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Who is Driving the Digital Customer Experience?

For the last two decades or so, insurers and brokers have focused on internal systems and processes in order to improve efficiencies for underwriting, claims, and client service. Marketing had little involvement.

The model is changing, with marketers leveraging technology to  drive the agenda for customer interaction, with  interesting implications for the whole enterprise.  The 13th annual Insurance-Canada.ca Technology Conference in March will explore these in some detail.  Meantime, I’d like to look at some recent movements in the digital direction and would appreciate your thoughts.

 What is the “digital customer experience” and who cares?

Definitions/explanations vary widely.  One I like came from a recent Forrester report, which says that with the myriad information sources available now, you can assume that your customers know as much or more as you do about your products, pricing, and your competitors.

Making that assumption, Forrester suggests that to compete, you must become “customer obsessed”, which means that the enterprise:

“focuses its strategy, its energy, and its budget on processes that enhance knowledge of and engagement with customers and prioritizes these over maintaining traditional competitive barriers.” (emphasis supplied)

Business leaders get this.  In a Forrester survey of  3,000 business executives, from a variety of industries worldwide, 74% percent ranked “Improve the experience of our customers” as a High or Critical priority for 2015, second only to “Grow Revenues”.

How does insurance rank?

In 2013 and 2014, Forrester asked 7,500 US consumers to rank customer experience for  150 brands in 14 market segments on:

  • How enjoyable the experience was.
  • How easy they were to do business with.
  • How effectively their needs were met.

In the insurance segment, 15 organizations were evaluated in 2013 and 2014.   Thirteen of the companies were close to or in the middle (‘OK’) range in 2013.  Three of these  insurers found their way into the ‘Good’ range in 2014 (AAA, Geico, State Farm).

Independent agents, which were listed by the customers as insurers, were solidly ‘OK’ in 2013 and 2014.

The one outlier was USAA, which went from Good in 2013 to Excellent in 2014.  No big surprise.  This blog has carried several posts on USAA and its use of different media to reinforce its service to customers (see, e.g., Social Media Insurance Strategies – A Tale of Two Insurers).

I haven’t seen data for Canada, but I would suspect that some of the larger insurers and a few niche players are embarking on digital consumer experience programs, but these are not yet mainstream.

Agents/Brokers seeing the digital future …

In a recent PropertyCasualty360 article, Shawn Moynihan and Melissa Hillebrand describe the digital journey of several US independent agents.  Traditionally, independent agents have been highly effective in driving new sales, and that continues to this day.

However, some agents are realizing that there has to be corresponding emphasis on marketing and technology in order to maintain profitability for themselves and the carriers.  This includes having the ability to fully leverage prospects and existing customers.  This requires marketing skills supported by technology.

And this means digital.  Keith Savino, principal at Warwick Resource Group LLC in Warwick N.Y. says: “I want to make sure that what we can do in a brick-and-mortar world we can extend to other forms of media.”  And this isn’t a nice to have.  According to Savino: “I don’t think of it as an advantage as much as a requirement.”

These requirements mean marketing technology …

For an established agency, technology is required to access all the data and allow digital marketing, including customer self service and targeted marketing efforts.  Michael Jans, CEO of Agency Revolution, which supplies digital marketing solutions for US agents, tells Moynihan and Hillebrand: that marketing must be systematic in order to be effective in an established agency.  “The only way you can systematize communications that deliver the right message to the right people—thousands of customers and prospects—at the right time is through technology.”

According to Savino, the technology checklist for agents includes:

  • An agency portal for customers’ access to policy and billing information,
  • A mobile web site or app
  • Advanced CRM systems
  • Vidoephones for multiple location management
ICTC-wheel-plain-r60

This scratches the surface …
There are two elements that have to play well together to succeed digitally:  Marketing and Data.  Larger carriers and entrepreneurial distributors are moving these elements together to help structure a digital experience for customers.  The 2015 Insurance-Canada.ca Technology Conference will feature a number of presentations and case studies to round out the current picture and flesh out possible futures.

What do you think? 

Are you looking at a digital path for your customers?  If so, what are the opportunities and challenges?  Are you leveraging your data to prepare for digital tools?  If so, are the tools mature enough for your needs?

Our digital ears are open.

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