Welcome to the doing age

In late October, polar explorer Henry Worsley left London on a unique mission to make the first ever solo, unsupported and unassisted crossing of the Antarctic landmass, commemorating the centenary of Sir Ernest Shackleton’s ill-fated Endurance expedition 100 years ago.

Worsley’s trip is interesting not only from a historical perspective, but also because his purist approach has unwittingly tapped into the zeitgeist.

It’s not about the stuff
Worsley’s stripped back approach is a great example of the recent trend to value experience as one of the most precious commodities we have. If the 20th century was consumed by consumerism, then the 21st century is all about the demise of ownership and the rise of the ‘pay as you live’ lifestyle.

The shift from owning to doing provides a great platform for the insurance industry to gear up and transform the customer experience

Why purchase a shelf full of DVDs when you can watch the latest features with a Netflix subscription?

Why own a car, when you can use a Zipcar for a fraction of the cost?

Both Zipcar and Netflix have recognised that today’s customer aspires to the satisfaction of the experience over the satisfaction of ownership. This insight is intrinsic to the product design as well as guiding the principles for product evolution:

Five principles for the doing age
1. Empathy: There is a genuine understanding of the customer mindset. Zipcar’s tagline ‘wheels when you want them’ neatly sums up their urban customer.

2. Effortless: Substantial effort has been made to take the friction out of the process, predicting behaviour and anticipating needs to remove obstacles to participation.

3. Empowerment: The customer is in control, with the flexibility to do things as and when it suits them. There is no waiting. Netflix viewers can watch TV programmes and films any time and anywhere.

4. Engaging: Customer interaction is highly prized and every effort is focussed on ensuring that each online exchange is as personal as humanly possible.

5. Exacting: Last but not least, each displays a zealous attention to detail. Nothing is left to chance and every aspect of the customer journey is scrutinised to ensure that whatever the decision, the right solution is available.

Opportunities for the insurance industry
For an industry that has historically insured people against the loss of their hard-earned possessions, this shift from a material economy to an experience based one will have its challenges.

Yet, far from being a threat, this shift from owning to doing provides a great platform for the insurance industry to gear up and transform the customer experience from passive transaction to active engagement.

Cuvva is a great demonstration of this: a brand new company that enables you to get insured on a friend’s car for as little as an hour from your mobile.

Meanwhile Zurich is backing Carrot insurance, which has used the latest in telematics technology to design a range of connected insurance products that reward drivers on the basis of their responsibility behind the wheel.

Encouragingly, the industry already possesses assets to make further initiatives a reality:

The first asset is data.

The insurance industry has an enormous pool of data at its disposal. Ultimately, smart analysis of that data will drive meaningful customer interaction and facilitate the creation of propositions that get under their customers’ skin to exceed their expectations.

The second asset is people.

Both of ReMark’s Global Consumer Studies have highlighted the latent value of the industry’s network of highly knowledgeable and skilled financial advisers. Their ability to guide and counsel remains invaluable to engage, involve and ultimately retain customer loyalty.

The combination of these two assets is a powerful force that going forward can be harnessed to build momentum, help the industry play to its strengths and fulfil its potential to thrive in this 21st century age of doing.