In today's challenging environment, insurers have turned their focus to pursuing initiatives that can provide a continual stream of organizational benefits. Operational excellence, innovation and a customer-centric approach are essential for success, and every organization is closely examining its technology capabilities to determine whether they adequately support these critical business drivers. The push toward agility and cost containment has led many insurers to consider adopting business process outsourcing (BPO) solutions for a competitive advantage, including print/mail fulfillment. And there are benefits in doing so.

By outsourcing print/mail operations, an insurer is relieved of having to manage and conduct a capital-intensive process that is not a strategic focus of its business. But it is important to ensure that the benefits of outsourcing do not come at the expense of the ability to engage in effective customer communications.


Benefits

The organization's staff is the most knowledgeable source of information about offerings, communications strategies, and the key messaging for customers. And every customer contact presents the opportunity to improve the customer experience, tap new markets and differentiate from the competition. That is why a collaborative approach-which we refer to as "outsourcing with control"-is a wise choice when outsourcing customer communications.

With a collaborative outsourcing approach, an organization retains customer communications management as an in-house function while outsourcing print/mail fulfillment. In this way, the organization can engage in "agile billing"-maintaining the flexibility and autonomy to complete interactive, point-of-need, personalized documents for its customers while ensuring accuracy and costs are controlled through centralized production and fulfillment.


Strategy

There are several important issues that commonly need to be addressed when developing an effective and collaborative customer communications program:

Gathering quality data. Customer information is often created and stored in various data silos across an organization, particularly if a business operates over a large geographic region. Some insurers have a number of disparate, legacy systems as a result of mergers and acquisitions over the years. Insurers need to be sure the solution can easily access and assimilate data from these various sources.

Integrating delivery channels. Once the data required for the program has been identified and collected, an insurer must be able to coordinate and integrate it across a range of media output channels. While brokers and agents remain a core sales touch point in the insurance industry, today's customers are "always on" and gain information from a variety of sources through social media, websites, mobile applications and in other ways that influence buying decisions. An effective communications management strategy will have the flexibility to leverage these channels to create personalized messages while maintaining needed control.

Managing processes and content. Compliance with legal and regulatory standards is a priority that makes the need for a secure, collaborative document creation environment essential. This environment should enable management of the processes, users and roles, interfaces, and updating methods of a variety of communications channels. For instance, user roles and permissions should be honored anywhere in the organization's system and the insurer should have the capability to track and report on document changes, including who has made them and when they were made. Additionally, the ability to manage content-independent of the documents and channels that receive them-is crucial.

Having systems in place to ensure a smooth transition. The level of effort it takes to transition from an internal print/mail operation to an outsourced customer communications program can be monumental. Having a communications management platform that is easily configurable will reduce the time frame for migration of legacy documents and minimize the risk of brand inconsistency during the transition. A platform that is intuitive and easy to use will also lower the learning curve for employees, improving the rate of adoption and minimizing disruptions during the transition.

Doug Cox is general manager, North America, for GMC Software Technology.

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