due to the wording of some of the questions. Delta Dental turned to Northbound to reimagine the survey with the goal of making it more accurate and focused. After confirming the goals and objectives for the survey, Northbound undertook a thorough review and eliminated non-relevant topic areas, reorganized content, and rewrote many questions to be more precise. The resulting survey was considerably shorter and more targeted. As a result, completion rates improved dramatically, reducing the overall survey cost and time in field. Northbound is also helping the company transition from a yearly survey to collecting ongoing customer input through a variety of touchpoints, including the website and customer support, in order to gain the most accurate, relevant customer feedback to inform the organization’s products, programs, and services.



  • Organizational alignment around personas to drive customer-focused business decisions
  • Increased accuracy and timeliness of customer feedback to better inform products and programs throughout the company
“We connected with the team at Northbound, because they provided the partnership I knew would best meet our needs. That partnership assures we enjoy a collaborative relationship. We can rely on Northbound to work with us in solving our marketing and research challenges—not simply prescribing and implementing a remedy. That’s critical to an organization like ours which is steeped in institutional knowledge. Northbound proves itself time and again as a listening and learning agent, diving deep to recognize, absorb, and ultimately leverage the knowledge and insights we rely on to fuel the mission and values that underpin our distinctive business model. Their contributions help us to maintain category leadership in Washington.”
Keith Kelley
Business Analysis and Insights Manager
Delta Dental of Washington

Contact us!