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ORBiT 2015: Digital Lively, but CRM May Still Be Dead

At ORBiT Real Time Day this week, the majority of discussions were vibrant – focusing on effective use of new technology and building better digital connections in the broker world – until one attendee turned to the funereal topic of CRM.  Then things got really lively.

I’d like your thoughts.

What’s an ORBiT, Mom? And Why do they have a Day?

ORBiT Canada is a not-for-profit association which supports and promotes the use of technology to reduce friction costs and improve service to customers. ORBiT’s Real Time Day is an opportunity for members – insurers, brokers, suppliers – to review progress and take glimpses at core and edge technologies which will support the mandate.

This year, the focus was heavy on the consumer and on the consumer’s requirements.  Virtually every session had some nuggets of advice for how today’s broker can meet and exceed consumer expectations.

These nuggets included…..

Brian Bartosh is president of Top O’ Michigan Insurance – a successful multi-branch insurance agency.  Brian’s keynote address took the attendees through his highly automated internal operations, the focus of which is effective contact with consumers.

One example:  As is the case is in most agencies, Brian’s team spends a significant amount amount of time answering questions about claims.  After some analysis, the agency developed a list of the common questions and developed documentation and updates that are required over the course of the claim. The result was a 30% reduction in the agency’s costs and improved customer satisfaction (which is measured using the net promoter method).

We had a great discussion on the IoT ….

I had the privilege of moderating a session on the Internet of Things (IoT) and the potential impact on insurance.  My colleagues, Clinton D’Souza (Deloitte), Hugh Fardy (CG&B), Deb Olsen (ingenie),  Kim Opheim (Applied Systems), Colin Simpson (IBAO) did a great job addressing the varied opportunities and challenges that connectivity of things represent.

The consensus was that there is a new world of opportunities for insurance products and services, but we have to be very careful with how we structure and present the solutions,  Hugh – with his extensive knowledge of E&O – expects his call volume to go up.

On the Digital Landscape panel ….

…moderated by IBM’s Christine Haberlin, John Belyea, COO at Moore McLean shared information on the recent introduction of Bullfrog Insurance, which provides on-line quoting and purchase options for select commercial lines risks.

And on the same panel, Aviva’s Ed Meiering discussed the support provided to brokers  from his in-house digital consultancy.  This includes review of updates to websites to determine its mobile friendliness.

All was good.

Then came the three words: 

“Is CRM Dead?”

As we got into use of data with and for consumers, the normally reserved Jeff Roy, CEO Excalibur Insurance, just couldn’t contain himself.  This started with an infographic from Gartner which presented 5 underlying digital marketing trends, the second of which was “CRM is dead.”  Jeff had taken to social media asking if this were true, and extended the conversation to this audience.

The conversation was good, but too short.

So, here’s my take….

I posted on this topic almost a year ago, the title misquoting Frank Zappa: “Is CRM Dead, or Does It Just Smell Funny?“.

CRM as a concept and a technology has limitations, primarily driven by inexperienced sales managers.  If we believe that we can manage a customer (using legal means), we haven’t worked long enough in the real world.  Customers can, and do, change their minds way too frequently.

However, we can manage the relationships to some extent.  If we understand the customers needs  wants,and patterns, we can plan to be in the right place at the right time with the right solution.  With some additional soft skills, we can improve the odds that the customer will accept our solution.  Or, at least, the customer will appreciate that we are trying to help.

And, with technology, we can record information (much of which will come through the IoT)  that helps us know all the ‘right’ things we need to have.  And some of this technology comes packaged as ‘CRM’.

So what do you think?

Customers and relationships have always been the key to success in the insurance world.  New technologies are helping and challenging our abilities here.  What do you think works in this new world?

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