Your customers hate your group email box (and you should too)

I’m currently dealing with two group email box issues. In one instance, I’m a frustrated customer, irritated beyond belief by the lack of response to my repeated email service requests. In the other instance, I’m the party ultimately responsible for a group email box, and I’m getting an earful from a frustrated customer. The overlay of these two, unrelated incidents is perfect: Some sort of cosmic justice is clearly being served.

Stages of Group Email Box Grief

You might be familiar with the Kübler-Ross model, which shows how grieving people progress through Denial, Anger, Bargaining, Depression, and Acceptance. I think something similar happens when any of us try to use a poorly managed group email box. It goes something like this:

  • Hope. After the initial disappointment of not finding a human being with whom we can interact directly, we console ourselves that, at least, our problem has been recognized by our service provider. By creating a named email box, the service provider is clearly implying that help is a click or two away. Got a generic question about your health plan coverage? Email coverage@xyzhealthplan.com. Need help from someone in Finance to get an expense check cut? Why, ExpenseTeam@yourcompany.com sounds like a productive place to turn. But the relief at finding such elegant, targeted service solutions is often short-lived.

  • Perplexity. After a day or so of non-response, we wonder. Did I really send an email to that email box? Did it get through? If it got through, did anyone read it? This stage is characterized by self-doubt and forensic examination. We check and recheck our Inbox, Spam Folder, and Sent Mail under the (reasonable, by the way) assumption that if the tool was working, someone would have responded by now.

  • Dismay. A week has passed. On the realization that no process could possibly take this long, Dismay sets in. In this stage, we ratchet up the pressure, typically by resending our original note with a snarky addition, like, “I really would like to hear from someone on this! Please?”

  • Anger & Activation. At this stage, we realize that help is not forthcoming. For most of us, this happens between Day 7 and Day 8. (Though my experience with them suggests that Millenials make the entire progression from Hope to Anger & Activation in as little as an hour.) We start looking for alternatives, as confidence in the system plummets. In the extreme, we try to get face to face with someone who can solve our problem (“I’m going to drive in to the cell phone store and make them solve this billing issue!”). But alternatives include calling switchboards and asking for the CEO, starting a Twitter rant, or activating a defection to other providers. None of these reactions enhance a customer relationship.

The Service Provider’s Response

As a service provider myself, I’m embarrassed to admit that emails to info@celent.com don’t always get perfect, productive responses. Of course we have a process in place that routes inbound queries to more than one person, to make sure we don’t run into out of office issues. But things occasionally fall through the cracks, due to technical reasons (e.g., aggressive, evolving spam filters), scheduling quirks (e.g., all Celent staff are in the same meeting), or simply due to human nature.

The latter category is particularly vexing. When several people are responsible for something, the real-world effect is that no one feels responsible. I’m convinced that using an info@ email box inevitably lessens the sense of accountability and responsibility that drives all effective service teams. Add in the dynamic of impersonal, electronic communicationswhich by its nature generates less empathy than a simple conversation between two human beings and you’ve got a recipe for disaster.

In this annoying age of one-to-many communication (says the blogger, ignoring the irony), there’s a strong case to be made for enabling more direct, personal connections. Many companies will resist this old-fashioned, and by some measures, expensive, view. They will go down the path blazed by online retailers, and try in vain to provide acceptable service levels via FAQ and info@ email boxes. But the price they will pay is customers who frequently progress to Anger & Activation, and then walk away grumbling.

A smarter play is for firms to foster real relationships with their customers. For me, that means going old school. Making it easier for customers to navigate to a real person who is ready to listen and willing to solve problems. I’ve told my team to plaster their direct contact info on every report, presentation, and marketing piece. I’ll keep the info@celent.com address open as a benign trap for spammers. But the rest of you are encouraged to email me directly at cweber@celent.com.

For sustained innovation, it is not only the “What” but also the “How”

I read an excellent article recently by CoinDesk on John Hancock Insurance Company’s testing of blockchain in insurance. This is one of the early, public declarations that insurers are exploring the potential of this technology. Jamie Macgregor and I also explored this subject recently in the report: Blockchain in Insurance: Use Cases

There is another important angle to the John Hancock story that lies beyond the technology. In our approach to innovation at Celent, we separate the “what” of innovation (blockchain, artificial intelligence, analytics that personalize the customer experience) from the “how”. How companies execute on innovation involves building repeatable processes, incentive systems, and cultures of experimentation that establish a new “way we do things around here”. Note that John Hancock’s LOFT program provided the mechanism through which the insurer could test blockchain. Next week, month, year it will be a different “what” to feed into the “how” machine.

Beginning in the Q3 of last year, Celent research observed the pattern that leading financial services companies which have invested in the "how" of innovation are beginning to gain fast mover advantage over those that have not.  We expect to see an increasing, widening gap between those insurers which have investe in the how of innovation and those that have not. The leaders will use their innovation machines to more rapidly and effectively figure out how to make the “what” of the possible real in their organizations.

Internet of Things – NBA edition, round 2

For those of you that follow our blog, you may have read my post from April 8th, entitled Internet of Things – NBA edition. If not, then I’d suggest you click the title and read that post first.

Given we’re in round 1 of the playoffs, this post feels even more timely. The basic premise of the first post revolved around the use of wearables in sports, more specifically during games. As it turns out, there was recently a follow-up article on ESPN.com:

NBA union, wearable tech company Whoop to meet Tuesday

As I mentioned, the use of wearables goes well beyond just the technology, particularly to the ownership of the data.

I particularly liked the quote from the Whoop CEO, Will Ahmed: "…let's not deprive athletes of in game analysis. It's their careers at stake and data is not steroids."

As wearables get to be more and more ubiquitous, it will be interesting to follow their use. We see the benefit in insurance programs, such as Hancock’s Vitality, but the ultimate use of the information shows so much opportunity to truly change our lives. It will be fun to follow.

A golden day for insurance: Celent 2016 Model Insurer winners

In the historic Museum of American Finance, surrounded by golden exhibits including gold bars, a gold Monopoly game and even a gold toilet(!), the 2016 Celent Model Insurers were announced yesterday.  Part of our annual Innovation and Insight Day, we had over 150 insurance professionals in attendance (and over 300 in total), it was a great day for networking, idea sharing, learning about award winning initiatives and hearing inspiring speakers talk about the future of financial services. 

Yaron Ben-Zvi, CEO and co-founder of Haven Life, was the Model Insurer key note speaker. He discussed how Haven is using technology to reach a younger, digital-savvy customer with a life insurance experience that meets their expectations. He spoke about the journey from ideation to reality for their term insurance products which can be purchased online in only 20 minutes. He encouraged the audience to “think big but start small” and to apply the learnings along the way.

The Haven Life presentation was followed by the main event, the announcement of the 2016 Model Insurer winners. Every year, Celent recognizes the effective use of technology projects in five categories across multiple business functions.  We produced our annual Model Insurer Case Study report which clients may download here.  This year there were fifteen insurers recognized including Zurich Insurance, the Model Insurer of the Year.  Here are the winners: 

Model Insurer of the Year   

Zurich Insurance: Zurich developed Zurich Risk Panorama, an app that allows market-facing employees to navigate through Zurich’s large volumes of data, tools and capabilities in only a few clicks to offer customers a succinct overview of how to make their business more resilient. Zurich Risk Panorama provides dashboards that collate the knowledge, expertise and insights of Zurich experts via the data presented.

Data Mastery & Analytics

Asteron Life: Asteron Life created a new approach to underwriting audits called End-to-End Insights. It provides a portfolio level overview of risk management, creates the ability to identify trends, opportunities and pain points in real-time and identifies inefficiencies and inconsistencies in the underwriting process. 

Celina Insurance Group: Celina wanted to appoint agents in underdeveloped areas. To find areas with the highest potential for success, they created an analytics based agency prospecting tool. Using machine learning, multiple models were developed that scored over 4,000 zip codes to identify the best locations.

Farm Bureau Financial Services: FBFS decoupled its infrastructure by replacing point to point integration patterns with hub and spoke architecture. They utilized the ACORD Reference Architecture Data Model and developed near real time event-based messages.

Innovation and Emerging Technologies

Desjardins General Insurance Group: Ajusto, a smart phone mobile app for telematics auto insurance, was launched by Desjardins in March 2015. Driving is scored based on four criteria. The cumulative score can be converted into savings on the auto insurance premium at renewal.

John Hancock Financial Services: John Hancock developed the John Hancock Vitality solution. As part of the program, John Hancock Vitality members receive personalized health goals. The healthier their lifestyle, the more points they can accumulate to earn valuable rewards and discounts from leading retailers. Additionally, they can save as much as much as 15 percent off their annual premium.

Promutuel Assurance: Promutuel Insurance created a new change management strategy and built a global e-learning application, Campus, which uses a web-based approach that leverages self-service capabilities and gamificaton to make training easier, quicker, less costly and more convenient.

Digital and Omnichannel

Sagicor Life Inc.: Sagicor designed and developed Accelewriting® , an eApp integrated with a rules engine; which uses analytic tools and databases to provide a final underwriting decision within one to two minutes on average for simplified issue products.

Gore Mutual Insurance Company: Gore created uBiz, the first complete ecommerce commercial insurance platform in Canada by leveraging a host of technology advancements to simplify the buying experience of small business customers.

Operational Excellence

Markerstudy Group: Markerstudy implemented the M-Powered IT Transformation Program which created an eco-system of best in class monitoring and infrastructure visualization tools to accelerate cross-functional collaboration and remove key-man dependencies.

Guarantee Insurance Company: In order to focus on their core competency of underwriting and managing a large book of workers compensation business, Guarantee Insurance outsourced its entire IT infrastructure.

Pacific Specialty Insurance Company: Complying with their vision is to become a virtual carrier, meaning all critical business applications will be housed in a cloud-based infrastructure, PSIC implemented their core systems in a cloud while upgrading infrastructure to accommodate growth in bandwidth demands.

Legacy Transformation

GuideOne Insurance: GuideOne undertook a transformation project to reverse declines in its personal lines business. They launched new premier auto, standard auto, and non-standard auto products, as well as home, renter and umbrella products on a new policy administration system and a new agent portal.

Westchester, a Chubb Company: Chubb Solutions Fast Track™, a robust and flexible solution covering core business functionality, was built to support Chubb’s microbusiness unit’s core mission of establishing a “Producer First,” low-touch mindset through speed, accessibility, value, ease-of-use and relationships.

Teachers Life: Teachers Life has achieved a seamless, end-to-end online process for application, underwriting, policy issue and delivery for a variety of life products. Policyholders with a healthy lifestyle and basic financial needs can get coverage fast, in the privacy of their own homes, and pay premiums online in as little as 15 minutes.

The quality of the submissions this year is a clear indication the industry is turning a corner and embracing transformation, digital initiatives, innovation and valuing data analytics.  It is inspiring to see the positive results the insurers have achieved and a pleasure to recognize them as Model Insurers for their best practices in insurance technology.

How about your company? As you read this, are you thinking of an initiative in your company that should be recognized? We are always looking for good examples of the use of technology in insurance. Stay tuned for more information regarding 2017 Model Insurer nominations.  

 

Young, broke, and no credit: Financial services reborn

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You are young, broke, and don’t have any credit. You also don’t have many bright prospects since you have never been independent and you don’t even have a bank. Sound like most 20 year olds? It certainly might. However, I’m talking about The United States of America in 1790. When our nation began we were in a tough spot and did not have very many prospects. Luckily, Alexander Hamilton, supported by George Washington and other leaders, had the vision to build what we now recognize as our modern financial system.

What does this have to do with today? At Celent, we are convinced that a confluence of forces places Financial Services at another crossroads. Customer expectations and digital technologies are combining to compel a transformation across the industry. We expect this will play out as a rebirth of financial services, one that will combine the DNA of our past with digital processes to create a new industry, related to the one we know now, but not the same.

Drawing inspiration from the past is the theme of this year’s Celent Innovation & Insight Day #celentiandi. We look forward to hosting over 350 financial services professionals at the Museum of American Finance in New York City on Wednesday. We will use this unique location to take the best lessons learned from the past and apply them to the opportunities of the future.

Our agenda includes keynotes from a global venture capital leader, Nadeem Shaikh of the Anthemis Group, the CEO of an insurance blockchain start up, Leanne Kemp of Everledger, and, of course, the recognition of our 2016 Model Bank and Model Insurer award winners. You can find all of the details here.

This year, we are introducing a new feature, an interactive emerging technology expo area that we call the Geek Playpen. Attendees will have the opportunity to touch, feel, and experience items like virtual reality goggles, drones, and onmichannel digital platforms. There will even be an example of using location-aware mobile devices to assist in the evacuation of buildings. We thank our inaugural Geek Playpen sponsors Cognizant, Mindtree and Relay IT for their participation.

Safe travels to all joining us and we’ll see you soon!

A positive note for Brazil: A few insurance market developments to follow with interest

The world seems convulsed these days. No matter where you live, something significant is developing around you or about to burst.

Brazil has not been the exception. Economic slowdown and corruption allegations involving high officers in government and the private sector, have led to massive social protests. The Panama Papers only to continue to build a lack of trust on things changing easily. But Brazil is a huge economy, with very talented people and industries that can compete at world-class level. Some things need to change for sure; with a trusted leadership is just a matter of time for Brazil to come back to the right path.

On a specific note about insurance, some positive insurance market developments in Brazil were top news this week and I thought it was worth sharing with you:

  • SUSEP – Superintendência de Seguros Privados of Brazil approves use of Digital Certificates for regulatory purposes
  • SUSEP resolution establishes new rules and criteria for Vehicle Popular Insurance
  • Project of creating a Regional Hub of Reinsurance to be sent to the Finance Ministry

Brazil writes ~45% of the direct premium of the region and more than triples the Mexican insurance industry premium, the second largest insurance market.; so anything happening in Brazil will have an impact in the Latin American insurance market as a whole.

SUSEP, responsible for the control and supervision of insurance markets, private pensions, capitalization and reinsurance, published in the Diário Oficial da União, Instrução n° 79 which regulates about the use of digital certificates in the standard public key infrastructure of Brazil (ICP-Brasil).

Electronic signatures produced with ICP-Brazil certificates become mandatory for decision-making content documents with external circulation, for regulatory acts of the supervised and for other procedures that require proof of authorship and integrity in an external environment to SUSEP. Electronic files produced within the scope of practice of SUSEP will have authorship guarantee, authenticity and integrity ensured in accordance with the law.

“Insurers have a strong interest in digitization based on their planned budget increases between 2015 and 2016. The increase between insurers’ 2015 and 2016 budgets is reflective of the fact that most insurers are at the basic stage of digitization with much room for growth and innovation” said my colleague Colleen Risk in her recent report: You’ve Got Mail: Two Decades Later, Why Are We Still Talking About E-Delivery Rather Than Doing It?. The research shows that challenges related to e-Signature include compliance, legal, risk management, agency, IT and insurance operations. SUSEP support to the use of digital certificates will have a positive impact in the industry enabling higher levels of digitization and efficiency.

Continuing with SUSEP, its resolution establishing new rules and criteria for the operation of the Vehicle Popular Insurance was well received by the National Confederation of General Insurance, Private Pension, Life, Health and Capitalization companies (CNseg) and the CNSP. The National Council of private insurance (CNSP) adopted, in a meeting held on March 30 2016, the provisions for vehicle popular insurance that will have as primary market the owners of vehicles with more than five years of use. The new insurance policy will primarily feature the use of parts from disposed vehicles at auto salvage yards for vehicle repair, which will be possible thanks to law 12977 of May 2014, which regulated the disassembly of vehicles across the country.

Despite aimed to cars manufactured more than five years ago, the popular insurance will not be restricted to that segment. Any insured can opt for the new product, provided it is advised that the repairs will be made with parts used or second-hand. The rules also provide that these pieces cannot be used when involving the safety of passengers, such as the braking system, suspension, seat belts, among others. The minimum coverage should guarantee compensation for damages caused to the vehicle by collision.

While there are some points that can be enhanced, so as to make possible a greater penetration of the product this comes very handy in order to offset the effects of the country's economic moment by expanding insurance market and protecting the assets of the people that see their purchasing power affected. Some suggested enhancements to the rule could be allowing the use of generic parts, non-original parts, but certified by the manufacturer. Also looking to the effect in cost that working with out of network repair shops could have. Market estimates indicate a potential reduction of up to 10%-30% in value compared to traditional products depending on the age of the vehicle.

In the same line of looking to expand the insurance market, the President of the National Federation of Reinsurers (Fenaber), Paulo Pereira, announced on April 5th at a news conference during the 5th Reinsurance Meeting of Rio de Janeiro, the project of creating a Regional Hub of Reinsurance that must be sent to the Finance Ministry before early June. If the hub is implemented, he said, could help double the size of the Brazilian reinsurance market. "We are creating conditions for reinsurers to settle in Brazil to sign out-of-country risks, mainly from Latin America. The Brazilian reinsurance market today is $ 2.5 billion, and that of Latin America, of $ 21 billion. So if we can attract 10% of this market, we will be doubling in size" he estimated.

Pereira pointed out, however, that it will be necessary to provide a good reason to appeal to great players to the country. He believes changes need to be made to the labor environment, to regulation and to taxes so they become an important incentive for bringing the world's largest reinsurance companies to the hub.

Efficiency and market growth are two underlying principles in these market developments. It’s good to see that from the insurance perspective, Brazil does not stay arms crossed waiting to see what happens. This is a positive note for Brazil, at a time where the good news does not abound.

 

Making property/casualty underwriting investments that pay off

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Internet of Things — NBA edition

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Virtual Reality – trend to watch or this years “3D TV”?

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John Hancock launches Vitality 2.0, rewarding life insurance consumers for healthy eating

As many of you know, John Hancock introduced the Vitality program to the US Life insurance market a year ago this month. At its core, the program offers discounts and earns points for healthy living. It is a program that has been offered for over 15 years in other markets, originating in South Africa. The […]Continue reading...