This article first appeared in the Winter 2015 issue of OnWindows.
Digital has transformed the way we work, shop and socialise. Today, customers can research their products and services before contacting sales staff; they can continue a conversation across a growing range of devices and platforms; and they share their opinions and experiences with a global audience at the touch of a fingertip. They expect the same immediacy from the businesses they deal with. In this connected, digitally-enabled environment, businesses of all kinds are re-examining every aspect of their customer engagement and operations – and insurers are in a unique position to benefit.
Many insurers are working with disparate information silos and complex networks of agents, brokers, underwriters and claims adjusters. They’re also increasingly under pressure from new entrants who have none of those legacy issues and can afford to compete on a cost basis. But cost isn’t everything. In this fast-moving industry, true differentiation lies in delivering a unique experience that connects staff and agents with the resources they need to puts the customer at the centre. It’s not simply about transacting with customers anymore; it’s about attracting and engaging them, partnering them to achieve their goals, and making it easy for them to do business with you. That is what we mean when we discuss the digital insurer.
The digital insurer is built on three pillars: creating omni-channel experiences for customers and agents; delivering insight to producers, sales teams and agent networks; and enabling digital work styles. Putting those pillars in place enables insurers to unlock the potential of customers, employees and intermediaries.
Creating an omni-channel experience means putting the customer at the centre of a seamless, interactive environment so they can pick up a conversation on any channel they choose. By digitising interactions across all channels, including mobile applications, consumer portals, call centres and social media, you can make that experience available in the anytime, anywhere mobile environment people expect.
This presents a unique challenge for insurers. Unlike banking, where customers typically contact the corporation direct, insurance often involves a middle tier of agents, some employed by the company and some working independently. Insurers know that in order to build loyalty and increase sales, they need to treat those agents like customers too.
Insight is the key to delivering that experience. Digital interaction yields unprecedented amounts of information about your customers, but too often it is locked in silos that prevent agents and service staff seeing the full picture. Breaking down those silos to enable a 360-degree view of the customer’s relationships, products and interactions will establish the customer as the focal point of sales and marketing efforts, turning data into insight that can empower insurance carriers to price their offer correctly, assess risk, and recommend the best products for that customer.
A digital insight system will take interactions from the agent channel, customer web and mobile channels, the service centre, existing siloed back-end systems and from marketing and social interactions, bringing them all together to create that 360-degree view.
Enabling digital work styles is the third key pillar of the digital insurer concept. Many insurance companies have thousands of agents, some of whom are employed by the company while others are independent – and all of them need access to key information and productivity tools, wherever they are and whatever device they’re using. Providing familiar tools that can be used on any device is essential to enabling your people to collaborate more effectively and be more productive whether they’re in the office or in the field with customers. This is about setting agents, brokers and claims adjusters free on a mobile device and empowering them with mobile applications that replicate everything they can do in the office so they can engage, support and sell to customers wherever they are, on their device of choice.
The digital insurer is a customer-centric, proactive and competitive organisation that delivers a unique and engaging experience to customers and agents. It’s about achieving the 360-degree view that has become essential to success in this intensely competitive industry. It’s a concept that looks to the future of the industry, and one that Microsoft, and our network of global, regional and local partners, are making a reality for insurers today.
Dennis Vanderlip is industry solutions director for worldwide insurance at Microsoft
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