March 17, 2014

In the hyper-competitive P&C insurance industry, actionable customer feedback is essential to developing the right strategy. Insurers have traditionally used manual customer surveys to measure the effectiveness of their new initiatives, but that is untenable in the digital age, says JoAnna Carey, marketing development manager for Foremost Insurance.

"A few years ago I was asked what my vision is for what the marketing research division should provide," Carey says. "We have a tremendous number of people retiring every year and a lot of data and knowledge goes with them. You have to use it as a springboard to find out what we can bring forward and automate."

Carey's division performs research for all divisions of the company, and when its design team was working on a new agent portal, it was clear that the old way of establishing user experience standards wasn't cutting it.

"The design team was struggling to figure out if they made it easy enough to use," she says. "We had done some usability testing, which was a more manual effort where you bring an agent in, but we thought it would be idea to send it to a larger group."

At a research conference, Carey encountered Qualtrics, which provided technology that Foremost could use to mark up a sample portal and see in real time how a pool of agents navigated it.

[Insurers bring need for speed to agent channel]

"We would give them scenarios like, 'Imagine someone just walked into your agency and they want to pay their bill for the next month,' then present them a picture and see how they reacted," Carey says. "We could put a line around areas where we see people clicked, and make decisions like whether or not we should make the whole button a hot area instead of just the words. And if they don't click an area you thought they would they click somewhere else, now what can we do?"

That's the new face of market research, Carey says. Foremost has a library of software that she and her team can comb through to find the right fit for the business need and get the best data back quickly. If they can't find the right fit, she says, she is able to go out to the company's vendors and ask if there's a new version or a new release that might have the needed capability.

"We want to help our clients understand the decision they're trying to make so we can form the right questions, methodology and software tools," she says. "We really can provide them with actionable insight if we use this as a process of discovery if we can sit together as business partners."

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Nathan Golia is senior editor of Insurance & Technology. He joined the publication in 2010 as associate editor and covers all aspects of the nexus between insurance and information technology, including mobility, ...