Management Strategies

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Saras Agarwal
Saras Agarwal
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The Mobile Customer of the Future

Insurers must use smartphones and tablets for voice communication, geographic information, and -- soon -- payment.

The approach of many successful startup companies: Think big, start small, scale fast.   

The US insurance industry is well over a century old. With its legacy systems, it’s not easy to scale fast. But with its ultra-long-term outlook and cross-generational view, the industry has “thinking big” in its DNA.

Now, in addition to thinking boldly about the future, the industry must learn how to act quickly on trends that are reshaping it. Promising mobile technologies are at the core of this transformation -- not for the sake of being digital alone, but because they are the most effective means to help companies get closer to their customers.

Being truly mobile and close to the customer means a mastery of touch technology, easy-to-navigate user interfaces, and apps. They are inseparable from each other. Mobile is not simply a website on a phone. Insurers must use the features of smartphones and tablets for voice communication, geographic information, and payment. Mobile apps also come with something that financial firms are only now getting comfortable with: communities that comment on the app, the firm, and the firm’s products. 

[Learn more about adopting mobile at this year's Interop session BYOD: Why and How IT Should Embrace Mobility.]

Within the context of the customer journey, mobility plays a part in each key stage -- research, awareness, sales, servicing, and relationship management. Our industry needs to be focused on developing tablet and mobile solutions that are accessible to clients. The relationship is aided when we can know our customers well enough to enable us to offer products that might be most suitable for their lifestyles and financial situations. Mobility enables a better client connection in three ways:

Saras Agarwal, AXA

1. Extending our reach to new platforms where customers themselves prefer to be and meeting the customers’ expectations that they’re going to be able to interact in the channel of their choice, whether it’s a desktop, an iPad or a smartphone.

2. Digitizing the sales cycle, giving our distribution channels more flexibility and tools to address ever-changing client needs. 

3. Increasing engagement to generate a greater number of customer interactions and therefore better data, allowing us to anticipate client needs and deliver more personal, relevant, and individualized solutions.

What is essential to remember is that the mobile strategy is an enhancement to, not a replacement for, a customer relationship model. Across our industry, end-to-end solutions are being built that give financial professionals and advisors the tools to be able to interact with clients at the time and place of the client’s choosing. When you can walk through a product on a mobile app, advisors can do their jobs without setting foot in an office, so they can be closer to their customers -- and that customer relationship has always been, and always will be, what our industry is about.

Saras Agarwal, Managing Director, leads Digital and Multichannel for AXA US. He is responsible for managing and advancing AXA US's Digital and Multichannel efforts with the goal of further enabling customer centric experiences and driving additional value for ... View Full Bio

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Kelly22
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Kelly22,
User Rank: Author
9/11/2014 | 12:34:13 PM
Re: Insurers prove me wrong on mobile
All good points. It's tough for insurers to maintain high levels of customer satisfaction when they only need to communicate with policyholders a few times a year. Those interactions, given that they usually involve loss, really demand good customer service, but insurers can also boost their satisfaction ratings by catering to their increasingly mobile customers through mobile offerings. 

It's interesting that you mention the potential for mobile websites over apps. I recently spoke with an insurer that was placing more focus on making its website mobile-friendly to save customers the trouble of downloading an app. The value of a native app varies from insurer to insurer, but those that warrant less customer interaction would likely be better off improving their mobile website. 
Nathan Golia
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Nathan Golia,
User Rank: Author
9/11/2014 | 12:12:30 PM
Re: Insurance industry has a head start on mobile (or ought to)
Your point is spot-on, David. Some insurers separate the ideas of agent-facing mobile apps from customer-facing ones. Clearly both have a  lot to learn from each other and should be more unified in strategy, however.
Nathan Golia
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Nathan Golia,
User Rank: Author
9/11/2014 | 12:11:00 PM
Re: Insurers prove me wrong on mobile
Thanks Doug. Many insurers do take the approach you're talking about in terms of making their mobile websites more responsive and robust since so there is comparatively little reason to download an insurance app compared to banking or some other high-touch sector like retail. However, many insurers also would like to give their customers more reason to interact with them for value-added services — especially in the hyper-competetive auto space — and we're seeing theories about incorporatings things like roadside assistance or travel tips/discounts with partners.
D. Henschen
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D. Henschen,
User Rank: Apprentice
9/11/2014 | 11:56:22 AM
Insurers prove me wrong on mobile
I do transactions with banks all the time, but I only want to have contact with my insurers once per year -- when I pay my premiums. For that I'm happy to use a Web site, but I have to admit that I could see the utility of using a mobile device to file a claim or to call up an insurance ID card. How about taking pictures of your valuables as a record in the event of fire or theft?

I've seen a number of good cases for downloading native apps. Nonetheless, I think insurers in particular should make extra efforts to make such functionality available through browser-based mobile web sites without need of a native app. I think most insurance customers don't want and don't anticipate needing freqent contact with an insurer. If they are in frequent touch, it means there's a claim situation that they probably didn't anticipate. 
Jonathan_Camhi
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Jonathan_Camhi,
User Rank: Author
9/11/2014 | 11:54:41 AM
Communities
I think your comment on the communities that are enabled through the mobile is spot on. The most end-user friendly apps that I've seen in financial services often incorporate the comments that they receive about their mobile apps and services.
David F. Carr
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David F. Carr,
User Rank: Apprentice
9/11/2014 | 10:22:35 AM
Insurance industry has a head start on mobile (or ought to)
Given that insurance was an early adopter of mobile tech for purposes like filing claims from the field, the industry ought to have a head start - or, at least, those firms that did a good job of providing truly usable apps for their agents ought to be better positioned to deliver quality consumer apps. The two audience are different, but the basic principles of usability are the same. Right?
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