The Good and the Bad of Today's "New Normals"
I’m enamored of Donald Light’s recent report about the “New Normal” for insurers. (For the summary, click here.) It does a nice job showing how the lukewarm economy is impacting insurers, and should be reflected in their IT strategies. It’s a sobering picture, in many ways.
But for those of you who make a living in some part of the insurance industry, all is not lost. There are other new normal factors in play that should help to balance out the doom and gloom scenarios being driven by the economy. For example:
We’re really getting somewhere with this Internet thing. The wry tone behind that lead stems from the fact that it has clearly taken us longer to embrace the Internet than it should have. On the other hand, every insurer I talk to now reflects Web-driven customer behaviors in their strategies. This was inevitable, because people of all ages are now Web consumers. But it also produces some efficiency opportunities, like replacing paper with emails and text messages. And replacing snail mailing of forms with guided Web sessions that create clean streams of data. This is good news for insurers, and getting better.
As consumers, we’re pretty darn reachable. I just got an email from my mother-in-law (she’s a well-intentioned email forwarder, and an example of my previous point) saying that my cell phone number is about to become fair game for telemarketers. As dreadful as that sounds, it reminds me that I can now have trusted, known providers reach out to me virtually anywhere I am, 24/7. If my auto insurer calls me, it could well be that I forgot to pay my bill, and I will be grateful. But if they want to deliver a clever product pitch at the same time, I just might say yes. Good for me, good for my insurer.
Coffee brings us together, despite the calories and the cost. I probably drink too much coffee. But I totally buy into the thinking that a simple pleasure now and then is a good thing. So imagine my surprise when I pulled into an oddly orange coffee shop in Chicago and discovered that it was a front for…ING Direct? Now, I did not buy insurance from ING that day, even though the caffeine (and a biscotti) put me in a good mood. But there were lots of people there, and someone probably did. Or will because they snagged some info while they were there. The point is that new business models are emerging, in perfect sync with changes in consumer behavior. Coffee and free wi-fi are influential, and smart insurers will leverage that fact.
So next time you’re relaxing in a cyber café, have a latte, fire up your laptop, and check out Donald’s report if you can. It’s important and interesting reading. But remember that you’re part of a number of new normals, and some of them are very good for our industry.