Can and should insurers and insurance companies become part of the daily lives of the customers?
Well, it was debated at a great panel at the EXEC InsurTec in the beautiful city of Cologne. Participated by world-renowned panel members like Philippe of Slice, Alexander of Zurich Insurance, Meeri from INZMO and Stephen of NeoDigital.
I was privileged enough to participate as moderator for the previously concluded EXEC InsurTec together with an awesome panels members representing the incumbents, the startups, the enablers, disruptors - and he was really excited about that.
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Why should potential customers call you and your company and what are you actually selling?
Meeri Rebane from INZMO said "And customers should definitely call us when they want to do great business, fast business, and insurance. And the end customer should call us if they want to manage all their insurance issues hassle free."
Steve Voss from NeoDigital Insurance, "We're a German insurer and customers. So B2B customers should call us because we can offer a digital insurance workbench for them to create and put new products into the market. And the end customer should call us because we have easy-to-manage, easy-to-apply-for products for anything you have in your household".
Alexander Bernert from a more traditional insurance brand Zurich answered "And our end customers, whether they are commercial or retail, they should call us if they want to feel safer, if they want to sleep better at night, because they are sure that they are protected from risks they would otherwise lose some sleep about".
And Philippe Lafreniere of Slice, "Insurers should call us if they want to launch new digital products related to emerging risks. And end customers don't need to call us, because we can facilitate all interactions on digital channels. So they don't need to call, but they can interact with us using their mobile phones, their favorite tablet and chats, and bots".
The panel also has interesting backgrounds say, Alexander works for a Swiss company, Meeri is from Estonia. Philippe from Canada went all the way to Cologne and Stephen is from Germany.
Came from the industry voices said that become life manager for customers "that's not even a goal we should actually achieve". Should Insurers can be life managers and be part of the daily lives of customers?
Alexander stated that argued to Philippe's, "I don't think that people do not trust us, in general, I actually think a lot of people don't trust insurance agents, in general, but they trust the one who advises them. So as an industry, they do trust us". He defined insurance as a prepaid product and you don't actually know when you will need it and if you can have anything out to what you have paid so, for him there's a lot of trust in the industry.
Why is the insurance image was so bad?
For Alexander, there are 2 reasons. Most people working for insurance, they are not proud to work. He said "And that's different from the car industry, say. If you ask someone at BMW about who was building the best cars, they will say BMW. And he knows that those cars are not perfect, as our products are not perfect certainly. But that doesn't make us bad".
For insurance being part of customers lives, he agreed that insurance is really part of their lives and it is important. As he said no one would buy a house with a mortgage on it without insurance against fire - probably no one. For the cars, no one will drive 200 in a motorway knowing the car was not insured.
He believed that insurance is important, have the right to play, can do more and become closer to the lives of the customers.
"Now, with regard to being part of the life of our customers,
we are part of the life of our customers. We are an important part."
I asked Philippe, if the insurance industry should really become close to the lives of the customers or just stay and focus on the functionality as a risk area.
Philippe shared this short story, "A few years ago, I was at a conference. And insurance is often compared to banking for obvious reasons-- one of the pillars of financial services. And we interact with our banks and our mobile app for our banks on a daily basis, perhaps, right? We check the balance. We make transactions. We send money to someone, etc".
"And with insurance, with traditional products anyways, we basically have one touch point per year where we receive the renewal of our annual policy. Maybe it's six months. And then we look at it, maybe we don't even look at it, we put it away. And then we pay the bill".
"And when a CIO of an insurance company in this discussion was saying, "Well, I don't really want to talk to my customers more than once a year, because it's an opportunity for them
to go away."
"So that was the perspective, which I thought was interesting."
He also shared a few years ago he saw an insurance mobile app in New Zealand with a focus to be part of the customer's lives because aside from car and home insurance they're using time sending nudges and reminders for certain things that you need to do - say for examples cars, during spring and fall, they will send nudges to customers that they need to service the car.
I was curious if the approach was a radical move from the yearly call as general.
Philippe considered it to be different and mentioned that they even tried to advertise on the television that the insurance company was there to protect the owner's car. They really tried to position their selves - they did the same approach for the house insurance and business insurance, they are there to protect the customer assets.
"And because they have the signals and now, with all of the InsurTechs that we're seeing here and the startups and the IoT and all of the data that's available, we can now start doing this as an industry, because we can position ourselves as a people that not just manage the life but these very important assets".
"We know what's going on in your house, potentially. We know what's going on with your car. So why not proactively do this and say, hey, you should put your winter tires on. You should check your smoke alarm. And I think that this is part of becoming that 360-degree life
Steve Voss commented on Philippe accounts "It's very ambitious to be in the center of customers.. and be with 360-degree life manager. that's very ambitious". He added, "But the key to the customer is making insurance convenient for him, making it a convenient part of his life that is easy to handle, not to think about it, to put risks to a carrier, and then have peace of mind".
From his views, it's about making the communication easier between the client and the insurer - it's the ability for the clients to take part with the interaction to the insurer.
I asked the panel about the use cases about insurances being close to the lives of the customers.
Meeri shared "We're living in times where, for different insurance companies, It's easier and easier to lose customers. It's so hard to keep them because everybody is advertising".
For her, the huge the value for customers would for them knowing that their insurance would be like a helper that would assist to fix their broken assets like their homes with broken water pipes.
Do we need to change the insurance products to more convenience and better understandable?
Highlighting what Alexander shared that "insurance is a highly emotional product at its core" and if we will hide on these "nerdy formulas" we will not be able to meet the emotional needs of the customers.
In recent times, I think up to now, customers put their emotional trust on their insurance agents, not with the insurance. But we're now entering in the digital age and insurance agents are slowly becoming irrelevant so insurance companies need to think ways on how to be emotionally connected with the customers via digital channels aiming to make the insurance products and services much simpler and easy to understand in the point of view of the customers.
Philippe shared that they designed and created an online forum available to the public in the US with no traditional insurance jargons. Their cyber products policies can be read in 8 minutes defining the coverage and forms in a way today's digital buyers will be able to understand. And with these, it resonated with the emotional trust making the policies less puzzle-like for easy to understand - in the event that may happen the customer knows that they're covered.
Alexander shared that "it's about the emotion he feels. If he feels good for whatever reason, then this is a differentiating factor".
Steve said he was not a big believer of the brand was the only differentiator but the convenience, easy, understandable and transparent on filing a claim. One of the current problem we're having according to him is, the customers are disconnected to the actual insurance services, they really don't understand what insurance does.
Customers should at least know a little bit for them to be on top on what's happening. Say filing a claim, customers don't need to know the calculations but good enough to for them to feel better that there is someone helping and handling their claims professionally, efficiently and fast.
Does Insurance Industry have any chance to become Life Managers of the Customers compared to Tech Giants?
For Meeri, Yes but we need to re-establish the trust with the customers. Say, making them sign to 30 pages of documents then they did not understand anything and not sure if they will get something out what they have paid for - that's a huge trust issue already.
Also, the 2nd point from her is, it is very easy to sell insurance nowadays especially with digital products being served like via Apps and so on. But the issue was the process of the actual claiming for insurance - on how they assist or serve them and how the customers were taken care of. Say the claim was not correct for insurance but they would tell "you can have this fix within 500 meters from your house".
So Meeri affirmed that there's a lot of room of chances for the insurance industry to grow and be assistance to people's daily lives.
Philippe added on the later part of the discussion, "What the insurance companies, from my experience and my perspective, need to answer is - where do they want to be?". Premium and risks are not going away the factors we should consider is do you want to be relevant or be present? Relevant means that you need to create and empower new brands and companies facing the buying consumers. You need to be relevant to the transactions and not just be present.
What tips and tricks can you give for Insurance Innovators to bring ideas that we have talked about - what they can do for the next 12 months?
Steve answered with "I think, the ideal, also, for the future of our industry is going to collaboration". He believes that the future of insurance as an industry is with the collaboration of service companies, with customer-servicing companies, customers-servicing InsurTechs, and our selves that interaction is needed in terms of products and process. A lot would come out of the collaborations if we will connect with each other.
He also said that we should make it all 360-degrees to make life much easier for our customers. Networking this is what we do today should result in better products, better services and better catering of the customers' needs. "It's about working together and not working alone. There's no future in working alone".
Alexander shared his message to startups "First of all, make it very clear what you have is going to change the life and the emotions of the consumer. Second, make it easy to try out. Whatever you do, it's not necessarily a fit for any incumbent. For some, it will fit better. For some, it will fit worse". Make it simple.
Philippe advised, "it's good to put aside all of our preconceived conventions and notions of how we've done it for 100 years and look at, OK, we're looking at new risks, looking at emerging risks, looking at the new economy, new channels". It's how we reinventing ourselves adapting to new risks and create new products out of it.
Do you maybe share also concerning the idea where the insurance industry is heading in general? What are the dos and don'ts in providing, generating, or setting up a successful startup and coming so far as you guys have come?
"I think, when you're an InsurTech startup, then it's very unlikely that you can go big without a great partner, without the great insurance company behind you" - Meeri
But you also need to be careful in choosing your partner because some might listen to you just to get your ideas and not really serious wth you.
Startups need to make sure that they can really solve real problems for them. Say, introducing new ways on how to sell new products is not that relevant for insurance companies anymore because they have more serious and bigger issues on-hand. She added commending the points from Alexander that startups need to make it easy for insurance companies to start a project with them. Require them works that comply on their expertise and the expected works based on your expertise. You need to provide massive value for your insurance partners.
For Steve, "Don't underestimate the effect of time. Timing is really relevant". It would take time for the customers to know your products and services - so startups should never underestimate time because it would take time before you make sales.
Agreeing with the others he continued that to make things simple and easy working with you. For your hesitations and issues, you need to be open with your partner. You may have the best products to offer but your team is not willing to adapt then you have issues to solve.
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