Data & Analytics

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Incorporate Test-&-Learn Cycles for Optimal Customer Experience

As consumers become more aware, knowledgeable, and self-empowered, it becomes critical for the business to engage with consumers from their point of view.

How often do you shop for insurance? Like most people, probably not that frequently -- it’s up there with going to the dentist. But I was working on a project recently, and wanted to illustrate a point about the poor customer buying experience on a particular company’s website by sharing some good-practice examples. You might think that I would head right over to Amazon or eBay, but no: We’ve got some great customer experience examples in our own industry backyard!

I selected one of the large direct insurers and started an online automobile quote. Before I even got started, I was asked if I’d like quotes on other insurance products. I entered my name, address, and date of birth and clicked the “start quote” button. A list of vehicles registered at my address automatically appeared. Once I confirmed the vehicles, my coverage limits from my current insurer magically appeared. Based on those existing limits, I was provided with a quote and a price-scenario builder that allowed me to change the price in real time. Throughout the process, I could continue the quote in multiple channels (click to chat, call center agent, or mobile) without losing my information. From start to finish, the quote took less than five minutes. In this time, the company managed to overcome my five primary fears about shopping for insurance:

  • It’s complicated and confusing.
  • This is going to take forever.
  • I will have to provide tons of information.
  • They’re just going to try and sell me stuff I don’t need.
  • Am I getting a good deal?

I captured some screenshots of my quote and shared them with the other organization. As we compared the online experiences between the two companies, it became readily apparent that there was a lot of opportunity to improve the buying experience by making it easier, less scary, and more relevant. Where to start?

  • Step 1: Focus. Define “better customer experience,” since it can encompass any number of different processes. In this case, the company focused on the online buying process and identified customer pain points. If you’re not clear about your objective, you’ll never be able to deliver on your customer experience initiative.

[Previously from Alt-Simmons: An Enterprise View of Insurance Customer-Centricity.]

  • Step 2: Define. Once you’ve established what and where, focus in on who and why. Qualitatively, you will want to watch potential customers go through the process and collect feedback. Quantitatively analyze or create predictive models from Web data and look for spots where users are taking a long time, or are abandoning the online buying process. This company identified four distinct buying personas in its prospect base as it analyzed prospect Web data and existing customer demographic data. Humanize your personas (give them names and personalities) and craft user stories to define them.
  • Step 3: Ideate. Using your analysis from step two, explore solutions. At this stage, don’t focus on internal or external constraints. Create idealized processes for your personas. For example, one of the company’s older age segments had a high abandon rate. Additional analysis determined that some of these prospects would later come through the call center. In the ideate process, placing a click-to-call (CTC) option, for example, might help if the prospect wanted to speak to a live representative.
  • Step 4: Design. Once there is some defined ideal processes, create some low-fidelity prototypes. This gets to the “how” of your ideas. Your initial prototype might be as simple as a bunch of sticky notes on a whiteboard, but it will morph into real plans. In addition to CTC mentioned above, identified site content could be simplified.
  • Step 5: Build and test. While the CTC functionality requires a larger investment by the organization, streamlining site content could be fairly simply implemented and tested. In fact, the process provides an opportunity to evaluate the impact of content on conversion rates before implementing more expensive functionality. The company timed the release of several test site designs with a new branding campaign.

For one insurer, its customer experience team uses an iterative test-and-learn approach in its design processes. As new customer workflows are designed and executed, results are used to adjust the processes continually going forward. Automation tools allow the insurer to create multiple variants of its site, and data analysis drives a closed-loop measurement process. This helps to determine how effective its tactics are and when to expand or pull back on a particular initiative.

As consumers become more aware, knowledgeable, and self-empowered, it becomes critical for the business to engage with consumers from their point of view: What do they want or need? What’s the most effective way to engage with them? How do I entice them into my agency or website? How do I get them to come back? There’s no one simple answer. But with all of the data and information available to insurers today, you no longer have to stab in the dark to find out what your customers will respond to.

Rachel Alt-Simmons is the Senior Industry Consultant for customer intelligence at SAS, based in Cary, NC. Simmons drove business intelligence initiatives at Travelers and Hartford Life, and was Research Director for Life and Annuity at research firm TowerGroup. View Full Bio

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Kelly22
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Kelly22,
User Rank: Author
12/1/2014 | 4:35:26 PM
Re: Building a better experience
It's crazy how much insurers can learn about how customers interact with their website offerings. With that much detailed data, businesses have the opportunity to learn about, and fix, even the tiniest errors in their online experience.
Becca L
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Becca L,
User Rank: Author
11/30/2014 | 11:03:22 PM
Re: Building a better experience
Great article! The more data insurers capture the better to build tests with predicative analytics. Today's tools show you where people are hovering their mouse and for how long, and if they start to fill out forms or type something into a search field and abandon half way. Firms need to direct resources to these high drop-off areas and gather data on the micro-behaviors that prempt abandoment. It will help direct tests of new customer experience.
Kelly22
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Kelly22,
User Rank: Author
11/20/2014 | 11:50:38 AM
Building a better experience
Thanks for sharing your thoughts, Rachel. Your story is a great example of how a well-developed customer experience strategy can make a huge difference. I really like your point in step 2 about humanizing customer personas. The more information insurers can gather about different customer groups, the better they can cater to the people within them. And of course step 5 is essential - no strategy is going to be perfect the first time, and practice can help insurers refine their approach.
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