No one really knows what future developments will bring. What is certain is that, to survive and thrive, insurers must listen to the Customer-in-Chief.
One of the frustrations with imagining the future is that at some point you have to come back to the present day reality.
The future may be a perfect fusion of smart contracts and empowered consumers keen to be monitored within an inch of their lives, motivated to share real-time data in a secure ecosystem of collaborative and customer-centric providers. In return, they expect personalised protection services, the cost sweetened with relevant rewards and discounts for undertaking prescribed risk-reducing behaviour.
The reality is a mash-up of tradition and innovation in which the consumer wields connected devices that offer a semblance of control, able to choose the what, when, and wherefore of any product or service on earth. Great for a new summer dress, yet woefully inadequate when it comes to the complexity of the family’s financial security.
Left to their own devices
The notion of customer empowerment appears to have been overstated thus far. Connected devices facilitate action, but are no guarantee of understanding or competence. Beyond that, it’s clear that the empowered customer is a developing concept – certainly for the business of selling intangible financial protection, the ultimate grudge-purchase.
Technology has powered the trend for individuals to take more responsibility for their financial well-being than they did in the past. These are difficult calculations to make at the best of times – never mind in an era of political, technological and social upheaval in which the goalposts shift in the face of economic realities.
In terms of financial literacy, there is scant evidence of a concomitant evolution in consumer understanding.
Being relevant on the insurance customer journey takes more than telling and selling. A more sophisticated engagement with the customer is necessary to develop long-term sustainable relationships – and protect the brand image that consumers now create. Just as the customer is evolving, so must those that serve them.
Evolving with the customer is not just about technological advances. Insurers’ biggest problem is human, not technical. Communicating policy information and product fit – never mind conveying the value of an intangible product – remains a formidable challenge. And that’s not something a deep-seated technological innovation can solve alone.
The indications that established insurance brands are rising to this challenge are increasingly clear. From the widespread adoption of gamification techniques to rewards and discounts for everyday activity and collaborative lifestyle challenges which focus on the purchase journey rather than the destination, brands are making strides online to provide more effective services in the digital age.
The most notable recent convert in this regard is AXA France, the first insurance brand to partner with Facebook Messenger to provide a full digital experience for today’s connected consumer.
Indeed, having dabbled in social as a broadcast medium, insurance brands are increasingly recognising social media as crucial to the developing notion of consumer empowerment. Social’s myriad platforms offer extraordinary opportunities to reach, listen and respond to customers, to better understand aspirations, assess attitudes and observe habits. And to build credibility by participating in community discussion and provide the quality advice we know customers want and need.
Social science and technological reliance
Technological developments will continue to radically alter the consumer landscape. Wearables and the IoT bring a wealth of first-party real-time data – inherently more valuable to both business and consumer – driving the progression from an internet of connection and information to an internet of value.
But the underlying technology should be a hygiene factor. Why would the distracted consumer care about the how why or wherefore of the promise of blockchain? The user experience is front-end: just make it work, seamslessly, unobtrusively and consistently, and leave the consumer to engage with the business of life.
That’s not to diminish the importance of technology, but rather to prioritise the human element in the equation. Automate for sure, but get social in a meaningful way too, looking not for massive numbers but meaningful connections – which mean more than anything else today and tomorrow.