With industry disruptors such as autonomous vehicles and the continued growth of the sharing economy all but inevitable, insurance carriers must retire old business models to maintain relevance, according to Meriah Garrett, USAA’s chief design officer.

Garrett kicked off day two of Digital Insurance's Dig | In: The Digital Future of Insurance conference in Austin, Texas pointing out that all organizations, not just insurers, face two problems when embracing change. They tackle challenges in the same ways expecting different results and follow top-down methodologies that please a specific group of high-level stakeholders instead of the consumer, she says.

For insurers, creating the right customer experience requires intent listening, rapid ideation and constant testing, Garrett told the room of insurance professionals.

“Before putting a line of code into a computer you should have spoken to customers three, four, five times,” she said. “That way you have confidence that what you’re investing in is right.”

Insurers can be “wa-gile” or in a rush to reach the final destination quickly, Garrett added. But the key to a great digital experience is knowing customers intimately the way Google or Amazon do. This means carriers must look beyond direct competitors to drive companies forward.

More from Garrett: Inside USAA's approach to digital design

Garrett advises carriers not apply initial solutions to problems. Instead, admit “your first idea is crap in front of your team,” she says. Additionally, insurers will know they are not truly listening to policyholders if they have the same problem statement before and after they speak with them.

“You should know your end-to end processes at more than just a high level,” said Garrett. “You may not be doing as great as a job as you think you’re doing.”

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