March 3, 2014 | Written by: Wyatt Urmey
Categorized: Customer centricity | Human Resources
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As with many industries, engaging new customers is critical for insurance; that is, not just selling more to the large or traditional customers, but actually opening new markets and convincing new buyers and segments to become insurance clients for the first time. One of the most-desired segments for insurance globally are the Millennials, or Generation Y – and there is every indication that the best ways to capture this generation may be through mobile and digital technologies.
By offering a transparent, easy experience where Millennials can interact with your business in the way they have grown accustomed to, insurers will gain a competitive advantage that will increase market share, profitability and reduce costs. Those carriers willing to adapt to these Millennial expectations will be well rewarded for their efforts with all their customers, especially in this increasingly lucrative market segment.
So the convergence of social, mobile, digital, analytics and self-service smarter commerce technologies offer new ways to interact and convince this desirable segment and others of becoming new buyers. In my discussions, the value of these technologies to insurance is fairly well accepted, but where to start is often a more near-term challenge. There is more detail in the last posting that goes into some of the specific implications of these technologies for insurance, including the detail on the Digital Reinvention study — which is a must read for insurance, on the “everyone to everyone” social economy models which will offer opportunities and potential new adversaries for insurance.
True, these technologies have implications for how insurance will operate, as well as who might be the unexpected emerging competitors within the insurance industry of the near future. However, the perspectives might just hurry past a critical link in the value chain, which is the value of the actual client-facing person using any new technology to serve – often the weakest link in deployment plans when focus tends toward achieving value from the capital expenditure. Yet the customer still deals with a person in many transactions with insurance, so customer facing people offer actual differentiation potential – the agent, the broker or even the call-center person that deals directly with the customer can make or break a current or future sale. So why do most discussions of these technologies focus on the automation, self-service and disaggregation effect with agents and service people, rather than empowering them and increasing their value? Consider the case of American National Insurance Company , which shows that better supported agents and customer service with mobile technologies makes a difference in customer service. The point is the vigilant focus on the shiny new technology sometime underestimates the value of the people skills required to use it and achieve that value.
In December, we shared data and perspective on some of the reasons why retention and empowerment were critical in insurance, and this may be doubly-true when considering the customer-facing personnel. In their regard, it is interesting to consider another paradigm beyond the implications of the workforce management technology — that a new type of agent and service person could emerge: the ‘boundary worker.’ The boundary worker is termed because they sit right at the boundary of knowledge workers and traditional customer-facing service personnel – they are not quite knowledge workers only, but they could offer a new and attractive level of service to many new segments – including that of the desirable Millennials — because they are highly skilled and enabled to find expertise with social capabilities, where they lack it themselves.
This is not a new idea. In fact, insurance companies at Connect 2014 shared how they were enabling brokers with mobile technology to give them the resources on tablets to better aid customers on the spot. But thinking about the implications of the boundary worker for insurance gets even more interesting, if we consider that there is a greater than 9% increase in conversation rates when customers were assisted by employees who possess a high degree of product knowledge and demonstrate strong interpersonal skills. If agents or brokers in conjunction with sophisticated web portal technology allow customers to better cut through the paper, anywhere and anytime, to get to a decision, the industry will benefit from it substantially.
The customer-facing insurance expert sits at the nexus of trends in hiring, customer expectations, digital reinvention and integration of mobile, social, analytics and cloud technologies. The implications are wide and can be seen already in other industries, like Narita airport which has untethered its service people with mobile-enabled tablets to put them in front of the customer — instead of behind a desk – where they are more likely to make the difference and help more customers.