I like to cook, a lot. I spend a bit of time each week looking through magazines and my big binder of recipes to plan my menu of dinners for the week. It helps that my family is willing to try new and different things. They also like to offer suggestions for changes or to flat out request that certain recipes never make into the binder for future dinners. One recipe that comes out every year at this time is my grandmother’s turkey stuffing. Bam, as we called my dad’s mom, was of Canadian heritage and known for her traditional French Canadian tourtiere (meat pie). In a sense, her stuffing is a deconstructed meat pie, and my family loves it.
It’s also now a staple of Thanksgiving dinner with my husband’s family since I have been bringing it for the last 12 years. But it wasn’t always a welcome addition to the table. They already had a stuffing so why introduce another? And who ever heard of adding ground beef, pork sausage and potatoes to stuffing? But through a bit of cajoling, my tenacity in continuing to bring it, and introducing how good it is the next morning with a fried egg, I slowly won them over. It’s like that with any change isn’t it? You need to keep plodding forward and continually communicate the benefits even when others can’t see it or are willing to even try it.
There’s a parallel here to introducing technological change, or for that matter any change. Colleen Risk and I have been writing all year on front end technology for life insurers. We continually discussed how technology can help achieve STP and lower the cost of obtaining new business. Our research arc reviewed illustration, eApplication, and new business and underwriting systems. We wrote reports that analyzed how far life insurers have come in automating the new business and underwriting processes and found that there is ample room for further technology in many companies; automation is taking hold, albeit slowly.
A companion benchmarking report showed that since 2007 costs per application and costs per issued policies have dropped. The data shows that technology has been integral to the cost reductions even though making the changes affects how agents and underwriters do their work, for the better. Our last report in this theme will further analyze the benefits of automating the new business and underwriting process by comparing life insurers that have implemented technology into the process with those that have not. It is our hope that our research helps make the case for introducing more technology into the NBUW process and ease the change because the benefits are worth it.
Our 2017 research calendar includes a new research arc that begins with a paper published today, Separating Yourself from the Competition: North America Life Insurance Customer Service Strategy. Within the life insurance market, very few digital revolutions have happened in customer service. Implementing a digital strategy within the operating environment of a life insurer represents a complex set of challenges: organizational silos, multiple distribution channels, and legacy technology considerations make the work especially difficult. Life insurers recognize that customer service is critical to the success of their business. The criticality of customer service is underlined by the insurers’ recognition that the technology provided today is not sufficient, as well as the acknowledgement that significant spending is required to close the gap between what is available today and what should be provided. Yet, the challenge of digitally revolutionizing customer services presents opportunities. New tools exist that can increase the quality of customer interactions and deepen customer relationships. It is our hope that through a series of reports on customer service strategy, customer service operations, websites and portals, as well as mobile apps we can introduce the benefits of digitizing the back end processes related to customer service.
Let’s hope it doesn’t take 12 years to convince your organizations that new technology is beneficial. Celent wishes you all a Happy Thanksgiving. If you want a copy of my grandmother’s recipe, email me and I will send it to you!