I have noticed a trend at the many conferences I’ve attended around the world: The insurance industry is changing for the better. Technology companies leading the movement include industry newcomers like Lemonade, Metromile and Ladder. Some call these companies disruptors, others call them innovators. So, what makes these companies successful and, at the same time, different from traditional insurance providers?
At Industry Insights, a conference hosted by the Professional Insurance Marketing Association (PIMA), of which I was recently named a chair, the answer was obvious: Customer expectations are changing. Millennials and Gen Zers are setting high standards for how they expect to interact with businesses. We live in the time of Google, Facebook and Uber, where technology companies are becoming increasingly good at servicing our unique needs while providing instant gratification.
For too long, the insurance industry has been slow to respond to changing market trends in user experience (UX) , but the tide is turning. Customer-centricity is becoming the new game in town and technology companies are leading the way. Traditional insurance companies can adapt to new customer expectations with some crucial adjustments to their mindsets. Here are the five most important takeaways I learned from my conversations with insurance trendsetters.
Understand Your Customers And Their Journeys
Knowing your customers and mapping their customer journeys — the process every buyer goes through leading up to a purchase — has always been essential to any business strategy. Today’s customer journeys include more channels and touch points. According to Ido Segev, an advisor and partner at McKinsey & Company, even when it comes to something as “conservative” as life insurance, 47% of life insurance customers prefer an omnichannel journey. They expect the same experience through search, social, website, app and in-person interactions with the company.
The most successful insurance companies provide a consistent user experience (UX) across all channels. ” A seamless experience depends on an understanding of key customer journeys,” says Segev. ” Understand the customer at a level where you can address their needs. It is important to know what people are thinking and what they are feeling.”
Keep in mind that your customer journeys are not static – they will evolve as your competitors, markets and technology change. Make sure to update your customer journey at least once a year to stay relevant.
Put The Customer First
Remember the old saying, “Give the customer what they want?” Today more than ever, this notion is on target. When you’re designing customer-facing experiences, don’t start with an “If we build it, they will come” mindset. This could lead to dangerous assumptions and bias and create an opinion-centric design that works for you but not for your customers.
A better strategy begins with what the customer wants and then determines what to offer and how to offer it. As Amit Dhadwal, chief strategy officer at Aon Risk Solutions, suggests, ” Have the customers lead; you put the customer first and move backwards from that.” This approach is a more organic way to grow existing businesses and build new areas of capability.
This line of thinking dovetails with my own observations about the world’s best insurance and insurtech websites . What makes these websites so effective? They deliver on customers’ needs and wants, and the teams behind each site have gathered information directly from the source, eliminating guesswork from the equation.
Get Customer Feedback Upfront
In my experience conducting UX audits for insurance companies, consumers often either walk away or get frustrated after feeling like they’ve wasted time with insurance websites and apps. Getting customer input before launching new or updated features can prevent adverse outcomes.
As explained by Bill Gould, the vice president of Securian Financial Group, ” It is all about customer experience,” Gould says. “Putting customers first makes everything better. [At our company] we spend more time rethinking the entire process: not only how to make something simpler, but more along the lines what if we were to throw it away?”
Transform Transactional Relationships Into Emotional Ones
Companies that solve their customers’ problems by understanding their goals and challenges are able to connect with them on a deeper level. This creates a path toward changing the nature of the customer relationship.
As Ani Matson of Digital Marketing Strategies says, insurance companies should strive to ” transform transactional relationships into emotional ones.”
Developing an accurate buyer persona , a fictionalized representation of your customers and their demographics, needs, wants and challenges is an important step in this transformation. To be effective, however, it must be based on real, objective data. In development and design, it is dangerous to succumb to confirmation bias — twisting information about customers in a way that supports your own beliefs or opinions.
Once you understand your customers’ goals and challenges, you should be laser-focused on them. As Matson advises, ” Do one thing and do it really well.”
The most important takeaway from my interactions with insurance industry leaders was the significance of one emerging trend: customer-centricity. The key to meeting evolving customer expectations is not only to champion customer-centricity in your company but to also lead others by practicing what you preach.
Consider the following questions to determine whether you are “disrupting” and changing insurance for the better or you are in danger of getting disrupted:
1. Do you rely on data, research and analytics for a consistent, holistic view of your customers?
2. Do you apply customer-centric design principles by putting customers first and getting customer feedback upfront?
3. Do you make unbiased, objective decisions that are not influenced by your opinion or the opinions of stakeholders?
If you answered “no” to any of these questions, consider bringing in outside help. A UX expert can provide an unbiased perspective and give you tools and insights to start moving in the right direction. With this knowledge, you’ll understand where you’ve deviated, identify where you are vulnerable to assumption and bias, position your company to succeed in customer-centricity, and ensure that your company thrives as markets and customer expectations evolve.
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