CONNECTED CONSUMERS DRIVE CHANGE IN THE INSURANCE INDUSTRY
With the growth of mobile, social media and the internet as a viable distribution channel a new market segment has emerged that sees the development of a new supplier-consumer relationship. To stay ahead of the curve, insurance companies must adapt their communication strategies and products accordingly.
The new consumer, the Millennial generation, expects convenience, they conduct research before committing to a brand, and customer service is a top priority for them. “This generation of empowered consumers wants to engage with brands on their terms,” says Rhys Collins, Head of African Operations at SSP.
For Millennials, online, social media and mobile are not “new” ways of communicating. These channels have been a part of their lives since they were born and it’s now second nature to them. Take, for example, a 21 year old woman who has just started a new job and is looking for car insurance. She will conduct research on social media and the company website, and she will ask her friends for their opinion through those media. Once she has received the quote, she’ll tweet it, thereby letting all her contacts know about her experience with the brand. Should the service she receives not be up to standard, there’s every chance she’ll tweet about her experiences or pay Hello Peter a visit.
It’s therefore essential that brands adopt a cross-channel, customer-centric approach that creates a positive experience both online and offline. However, a recent study by leading international research group, Gartner, reveals that the insurance industry is lagging behind; predicting that by 2018, less than 25% of insurers operating in mature markets will have executed a customer-aligned digital business strategy.
“A customer-aligned digital business strategy should include cross-channel integration and improved channel analytics,” says Collins. “The first step is customer intelligence – getting a clear understanding of the consumer so that sales, marketing, customer service and customer experience can be tailored accordingly.”
He advises insurers to assess their current method of communicating with customers and then implement new practices to gather, manage and analyse customer information. Also to evaluate each touch point with the client, making the necessary changes to eliminate irritants and ensure a positive and consistent customer experience across all channels. This approach requires an investment in IT systems that are capable of addressing issues such as customer data analysis, product innovations, processes, content generation and delivery, channels.
“Channel integration is extremely important and it’s something that many South African insurance companies are neglecting,” says Collins. “Yes, you might have a Facebook page or a beautiful website, but is there true integration with your customer service teams? You can get a quote through many insurers’ websites, but you can’t actually buy the policy without engaging in a long telephonic conversation. You might have developed a mobile solution, but is it integrated with other processes? The various communication channels should be looked at holistically, not independently.”
A customer centric approach drives the need for legacy modernisation and system replacements, as well as further investment in data repositories and analytics. Use these systems to focus on reducing the complexities and cost of product delivery and management through product standardisation. Finally, deliver innovative products that fit the customer’s needs.
Collins concludes by saying the insurance industry needs a game-changer, an organisation that is willing to conduct the analysis and implement the changes. This organisation will take the lead and, ultimately, enjoy increased customer loyalty and social referrals.