The rapid changes taking place in our economic, social and work environments are causing insurers to adopt marketing and customer service improvements to keep pace, and a variety of insurance marketing and data experts convened last week in Chicago at the Insurance Nexus Insurance2Customer USA event to discuss best practice responses. The consensus: for competitive advantage, knowing and understanding the customer is critical in improving the customer experience.

The fact that the insurers are paying more attention than ever to their ever-changing customers has not escaped those that serve the industry, noted Bradley Pitts, regional head of customer insights, The Americas, at AIG.

“The industry’s economic environment, namely via insurtech, is seeing a major shakeup, with 923 insurance technology companies in 14 categories across 52 countries now entering the global industry marketplace, with a total of $15.9 billion in funding,” Pitts said.

Rahim Rajpar, VP of strategy and business development at John Hancock, told the group that this shakeup is the result of insurers and their technology solution providers recognizing that there is a new customer mindset.

“Many customers have come out of a 10-year period with a lot of bad news, and a bad news story is twice as likely to resonate than a good news story, which is causing a shift in the customer’s expectations and mindset -- essentially causing them to prepare for the worst,” he explained.

Rajpar added that consumer expectations, plus technology capabilities, have created a massive change in the way customers buy insurance.

“It takes 12 positive experiences to eradicate one negative one,” he said. “We want to combine that statistic [from global market research and consulting firm Mintel] with a plan to engage the 50 million to 70 million U.S. consumers with unmet life insurance needs – a $15.3 trillion market.”

Like AIG and John Hancock, Swiss Re also conducts consumer research, noted JJ Carroll, SVP, New Solutions Group for the insurer, including in-person customer meetings. Carroll is responsible for coordination of all market and consumer research for Swiss Re in North America, including predictive modeling, behavioral economics and other big data initiatives.

“Data and technology create opportunities and we see ways to engage consumers using the data we collect, but what are we doing with it?” she asks. “What’s the implication of that data? For example with risk-based analysis, there are so many synergies, which tells us that we should be sharing that data with other functional business units.”

Both Pitts and Rajpar also acknowledged the role data plays in identifying and better understanding customer requirements, which play forward into customer experience management excellence.

For example, AIG’s customer-focused design roadmap guides value proposition development and introduces key steps to integrating customer insight. “Identification of the customer is part of our opportunity analysis, then we try to better understand the potential value proposition,” Pitts said. “Our design is the development of that value proposition, and once we launch this value proposition into the market, we constantly evaluate and refine it.”

Pitts acknowledged that AIG has recognized the value of becoming more holistic in their approach to the marketplace. “My view is that focusing solely on the millennials is a bad decision,” he asserted. “They may be digitally enabled and have preferences, but by focusing on only demographics you limit your reach. In our holistic approach we look at traditional and non-traditional segments, then we focus on finding out what the unresolved conflict is.”

At John Hancock, the data being collected leads to certain assumptions. “Once we know who the customer is, we understand that they want to control their own experience,” said Rajpar. Other general assumptions are made. For example, 70% of customers evaluating a new store or restaurant will trust an online review from a complete stranger over the personal referral of a friend or colleague.

Pitts described his organization as having hit its customer-centric stride. AIG set up customer-centricity transformation teams that take the message forward throughout the enterprise to members of business units who touch the customer in any way.

“We established listening and learning channels and combined that with traditional research and the establishment of a customer immersion program,” Pitts told the group. “Loyal promoters stay longer, buy more and refer more.”

Among AIG’s critical success factors Pitts added, is the idea that the customer comes first, and has the support of leadership and the involvement of employees. “First, however, it’s important to get your house in order,” he said. “That means your organization needs to rally around the cause, and understand that it’s a journey, not a destination.”

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