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12:34 PM
Ravi Koka, Polaris Financial Technology
Ravi Koka, Polaris Financial Technology
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Customer Experience Starts With A Vision

Designing customer experience to cover all touch points and support multiple channels is critical for insurers to create long-term brand value.

Customer experience is not a new concept. It is a mature practice in the retail and service industries like hospitality. These industries depend on the customer experience for repeat business and to increase their sales through word of mouth referrals.

Ravi Koka
Ravi Koka, Polaris Software Labs Inc.

The advent of internet and mobile apps has spawned social media sites that provide ratings on customer experience based on user feedback. The luxury car market, with brands like Lexus, has successfully created a brand and differentiation based on their approach to customer experience. When you get your car serviced at your Lexus dealer the experience begins immediately with the service representative scheduling your appointment. The experience continues throughout the entire service with conveniences like a loaner car so your day can continue as normal. You can get a back massage while you wait. Accurate and timely status of service activities and cost estimates are provided using mobile apps and you have the opportunity to communicate through text messages and respond in real time with your decisions. The customer experience is designed for all aspects of the service and customer touch points in a seamless fashion.

In the insurance industry customer centricity and experience is evolving and the renewed impetus has been new channels of interaction like the web and mobile apps. Real-time analytics to understand customer preferences, propensity to buy certain products, and precision marketing to implement targeted campaigns are possible using large amounts of structured/unstructured data, both internal and external. Insurance companies can learn from social media applications like Yelp which leverage time and location data based on the individual's mobile device to provide relevant and contextual information to the user.

[Koka discusses how architecture for continuous migration can provide a single view of the customer across multiple systems, channels and devices: What Matters In IT: Gaining the 360-Degree Customer View]

Traditionally the interaction was primarily with an agent or a call center via phone or face to face. Today interaction is through multiple channels. Insurers need to address customer experience solutions comprehensively and not as piecemeal projects that impact only certain areas like buying online or settling claims. Customer expectations today require thinking through all touch points and designing appropriate interactions and ensuring a consistent experience with quality customer data. An ideal design should be proactive and anticipate customer needs rather than react to a customer request.

This is easier said than done as most insurers run into the "legacy siloed system issues" as I discussed in a prior article. Synchronizing data across channels is a key element as this could lead to a poor experience at a higher cost of customer service and loss of brand value. Most insurers have initiatives to create a single source of truth for customer data but a lot of these projects have failed to deliver the promise as budget overruns have resulted in compromising on functionality.

The customer experience design must cover all touch points starting with shopping, buying, policy servicing and claims handling. It needs to be designed to support multiple channels. Budget constraints may not make it possible to cover all areas in one project. Finally, designing the customer experience should not just be an IT initiative that looks at bringing in new technologies like rich UI, mobile, big data and cloud. It should start with senior management articulating the company's vision for transforming the customer experience to the next level. Business and IT then need to create an operating model and roadmap with prioritized capabilities and an incremental delivery plan that improves the customer experience in a measurable way.

Ravi Koka is CTO, Insurance Products, at Polaris Financial Technology Ltd.

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Kelly22
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Kelly22,
User Rank: Author
2/27/2014 | 1:53:55 PM
re: Customer Experience Starts With A Vision
Your story aligns closely with a point of Ravi's that I especially liked: "An ideal design should be proactive and anticipate customer needs rather than react to a customer request." While insurers must overcome data management hurdles to do things like this, they should strive for that level of customer service.
amudha.somu
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amudha.somu,
User Rank: Apprentice
2/26/2014 | 10:54:58 AM
re: Customer Experience Starts With A Vision
Dear Ravi - Very well said about the customer experience particularly I liked your reference to mature retail market and hospitals. We need to put ourself in customer shoes to actually experience the way customer experiences...like the way you said about Lexus. Like to share my experience --
Last week I got a call from a Medical shop (Apollo) asking me , when I'll pick up a medicine. I was surprised, I never ordered one. Then I got an answer that the Medical prescription showed 2 months but I bought only 1 bottle which will last only one month and its time to visit the shop again . Its true and I did visited. Also, its obvious that if i visit, Ill pick up more items for my daughter . The shop also knows from my previous bill having several other generic items.
Nathan Golia
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Nathan Golia,
User Rank: Apprentice
2/13/2014 | 8:56:40 PM
re: Customer Experience Starts With A Vision
I would say that when the agent channel was the dominant way insurance was sold, insurance also was a word-of-mouth business... go see "my guy" (or gal). That's what social media is automating in today's world, though instead of the experience with a person, very often you'll see social comments with regard to insurers talk about how easy to use a carrier's site is. The customer experience and the way it's spread organically, clearly, are fundamentally altered.
Ravi Koka
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Ravi Koka,
User Rank: Author
2/13/2014 | 3:31:55 PM
re: Customer Experience Starts With A Vision
Rick - Could not agree more. It has to be a holistic view and technology is only an enabler as Kathy suggested. One needs to balance how much automation you want to use. All of us are frustrated when we can't get a live operator when we get stuck in a conversation with a robot. This is what makes the difference in good design where the user has the ability to choose based on his experience and needs. IT is part of our lives so you can't wish it away and organizations need to make the right investments to achieve their customer experience vision.
Ravi Koka
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Ravi Koka,
User Rank: Apprentice
2/13/2014 | 3:31:55 PM
re: Customer Experience Starts With A Vision
Rick - Could not agree more. It has to be a holistic view and technology is only an enabler as Kathy suggested. One needs to balance how much automation you want to use. All of us are frustrated when we can't get a live operator when we get stuck in a conversation with a robot. This is what makes the difference in good design where the user has the ability to choose based on his experience and needs. IT is part of our lives so you can't wish it away and organizations need to make the right investments to achieve their customer experience vision.
KBurger
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KBurger,
User Rank: Author
2/13/2014 | 3:08:04 PM
re: Customer Experience Starts With A Vision
Rick -- thanks for your comments, totally agree. I think Ravi addresses this by saying: "Designing the customer experience should not just be an IT initiative that looks at bringing in new technologies like rich UI, mobile, big data and cloud. It should start with senior management articulating the company's vision for transforming the customer experience to the next level." The technologies are essential enablers, but it won't happen without a mission, culture and behaviors that prioritize CXP. By the same token, rhetoric about "we value customer experience" means nothing without a long-term commitment to making investments (not just tech but training, recognition, etc.) that support it.
RickH162
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RickH162,
User Rank: Apprentice
2/13/2014 | 8:43:20 AM
re: Customer Experience Starts With A Vision
Ravi & Kathy - Yes - agree that mature industries like retail have long recognised the value of customer experience (cx) as an ongoing journey rather than specific processes. But I wouldn't want your article to encourage people to think of cx delivery as something that is necessarily led by technology.
Ultimately, cx is about people. Go back a hundred years, and look at the history of the great hotels of Europe. Their success was about word-of-mouth, of how guests were recognised, understood and looked after. There was zero IT involved. Instead, it consisted of hand-written notes of who came to stay when, and what preferences they had, for rooms, food and beyond.
We may have found ways to support mass customer service through technology, but many industries have lost the human touch in their quest for automated efficiency.
KBurger
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KBurger,
User Rank: Author
2/12/2014 | 9:04:59 PM
re: Customer Experience Starts With A Vision
Interesting insights, Ravi, and I think this point is key: "Insurers need to address customer experience solutions comprehensively and not as piecemeal projects that impact only certain areas like buying online or settling claims." As many other industry experts have pointed out, providing a great customer experience that translates into loyalty, retention and revenues is a journey, not a one-off project. I know it can be hard to take the long view when there are budget, resource and compliance pressures, but that's the only way that these investments and initiatives make sense.
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