In 2013 Forrester heralded the arrival of the “Age of the Customer” in two studies that proposed the next two decades would be dominated by a focus on customer centricity. At the recent Digital Insurance Summit held May 5-6 in Chicago, it was an undisputed fact that now, more than ever, “it’s all about the customer.”
Jane J. Wang, Optimity CEO and chair and MC of this year’s event, shared in her opening address that many senior insurance executives are looking at ways to improve the customer experience, especially given the dramatic changes in customer behavior and expectations brought about by the pandemic.
“We can’t fully predict where consumer trends will go,” says Jane. She emphasized that the key areas insurers need to focus on are creating trust, relevance and value. She also shared that “it’s important to have the right partners and internal processes to set the foundation for rapid learning and adaptation.”
Prior to the event the Optimity team informally surveyed speakers to better understand what they see as the industry’s top growth opportunity. The overwhelming majority noted data and enabled modernization for distribution and underwriting. They also identified new/better distribution channels and stronger and more consumer-friendly customer experience (CX) as key areas for growth.
In general, speakers and attendees alike noted that they’re investing in digital solutions for their brokers/agents and are more open to working with partners for access to unique data sets that will enable a better customer experience.
Jane also moderated two keynote sessions that showcased the ways insurtechs and traditional insurers alike have responded to changes in customer expectations, and how they’ve transformed their business models to better connect and personalize their experiences.
The keynote “Accelerating your CX Strategy for the Digital Customer of Today” featured: Abim Kolawole, VP, CX Integration and Promoting Journey, Northwestern Mutual; Laura Bennett, SVP eConsumer, North America, Chubb; Lindsay Hanson, VP, Head of Behavioral Insurance, Global Strategy and Delivery, John Hancock; Linda Goldstein, EVP, Customer Experience and Marketing, CSAA Insurance Group; and Trenton Spratling, Senior Enterprise Account Executive, Neuro-ID.
Panelists discussed how the past year in particular has changed customer journeys and behaviors and how they learned to respond. Among the ways they’ve adjusted their focus are:
- Focusing on touchpoints and moments of truth for customer services;
- Serving customers with disclosure, transparency, and empathy;
- Making the most of behavioral data; and
- Taking an enterprise-wide approach to bringing CX to the forefront and impacting the bottom line through new customer relationships
The keynote “High-Velocity: How Lessons of the Pandemic Will Accelerate Insurance’s Fast Arriving Future,” brought together panelists Marty Schafer, Chief Distribution Officer, Ethos Life; Calvin Chock, Chief Product Officer, Clover Health; Cindy Szabo, Corporate Vice President, Digital Experience, New York Life; and John Swigart, CEO, Pie Insurance. The discussion centered on how each of their businesses evolved as a result of the pandemic, and what transformations occurred that would forever change how they do business.
For many on the panel, expanding distribution and partnering to enable digitization were key to their transformation over the past year. New York Life, for example, went all in on digitizing tools for their agents, as well as offering a hybrid approach.
Additional highlights from the two-day agenda included:
Deidre Watts of Onstar Insurance who touched on the importance of customer experience in her session on the “Capturing the Digital Customer Here and Now”. She shared that based on their research, there are three main priorities for customers:
- They want something equitable
- They want proactive service
- They want it personalized
Most of all it has to be easy for them to do business with your company, especially through technology that can enable a “continuous connection.”
Michael Pearlman of Reltio spoke about improving customer experience as a top priority for accelerating growth. In conjunction with the research team at WBR (who organized the event), Reltio conducted research earlier this year to gauge what technology leaders at North American insurance companies are focused on. Among their top priorities are driving a seamless customer experience. This includes focusing on:
- Enhanced omnichannel experience
- Customer centricity and targeted marketing
- Value- based agent/broker management
For Peilin Corbanese of EXL and Charlotte Tsou of Prudential Financial, the “Fourth Industrial Revolution” is here and insurers need to invest in technology that will help them better compete in today’s highly digitized world. In fact, they shared that “84% of executives say they won’t achieve their growth objectives unless they deploy AI.”
Among the areas for insurers to focus on are:
- Data-led value creation using AI to enable better business decisions
- Cloud-enabled infrastructure to enhance speed and flexibility
- Coordination of machine learning, cloud and people to increase ROI
The next-gen customer was the focus for Jeff Merkel of Ladder, who shared how they focus on providing a new insurance buying experience, with products that are affordable (starting at $5/month) and easy to purchase online. For them the average customer is 36 years old, and 76% are first-time buyers who are most likely to submit their applications via mobile.
The Digital Insurance Summit is an annual event that draws senior insurance executives from across North America. For more information on the 2022 program agenda and speakers, visit their website.
Interested in more customer insights? Download our 2021 Customer Survey and sign up for our 2022 report!