The Connected Business of Insurance
February 27, 2015
As the insurance marketplace continues to evolve and consumer choice grows, customer experience is becoming a leading factor defining brand equity and building customer loyalty. Customer experience is defined by how our customers perceive their interactions with our organization throughout the customer lifecycle, from brand awareness to purchasing products/services to fulfilling on-going needs for support and services.
According to a recent Gartner survey, 89% of companies surveyed plan to compete primarily on the basis of customer experience by 2016. In an industry established on personalized advice and service, today’s independent insurance agencies and brokerages need to create a customer experience framework that anticipates customer needs, offers insight and knowledge and fulfills that need, ultimately earning trust and loyalty during the process.
To develop a customer experience framework, agencies and brokerages should consider these steps and take note of companies that have excelled in these areas:
Define the brand – First, establish or reaffirm the overarching ideas that represent the brand. Agencies and brokerages should use this as an opportunity to emphasize their role as a trusted advisor. By building a brand story, agencies and brokerages increase trust and customer loyalty.
- Who does it well: Nike.
Whether representing world-class professional athletes or building local playgrounds out of recycled shoes, Nike has built and maintained its brand around sportsmanship and health. Alongside the swoosh symbol, Nike’s “Just Do It” campaign perfectly embodied Nike’s image as being an innovative global icon associated with success. Using emotional marketing to put the customer first and tell stories of the hero who overcame physical obstacles, the brand is easy for most consumers to relate to and feel inspired by. This feeling of inspiration and Nike’s positioning as a brand helps everyman achieve goals establishes the company as a trusted advisor.
Know the players – Agencies and brokerages need to re-assess all of the touchpoints in their customer lifecycle, including internal employees, like CSRs and producers, and external communication channels, like online and mobile. As customer experience is defined by all interactions across an organization, agencies and brokerages need each stakeholder actively engaged in the customer experience framework development and execution to ensure consistency.
- Who does it well: Apple.
Apple has a knack for anticipating customer needs and making sure that every Apple employee is equipped to help manage these requests. Apple offers customers the ability to make support appointments at Apple stores to avoid having to wait in line. Once in the store, employees are encouraged to use the customer’s first name shared through their appointment request. In this way, the customer avoids having to introduce himself and the employee creates a personalized experience as if he knows the customer on a first name basis. From there, that employee is encouraged to pass discreet details, such as articles of clothing, about the customer to the other employees encouraging a first name greeting through all interactions with store employees. Even at the point of sale, there is no line to a checkout counter, the transaction can be completed from anywhere in the store. As this Forbes article points out, “the final impression you have is as warm as the first: You’re cared for every step of the way [by every employee], from cradle to credit card.”
Meet the new insurance customer – Agents and brokers looking to build their book of business are focused on the next wave of insurance consumers – the millennials. With an evolving knowledge of the defining characteristics of baby boomers and Generation X, agents and brokers need to shift their focus to millennials to understand their preferences. Whether a baby boomer or millennial, agencies and brokerages should continuously evaluate customer segments and how their varying needs will impact customer experience.
- Who does it well: Zendesk.
Zendesk, a global customer support company, has implemented multiple best practices to attract and retain millennials as consumers. Mikkel Svane, founder and CEO of Zendesk, was interviewed in a recent Forbes article saying millennials are “more likely to tweet about their problem and share their experience with their friends and followers, which makes it hard for companies that aren’t as savvy on social media to handle.” By investing more in these channels and being present where millennials communicate, they can quickly respond to this tech-savvy generation. On top of this, they’ve recognized the need for millennials to want personal conversations and interact by phone. Their approach to phone conversations is not to quickly resolve the issue, but to develop meaningful conversations and act as a trusted advisor. “[We’ve always] tried to “touch” every customer and focus on the relationship more than the sale, and I think we’ve carried all those lessons with us as the company has grown” said Mikkel Svane. This strategy to serve millennials echoes some of Applied’s findings based on a recent survey of millennials, which noted that 67% of millennial respondents said they call directly to interact with their insurance providers and 65% of respondents also said they preferred calling direct as opposed to other methods of communication.
Tap into technology – With the proliferation of mobile and anytime, anywhere access to information via the Internet, agencies and brokerages need to leverage digital technology to deliver multichannel customer service. This includes maintaining a branded, up-to-date website where clients can access the latest product information, and online client self-service portals. Social media also should be used to raise agency and brokerage brand awareness, as well as used as a channel to learn more about clients. Agencies and brokerages also can look to mobile apps to empower staff to service clients away from the office and for clients to use for self-service insurance needs.
- Who does it well: Delta.
Delta has invested in multiple technology opportunities to improve customer service. The Fly Delta app (ranked #1 airline app) allows customers to quickly check in and go paperless through security and gate ticketing with easy access to their eBoarding Pass. What’s even better is the app can keep customers engaged during their flights, giving them the ability to explore different Delta destinations, activities at various destinations, and entertainment options such as music and movies. While technically a robust app, it is easy to use and provides the self-service that customers expect.Delta also uses social media to effectively communicate with customers. Have a question or concern about your flight? Tweet @DeltaAssist and their customer service team will quickly respond. From their mobile app to social media, Delta ensures technology can be used to streamline every touchpoint within each customer’s experience.
Measure and assess – It is important for agencies and brokerages to determine meaningful metrics at the beginning of the process to effectively measure and evaluate customer experience success and momentum. Measurement and analysis should be a continuous component of the customer experience, ensuring each element of the overall experience is seamless and consistent.
- Who does it well: Amazon.
Amazon’s customer-centric attitude and culture is what makes the experience with the company so great. In fact, Jeff Bezos makes sure all employees, no matter what department, know how to properly communicate with customers and cater to their needs. Amazon also makes their experience unique by using customer data collected during each interaction with their site. Amazon’s use of browsing history and recent purchases helps them predict who will order what and when. The use of “predictive analytics” allows them to use past buying patterns to ensure the right items are in stock and recommend alternate purchases.
Developing a customer experience framework requires multiple tactics and commitment to robust planning and process. Agencies and brokerages that develop their own multi-tactic customer experience framework will earn trust, loyalty and ultimately create clients for life.
What tactics are you using to enhance your customer’s experience? Share your thoughts below.
Kris Hackney, executive vice president of customer experience, is responsible for Applied’s customer delivery strategy and operational execution for the Company’s Professional Services, Support and Cloud-based solutions. She is the former vice president of Worldwide Enterprise Solutions & Services for Chicago-based SPSS Inc., a leading global provider of predictive analytics software and solutions, now part of IBM.