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Kathy Burger
Kathy Burger
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Improving Customer Experience In Insurance: It's Not Just About Technology

Insurers face numerous challenges in improving the customer experience, but the technology of customer experience may not be the hardest part.

We all know what a truly excellent customer experience is, even as we struggle to define and execute on this concept in insurance. After all, every carrier CIO, line-of-business executive, software developer and technology marketing professional is also a consumer. We're all policyholders and prospects, and we know what pleases or frustrates us in a business encounter. And all of us in the insurance technology world have had our expectations changed and shaped by our shopping, traveling and entertainment histories.


Any Place, Right TimeThe October 2013 digital issue of Insurance & Technology examines the evolution of customer experience best practices in insurance. Our cover story explores how sales and distribution models are changing as insurers adapt to policyholders' and agents expectations for a speedy, multichannel experience. To read more, download our October 2013 digital issue now.

For example, at the 2013 SMA Summit, SMA founder Deb Smallwood pointed to The Walt Disney Co. as a customer experience expert. It's not just that the company excels at service. What distinguishes Disney, according to Smallwood, is its ability to innovate and introduce new things while never wavering from its mission and what has made visitors love and return to the theme parks for more than 50 years. "Every time I go to one of those parks, it's the same experience but a different experience -- a new process or new techniques for lines," she related. "They've reinvented how to stand in line and make it enjoyable."

[Allstate Dives Into Mobile Claims Photos ]

If only making and keeping customers engaged and happy were as straightforward in insurance as it is at Walt Disney World. For insurers, venturing into the customer experience realm is more like the Tower of Terror than the Magic Kingdom. Said Smallwood: "It's dark, murky and full of challenges, because our world is complex." Anything an insurance company wants to change or do differently must be reconciled with "many different processes and systems, a complex IT environment. So when we go to implement a project or change [a process], it can get ugly before it gets better," she said.

Insurers know only too well there's no magic potion or sorcerer's spell that can provide immediate and unfailing insight into what customers want and how they will behave. That's where technology, research, collaboration and invention (along with long hours and lots of hand-holding) come into play.

At Scottsdale Insurance, everything from visualization tools to customer workshops to scenario planning to Web services is marshaled to help the carrier innovate on behalf of its customers, said Scott Good, senior director, customer innovations, at the SMA Summit. But this kind of interaction puts a huge burden on the insurer to deliver consistently. "Customers expect that you are listening and will follow up" on what they tell you, he said.

Thanks to technology consumerization, customers' have heightened expectations. Technology gives insurers the capability to meet and exceed those expectations. It's the culture part -- mission, vision, mindset, values, communications -- that's essential to transforming that legacy frog into a next-generation prince.

Katherine Burger is Editorial Director of Bank Systems & Technology and Insurance & Technology, members of UBM TechWeb's InformationWeek Financial Services. She assumed leadership of Bank Systems & Technology in 2003 and of Insurance & Technology in 1991. In addition to ... View Full Bio

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Byurcan
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Byurcan,
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10/3/2013 | 1:24:20 PM
re: Improving Customer Experience In Insurance: It's Not Just About Technology
In all different aspects of business, companies of all kinds are realizing they need to be more like Amazon etc., that this is what consumers expect. Some industries, insurance perhaps being one of them, are a little slower to get to that point, but eventually all industries will.
Greg MacSweeney
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Greg MacSweeney,
User Rank: Author
10/3/2013 | 12:31:47 PM
re: Improving Customer Experience In Insurance: It's Not Just About Technology
Exactly. I've yet to see an insurance company, or other financial services player, offer a similar experience to Amazon. They aren't even close.
KBurger
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KBurger,
User Rank: Author
10/3/2013 | 1:53:41 AM
re: Improving Customer Experience In Insurance: It's Not Just About Technology
You hit it on the head. Insurers need to think about experience & service not like insurers (although of course there are legal & compliance considerations that must always be addressed), but more like Amazon, Union Square Cafe, Jet Blue or any other entity that excels in this space. Banks already are learning this lesson as they are facing a new era of potential disintermediation from Google, Walmart, Paypal, et al. Thanks for the feedback.
ANON1234873724838
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ANON1234873724838,
User Rank: Apprentice
10/2/2013 | 11:05:09 PM
re: Improving Customer Experience In Insurance: It's Not Just About Technology
Good to see some discussion on customer experience. I don't believe it is any more difficult to impress customers in insurance than in other industries. Our experience is that it is actually easier. A company first has to be willing to take a long term view. Proactively delighting customers earns trust, which earns more business from those customers, even in new business arenas. Technology then becomes a key enabler. Could you imagine the experience if Amazon sold insurance?
ANON1234873724838
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ANON1234873724838,
User Rank: Apprentice
10/2/2013 | 10:26:24 PM
re: Improving Customer Experience In Insurance: It's Not Just About Technology
Good to see
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