The insurance industry is adept at identifying their potential customer, and most insurers use third parties to acquire viable leads that will enable them to engage and hopefully retain them. But getting from point A to point B requires the establishment of a customer journey roadmap.

The customer journey doesn’t just look at a certain data, touch points or transactions (such as payments or claims); it identifies the fundamental needs of the customer and evaluates the complete sum of experiences that customers go through when interacting with an insurer and its brand.

“Understanding the customer journey is about learning what customers experience from the moment they begin considering a purchase, and then working to make the journey toward buying a product or service as simple, clear, and efficient as possible,” notes McKinsey in a podcast entitled, “Why the Customer Experience Matters.”

There may be some debate as to whether insurers of different sizes or lines of business understand how critical it is to develop a formal customer journey initiative, because there is some confusion about what it entails. It’s about a lot more than gathering and analyzing data -- that's really just a starting point, and not enough to address issues such what motivates customers, what their fundamental needs are or what drives their satisfaction with the product/ and experience.

Successful insurers that are evaluating and implementing a customer journey program do so from the inside out, drawing insights from employees in every functional business area that might touch the customer, gathering and mining data to help build the customer profile, and developing strategies that inspire and lead customer experience excellence within the insurer’s organization.

“This happens from the executive down to every individual,” Emily Hathcoat, VP, Head of Marketing at CNA, told a group of insurance executives at the Insurance2Customer USA Chicago conference in mid-September.

CNA developed a step-by-step plan to transform traditional and legacy-based systems and processes into modern customer-centric ones, noted Hathcoat, adding that data touchpoints became the foundation for the creation of a holistic customer journey initiative.

“Lack of data was not our issue,” she said, “but because data collection fields vary, we needed a consistent approach to mining what we collected. The customer profile can be built from the data you already have, but you must enlist the support of all internal stakeholders, from underwriting, claims, IT, etc., to help champion the effort.”

The customer journey roadmap is critical to an organization’s marketing efforts, Hathcoat added, but warned the group not to outsource the road-mapping process. “This is not just a business process documentation exercise,” she said. “if you are not conducting it yourself you will miss some important ‘ah-ha’ moments. But if you do it yourself, your vision of the customer becomes more clear.”

AIG's Bradley Pitts, who also presented at the I2C USA conference, maintains that the customer journey must be under constant review, so changes in the way products are presented can be made on the fly based on both those foundational requirements established in the early part of the process as well on the changing needs of the customer.

Pitts presented the example of Doug Dietz, the developer of the MRI machine: Seeing the equipment in operation, Dietz noticed a young girl hesitating as she approached the large machine, obviously afraid.

“Dietz found that 80% of children require sedation due to anxiety, so he redesigned the appearance of the MRI with themed, colorful graphics, such as pirates, spaceship, and adventure series. Then he dressed the children in matching hospital gowns, and asked the technicians to explain all the noises. Dietz didn’t really change the product, just the customer’s experience with it.”

A recent McKinsey survey of a variety of vertical markets confirms the effectiveness of road-mapping the customer journey, noting that customer satisfaction with health insurance is 73 percent more likely when journeys work well than when only touchpoints do. Similarly, customers of hotels that get the journey right may be 61 percent more willing to recommend than customers of hotels that merely focus on touchpoints.

Although some of the goals comprising a formal customer journey initiative may be a bit lofty for smaller carriers with limited budgets, the advice Hathcoat gave the group of marketing executives applied to all insurers: If you can establish, understand and actually be the voice of the customer, you can persuade employees to embrace the customers’ newfound goals, making it a systemic effort. “Find your shiny pennies: report and give leadership a head’s up on early wins, and make sure the entire organization is behind your program,” she said.

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