IBM Study Report: Powerful Interaction Points: Saying Goodbye to the Channel

When thinking about how to connect with consumers, insurers – and consultants – often talk about the “channel strategy,” but this terminology is indicative of the problem. A “channel” infers a one-way communication from insurer to customer, and today’s customers don’t think that way. If insurers are serious about getting closer to their customers, they should forego conventional “channel” strategy development and instead focus on quality interactions.

Perhaps the strongest message from our survey of more than 21,000 consumers in 20 countries is that consumers don’t want information to be channeled, they want access; they want to interact with their providers. Connecting to the insurer by phone is an interaction point, as are emails to the broker, meetings with the tied agent and even clickthroughs on the website of an aggregator that provides independent insurance comparisons. But how do insurers choose which interaction points to offer their customers? Which ones do consumers actually prefer? To understand this, insurers need to take a different approach to segmenting their customers – one based on psychographics not demographics.

Our consumer research also indicates:

  • Customers are becoming harder to satisfy and harder to maintain, and generally, they still don’t trust the insurance industry.
  • While there is no comparable substitute for insurance itself, consumers can and will switch insurers if their preferred interaction points are not available.
  • Despite the commonly held view that the web is all that matters now, consumers often prefer personal interaction. Insurance is still a product that relies on personal trust – people want to buy from people.

Insurance has shifted from a seller’s to a buyer’s market. And while modern consumers are willing to buy, it is not all about price, as is the pervasive myth. Insurers also have to provide quality service and reach customers with the right interaction mix.

Download the executive summary (4 pages) or the full report (20 pages) here.

Follow-on Study

Personal interaction remains a key to success! What is your role in the triangle of insurer / consumer / broker or agent? And what can it be in the future? To examine this, IBM�s Institute for Business Value (IBV) and The Institute for Insurance Economics of the University St. Gallen (I.VW) are doing a study in selected markets including Canada. In this study we interview insurers, intermediaries and consumers. And here we need your help.

A survey commenced on June 25, 2012. For more information go here.

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