Over the last few months, SMA partners have facilitated regional round tables for insurers. Attendance was good, food was good, and the conversations were inspirational and passionate. We all kept excellent company, which definitely paid tribute to the "glass half full" part of our industry. And it was interesting to learn that, in such a diverse group of insurers, people were very much in agreement on key topics:

  • Be clear about who your customer is. 
    Many in the industry now consider the policyholder to be the customer and the agent to be the partner (although some specific companies view their agents as 100% customer). This increased focus on the policyholder as the primary customer is a significant and important shift. Insurers are just formulating what this really means.
  • The customer journey should be at the heart of customer experience strategies. 
    The key is to create “personas” – representative customers (individuals and businesses) and their journeys – and then use these personas to educate frontline employees to improve their customer interactions. Utilize the personas throughout the lifecycle – even for training service people. Many insurers are beginning to document the journey maps, but not many are far enough along to either complete the journey mapping process or implement the insights gathered from these.
  • All insurers want to move toward omni-channel, in some way. 
    However, not everyone understands what it is. Everyone wants a seamless feel for the customer – but it’s difficult because this cuts across the enterprise and across many business units and technology systems.
  • CRM is more important than ever. 
    CRM is taking on a renewed role; it will bring some significant efficiencies and improve customer experiences on many levels. But it is clear that the current CRM tools and the new business model of managing relationships in the complex insurance world of policyholders and agents are not a good fit.
  • Data is the foundation. 
    Unfortunately, many insurers have a long way to go to leverage it for the customer experience. The focus of data and analytics is still mostly on risk (product, underwriting, and pricing). Many Tier 3 and 4 insurers are not leveraging customer satisfaction survey data for trends or even linking to financial or operational data. And very few are leveraging external data related to consumers.
  • Data is becoming increasingly critical in operating and managing insurance companies. 
    Better usage of existing data sources and adding new data sources and analytical capabilities are perceived to be a key competitive differentiator between insurers.
  • The insurance industry is advancing. 
    Regrettably, we’re still way behind other industries. We are moving quickly for insurance but still slow enough that we’re at risk of losing customer relationships and business. One insurer put it this way: “We are not changing because we want to. We are changing because Google or someone else will take over if we don’t.”
  • Emerging technologies require more analysis. 
    While the IoT, wearables, gamification, and other technologies present interesting opportunities, the general sense is that there are still more challenges than opportunities (customer adoption, regulatory, security, data/analytics, etc.).

It is noteworthy that the insurers were positive and optimistic overall, and had a “can do” attitude. Although plenty of challenges were identified, there was general consensus that the issues identified offer a lot of opportunities for our industry. Definitely a "glass half full" crowd, our round table participants!
This blog entry has been reprinted with permission from SMA.

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