Building trust in a world of change

For an industry built on the fear of things going wrong, trust is the holy grail of the insurance industry. Yet just as you cannot tell someone that you are funny, trust is also a demonstrable act. Trust needs to be earned.

In the 20th Century, trust in the insurance industry was earned face-to-face by the people on the frontline – the financial advisers and customer service representatives. Yet as the world moves online and aggregator sites such as GoCompare and CompareTheMarket continue to flourish, business is becoming more remote, with less opportunity for human interaction.

New ways need to be found to earn trust in the 21st Century. Ways that bake trust-earning opportunities into different aspects of the customer experience, rather than leaving the weight of responsibility solely on the shoulders of the financial adviser.

Baking trust into the customer experience
Trust is earned when customers are treated with humanity, as people with lives, emotions and priorities.

Vitality is a great example of an insurance brand that strives to bring humanity to customer interaction. At first glance, offering Starbucks coffee for achieving a certain level of activity each week may not seem the most obvious reward for a health insurance.

Honesty has always been fundamental to earning trust and its importance has grown in an age when dishonesty can circumnavigate the globe in nanoseconds.

However, it demonstrates great understanding of many people’s yin and yang approach to their health where points towards a delicious latte are far more incentivising than points towards a healthier, but less desirable option.

Similarly, the jargon-free simplicity of Beaglestreet seems at odds with what you would expect from an insurance company. Rather than trade on your fear of accident or death, it focuses reassuringly on ‘giving you the confidence to enjoy life’. An endearing and trust earning approach.

Alongside humanity, humility builds trust by listening, learning and not being afraid to apologise if and when mistakes are made.

Yet while organisations from Apple to General Motors have benefited from humbly turning a detrimental experience into an opportunity to impress, you only have to look to the US health insurance industry’s retaliatory hate campaign against Michael Moore for his exposé ‘Sicko’ for an example of how not to behave.

Turn the spotlight on ourselves

Honesty has always been fundamental to earning trust and its importance has grown in an age when dishonesty can circumnavigate the globe in nanoseconds. Honesty is particularly pertinent to the insurance industry, where recent scandals such as the UK mis-selling of PPI have cast a malign shadow.

Product bundling is an area that is ripe for some honest intervention.

Imagine the customer goodwill that could be generated from bringing clarity and transparency to an opaque practice, traditionally focused on industry profitability.

Similarly, consider how much more compelling the proposals for mandatory disclosure of commission rates would sound if the latest December 2014 directive, which specifies the pre-contractual disclosure of the intermediary and the nature, not amount, of their remuneration, were to be replaced by a mandate for full, honest and unambiguous disclosure?

Last but not least, let’s take a leaf out of Ghandi’s book and turn the spotlight on ourselves.

As well as incorporating humanity, humility and honesty into our business processes and at every customer touchpoint, we can behave with more humanity, humility and honesty in our everyday working lives.

By behaving as trustworthy individuals we can be the change we wish to see in the industry – and beyond.