“Customer experience is the new battleground for differentiation in the insurance industry.” – Karlyn Carnahan, Head of Property & Casualty at Celent
With millennials reaching an age where they have significant buying power and market influence, we’ve seen a dramatic change in society. This change is driven by the extremely fast evolution of connected technology such as the Internet, mobile devices, the Cloud, artificial intelligence, and big data. Millennials are the drivers of customer expectation because they grew up with the Internet and were socialized to expect immediate gratification. To be competitive and attract millennial customers, insurers are rethinking their business models and showing a willingness to digitize their systems. This process of digitization however, can be expensive, and new insurer models include the expectation of a seamless customer experience.
The customer experience is both tangible and intangible in the carrier-technology vendor relationship. The tangible begins with initial engagement (electronic or physical), selling cycle, implementation, and support. After deciding to spend considerable budgets on new technology, insurers vet vendors on product functionality, financial stability, industry knowledge and experience, and thought leadership. Survey results published by Celent shows that 69% of carriers expect vendors to be competent thought leaders. The intangible includes vendor perception and reputation. Perception in how the company is viewed by its audience. Does it practice corporate social responsibility? Is it eco-friendly? Does it treat its employees well?
The initial engagement is both electronic and physical. Electronic engagement includes an online brand presence such as website content, published articles, white papers, case studies, emails, blogs etc. Physical engagement includes meeting sales executives, thought leaders, and subject matter experts. This initial engagement can be initiated via conferences, through client or industry analyst referrals, and leads generated from marketing campaigns, press and activities. Customers will lose interest if your website is difficult to navigate or if your articles and emails do not address their touchpoints of interest and show industry leadership. You will not be considered if your sales executives are unable to effectively articulate their value proposition, showing deep understanding of industry and customer needs, and the ability of their solutions to effectively address those needs. Millennials expect you to communicate openly, often, and to utilize mobile and messaging technologies.
Selling cycles include RFI and RFP responses, initial meetings, workshops, product demonstrations, sales follow-up, and proposals and contract negotiations. Being prompt and prepared is very important as it helps to set the tone of your interaction.
Your audience will expect a concise but effective demonstration of your products and services, and the ability of your organization to support them. Showcasing your product quality, showing subject expertise, and having confidence in your ability to deliver what the customer wants, enhances customer engagement and is usually a huge factor in the decision-making process. Millennials want your presentations and demonstrations to be short and to the point, more on substance than the “sales pitch”, and look forward to learning from you during the process. Customer references are a final proof-point that you can demonstrate capability, and the ability to deliver and support customers during and post solution implementation.
Implementation includes deploying a cohesive project team, gathering detailed business and technical requirements in a way that shows you are committed to the team’s success through understanding the nuances of their business. Millennials expect the teams to blend as one cohesive unit—Customer/Vendor/Systems Integrator—with roles and responsibilities clearly defined, and regular communications plans in place. Time should be devoted to overall system design to improve efficiencies and provide more flexibility for users, rather than a new implementation of old business models that are hampering the business. Configuring your product to meet customer needs is an iterative process where functionality is delivered to the business on an incremental basis for user testing and acceptance. Being honest about what you can and cannot do within specific timeframes builds trust. Providing credible timelines that can be met taking into account internal and external dependencies that will impact the project such as data being available from a policy management system before full testing of integrations can occur. Testing the product throughout the implementation is necessary so that misunderstandings or errors in configurations can be detected easily, and inefficiencies can be found and resolved prior to going live with the product.
Support requires your team to be accessible during and after an implementation. This leads to greater customer satisfaction and in the long term, leads to more referenceable customers and can generate new business referrals. Again, millennials want responses to issues to be instant, with teams deployed rapidly for quick resolution.
Effective communication throughout the project lifecycle is possibly the most effective element of the customer experience. Understanding millennials is key—they are not as demanding as some people would have it—they just want communication to be open, honest and instant, and when agreements are reached, actions to be executed as planned.
The intangibles that are a part of the customer experience are sometimes more important than the tangibles. Millennials are beginning to hold decision-making posts and they are very particular about the reputation, social responsibility, and eco-friendliness of the vendors they purchase from. If your organization is perceived as not caring about the environment or their communities (local and international), or if they have a reputation of treating their employees poorly, it could have a significant financial impact on the vendor.
At the end of the day, people like doing business with people they think are “just like them” or if they are not, can at least show they can understand and can communicate with them effectively. Customer/Vendor relationships in our industry are typically for 10 years or more and over time, like any relationship, will have ups and downs, but it all gets back to the desire to partner for the long term and communication.
“The technology of VUE Software demonstrated rich feature functionality with tremendous flexibility. The deciding factors were VUE’s financial strength and the fact that they were built for insurance,” “From the initial sales contact to the product demonstrations, the VUE team was efficient, professional, and timely. Their industry knowledge and domain expertise are a perfect fit for Aflac’s need for an enterprise-wide distribution system.” – Aflac Second Vice President, Jeff Arrington.