“This is the long and short of it: the customer is undeniably in control.” This declaration shouldn’t rock life insurance company C-suites these days. Figuring out exactly how to leverage that consequence of disruptive innovation is the real game changer, and in a recent blog, Mark Breading of Strategy Meets Action offers insights on how to deal with the “new realities” of the modern customer journey.
“There is far less of the loyalty that our industry depended on for success in the past,” he writes, adding that the expectations of loyal, long-term customers mirror those of their current new business prospects: specifically, a demand for “speed, transparency, and convenience.”
It’s no surprise that the desire for meaningful engagement crosses generational divides, especially given that most office workers who now are on the cusp of retirement have been embracing the tools of the digital age since the 1980s and have a decent comfort level with digital technology.
Until very recently, top investment drivers for insurance were focused on internal movers such as lowering costs, business optimization and growth. According to SMA, the shift toward customer engagement began in 2015, and now, “the expectations of policyholders and agents are leading drivers for insurers’ strategies and investments.”
In fact, SMA research shows that for insurers, customer experience and engagement is the number one strategic initiative. “This is good news for the industry, as it points to determination and focus,” Breading notes.
He is quick to state that this initiative requires a thorough understanding of the insurance customer. “This includes understanding recent interaction activities and the history behind them, handling each interaction via the right resources, and delivering the appropriate responses in person or electronically.”
Every person with a policy, he adds, is expecting their insurer to understand their unique journey. Take life and annuity policy redemption, for example. These are transactions that are routinely carried out by the insurer when a policyholder asks them to do so.
According to Breading, insurers will be better served by “anticipating when and why they might need or want additional funds based on their life stage and life circumstances.
This will allow an advisor to work proactively with the policyholder to determine the best approach for the customer, considering alternate sources of income, tax implications, and the effect on the overall portfolio.”
SMA recommends making personalized experiences based on user preferences and their history with the carrier. These insights can help companies add value to their customer interactions.
“Provide new options for real-time collaboration, based on the preferences of the customer. Some prefer voice interaction. Others are more comfortable with chat or another electronic mode. Equip front line employees or agents with robust dashboards. Give them the insight to create more context for the interaction. Furnish them with the knowledge to create a more informed and rewarding experience.”
For many companies with outdated or inflexible infrastructure, becoming a custodian of the ideal customer experience can seem like an untenable challenge. That said, Breading points to the increasing availability of flexible and integrated systems and cloud-based solutions that can make the prospect of sweeping change more palatable.
“Now is the time to look at the possibilities and determine what approach will best fit your needs. The objective must be to achieve the capability to help each individual customer manage his or her particular journey. This is one area that will not wait. The customers of tomorrow are here today, and it is our job to help them navigate the world of protection and benefit.”
The customers of yesterday are also here today, and as SMA found, they want the same meaningful interactions that new customers do. This poses yet another challenge for insurers: how to reach, extract and analyze the legacy data that can help map out these vital customers’ journeys.
In 2014, analysts at KPMG asked global insurers, “What is the biggest challenge your company has faced regarding data analytics specifically?” Just over one third of respondents identified capturing reliable data as the biggest obstacle, followed by implementing the proper data analysis and interpretation solution.
Data poses challenges in other areas as well, according to the survey:
- 18 percent of respondents were hobbled by the capacity to capture and integrate data from all areas of the business
- 16 percent reported that incomplete or unreliable data is an issue
- 12 percent pointed to the inability to analyze the data once collected
While the move to embrace the digital age is plowing full speed ahead for new customer acquisition and product development, challenges around data access, capture, and analysis are taking much longer to address. Ensuring easy availability to quality data will be key to the existing customer journey for many, many years to come. That’s also a “new” reality insurers can’t afford to ignore.
Vidado’s revolutionary mission is to provide accurate, secure and fast access to the data that can create and support your most ambitious customer engagement programs. Today, half of the top insurance firms use Vidado to achieve amazing results from their hidden legacy data.