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12:07 PM
Paul Dolbec, Oracle
Paul Dolbec, Oracle
Commentary
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The Importance of Operationalizing Customer Experience

Technology alone will not lead to the optimal customer experience. These tools must be incorporated in to an approach that spans people and process as well.

In today's hyper-connected world, we are seeing an increasing demand for connectivity across the insurance ecosystem – encompassing the insured, providers, and producers. Today, in our personal and professional lives, we are coming to expect, and to increasingly depend on, instant access to information regardless of our location. These expectations are rising in tandem with meteoric growth in the adoption of mobile technology. In early June, the Pew Internet and American Life Project released its latest study on cell phone adoption in the United States, and for the first time, more than a majority of Americans – 56% – now own smartphones . This represents an 11% increase over the group's September 2012 findings .

Together, the rise of ubiquitous connectivity and emergence of other macro trends, such as residual impacts of the financial downturn and shifting demographics, are converging to create a perfect storm – and opportunity – for the insurance industry to re-evaluate its approach to customer experience.

Insureds are demanding more immediate, 24/7 access to their policies, claims, and pricing and are not afraid to change providers if a provider is unable to meet their demands. Producers are demanding similar levels of connectivity and information access in their quest to distinguish their risk solutions, products, and service delivery.

It is no longer enough to have an effective website and a responsive call center. Insurance organizations must differentiate themselves across all channels, touch points, and interactions to acquire and retain loyal customers. To make things even more complicated, insurers must make these customer service improvements – with seamless, multichannel communications, billing, and sales tools – while also complying with numerous operational, regulatory, and financial requirements. But, the rewards can be great. When insurers deliver an exceptional and engaging customer experience (CX), it can translate to a significantly stronger bottom line for both acquisition and retention efforts.

Overcoming the Status Quo

Insurance companies not currently offering an integrated, seamless, multi-channel CX, are not alone. Oracle recently conducted research on how businesses are managing CX as part of a global study, "Global Insights on Succeeding in the Customer Experience Era." As part of the research, Oracle surveyed insurance executives from 18 countries in North America, Asia Pacific, Europe, and Latin America to assess their CX programs, and only 39% say they have implemented some formalized CX program, with only 13% claiming their programs are advanced. Further, 48% of those surveyed had no active CX program implementation.

Many insurance companies feel that they have much to overcome from both a managerial and technology standpoint to offer customers the experience they have come to expect in other parts of their lives. According to the survey, insurance executives say the top obstacles to implementing an advanced CX program were siloed organizations and conflicting key performance indicators (37 percent), followed closely by a lack of money/budget (33 percent), and the limitations of inflexible technology and infrastructure (33 percent).

[The top 5 insurers for customer experience]

These hurdles can be very challenging, but are by no means insurmountable. Insurers that work to strategically tackle these challenges stand to see impressive gains. Executives surveyed said that their organizations are unable to capitalize on an additional 14% of revenue, on average, by not offering a positive, consistent, and engaging CX. For competitive organizations focused on not only maintaining, but acquiring net-new revenue, a sophisticated CX platform is a key differentiator that can provide a significant return on investment in a relatively short period of time.

Benefiting Customers, Growing Revenue

Fortunately, as data-driven organizations, insurance companies often already have much of the essential technology in place to support a comprehensive CX platform. CX solutions need a strong data foundation and a robust customer integration solution that provides a complete customer view and supports a seamless experience across all channels, including social media. When insurers combine robust data with a unified analytical approach, they can identify and analyze trends to support even greater personalization and meaningful customer interaction.

However, the challenge with CX solutions involves not only establishing metrics but also measuring them. As such, solutions need to operationalize customer insight processes – defining them so as to make them distinguishable and measurable – and automate them to ensure rapid delivery of information when and where it is needed.

For example, customers should be able to start an interaction online, and then continue that discussion on the telephone or in person – their data should automatically go where they go. The right technology can track interactions regardless of channel to create a comprehensive view of each customer. With this 360-degree perspective, insurance companies can leverage this information to increase up- and cross-selling within the existing insured base. Further, they can use this data to evaluate existing marketing campaigns and implement new and more targeted campaigns.

That said, technology alone will not lead to the optimal CX. These tools must be incorporated in to an approach that spans people, process, as well as technology, to achieve maximum revenue and customer benefits. In short, innovative CX platforms and overall strategies will not only improve customer satisfaction, but also lower total cost of ownership for CX services and grow sales opportunities – benefits that are good for the customer and the bottom line.

About the author:Paul Dolbec is director, Insurance Industry, Financial Services Global Business Unit, Oracle

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