Customer journey mapping for a CIO

Customer journey mapping for a CIO

If you’re like most CIOs, your firm has embarked on the latest craze – customer journey mapping.  I’ve blogged about this before.  It’s a terrific exercise – intended to identify how customers engage with your firm through every type of interaction – personal, machine, or paper.  Most are focused on optimizing the interactions between the policyholder and the insurer; some include optimization of the agent experience, and some are starting to look at expanding the experience to look at how to embed the insurance experience in non-insurance aspects of an insureds life.  (See FIGO for a great example).

Some firms have hired third party consultants to help with this exercise; some have even put a new position in place – a Customer Experience Officer – someone who looks across the traditional siloes of underwriting, claims and finance to craft a holistic experience. 

As carriers go through this exercise, demands are being placed on the IT team. Here’s a few ways you may be asked to participate:

  • Data and reporting– Part of understanding the customer journey is tracking it.  Understanding where the biggest interaction points are, and where the biggest pain points are is the first step in improving the experience. You may be asked to install tracking software on the website (if it’s not already there).  Third party data and AI may play into new segmentation schemes as teams are looking at new ways of doing dynamic segmentation (See my report on this topic)  You may be asked to add new reporting or analytics tools as the team looks at using predictive modeling to identify next best action. And you’ll be asked to measure the progress of the new journeys through new reports and new metrics such as a customer friction factor.
  • Workflow and Task Automation – Much of customer journey mapping is figuring out how to operationalize the new journey.  Once the customer experience has been defined, the hard part is to deliver on it.  If you are reliant on people to deliver a consistent experience, you leave yourself open to error.  Your team may need to spend much more time defining business rules and implementing workflows to deliver the experience. If you are one of the insurers that has not yet automated this, you may need to consider adding some additional technology.  (This has actually been one of the major drivers of core system replacement).
  • Customer Communication – Insurers are looking at eliminating the jargon and simplifying the message. This may mean redoing forms or creating new forms.  That’s not a huge deal.  But where we see more effort is finding new ways of communicating with customers.  Text, mobile applications and video are all growing ways of communication.   Here’s a great example of automated video communication to deliver a personal touch with no people involved.  Push communications, text or phone messages letting the claimant know their check has been issued, for example, can reduce calls to the call center while improving customer satisfaction
  • Omni-channel access – Smartphones are on track to bypass desktop computers as the number one way to access websites.   You’ll need to make the website mobile-friendly.  But you also may need to put in a call center – especially for those insurers who are looking at adding a direct or semi-direct channel. 
  • Cool stuff – As insurers start going down this path and get more comfortable being creative, they often look to add more ‘cool stuff’.  Gamification is one of the newer areas – using game techniques to drive engagement and to drive behaviors.  Drones are reducing the need for scheduling inspections.  Video chat for first notice of loss can reduce fraud and improve satisfaction.  There are many tools – and many InsureTech startups playing in this space. One last area that can be kind of cool – the user interface.  If you don’t have formal skills in this area, definitely use an outside consulting firm to help with this. UI design is fairly complex and makes a huge difference in the customer experience.  All of this cool stuff requires integration. One note, while the partners out there likely all have open APIs,  your team may end up spending more time than anticipated making sure your own systems can integrate and send data and service calls back and forth.
  • An agile organization –  As insurers become more skilled at understanding how to tweak and enhance the customer journey, speed becomes even more important.  Creating an innovative, agile organization  is a critical aspect of delivering quickly.  If you haven’t chatted with Mike Fitzgerald on innovation, or Colleen Risk on shifting to an agile development process, now might be the time.

In a highly fragmented industry with excess capital and declining rates, insurers are looking to building a solid customer experience to drive growth and retention.  Journey mapping is one of the tools being used.  Time to step into the fray and get involved. 

Closing the deal with e-signature

Closing the deal with e-signature

E-signature has become such a part of my life that I am surprised when I am asked to provide a wet signature. I sign for credit card purchases, deliveries and legal documents, even my tax returns (!), using a click or a digital signature pad. But, if I want to change my beneficiary for my life insurance, I have to download a .pdf, sign the document with a pen, and mail it to the insurer. Insurance has been a slow adopter of e-signature. However, as the process of buying life insurance and receiving post-issue service is becoming increasingly more digitized, insurers are working to remove paper from everyday processes.

The adoption of e-applications, web portals, and mobile technology is helping to drive the change, but it is my belief that it is primarily driven by customer expectations set by other industries offering easy-to-use digital processes. Consumers expect companies to be easy to do business with and will choose the company they purchase goods or services from based on the ease of use. E-signatures provide a way to offer a digital experience that is easy to use, fast, and secure.

In our new report, Putting a Lock on Straight Through Processing, my colleague Karen Monks and I profile 11 providers of e-signature technology for insurance. This is the final report in a series that began last year.  During the year, we looked extensively at new business acquisition and the technologies that power it. We wrote reports on solution providers for illustrations, e-application, and new business and underwriting in addition to e-signature. Along with the vendor reports, the series included two benchmarking reports and a report in which insurers compared their level of automation to Celent's automation capability matrix to determine if they are minimally, moderately, or highly automated.  

With the increased emphasis on cycle time and cost, e-signature is being increasingly being adopted as a way to check the box on making processes fast, flexible, and efficient. E-signature software frequently integrates with other solutions to support new business acquisition as well as post-sale service.

The ability to collect an electronic signature for a new application at the time of sale providing the legal authorization to obtain underwriting requirements and evidence from third party providers has enabled straight-through processing and the ability to provide a decision to the applicant within minutes, instead of weeks.

Common e-signature use cases for life insurance:

  • New policy application
  • Disclosure delivery
  • Agent licensing and appointment
  • E-delivery of policies
  • Beneficiary change and other policy servicing
  • Premium payments

Life insurers that investigate e-signatures will be pleasantly surprised by how quickly and relatively inexpensively e-signature can be implemented as well as how easily and securely a paper signature process can be automated. I am a big fan, as I’m sure you are, of less paper and more automation!

 

A cautionary tale of legacy technology or how to avoid a major meltdown in your organization

A cautionary tale of legacy technology or how to avoid a major meltdown in your organization

Were any of you flying Delta from April 5 to April 9?  If so, this story will be no surprise to you.  For the rest of you, you may remember it was spring break and terrible weather pounded Atlanta. The severe weather caused a five–day meltdown across Delta’s flight network and over 4,000 flights were cancelled. During those five days, Delta struggled mightily with two basic functions of its business – flying airplanes and accommodating passengers. The weather is, of course, out of Delta’s control, but the response and the ensuing chaos was amplified by something insurers understand all too well — the lack of modern technology. 

According to a Wall Street Journal article, the root of the problem was a telephone busy signal. An internal investigation found the biggest problem was that Delta’s 13,000 pilots and 20,000 flight attendants calling in for a new assignment couldn’t get through to the people in Atlanta who were rebuilding the airline schedule. Computers told gate agents rescheduled crews would be there, but the flights would end up canceled for lack of a crew member who was lost in Delta’s communication fiasco and unaware of the assignment.

I have to confess, my first thought when I read this article was to wonder how on earth a major company like Delta can be so lacking in modern technology. My next thought was wow, this is true for the insurance industry as well. While life insurance companies don’t have the challenges of rescheduling thousands of flights, a negative change in the stock market can create thousands of customer calls. And when a major catastrophe occurs, property casualty insurers can also be inundated by phone calls.

Delta’s response was to double the size of the crew-tracking team, dramatically increase the number of phone lines by June; and hope to have a system which will be able to send crews information about their trips electronically by August.

Rather than relying on hope, following are suggestions for insurers so that they can avoid the type of meltdown experienced by Delta:

  • Self-service portals or apps where customers can check their balances, make changes to their policies, and communicate with their insurer.
  • Chatbots that can provide answers to questions without human interaction.
  • Text messages to keep insureds informed.
  • Webchat to allow communication via the website.
  • Omni-channel support to allow seamless switching between devices.

We can’t control the weather or the stock market.  Unexpected events will happen.  But, how an insurer responds to them can have a significant impact on the customer experience and the customer long term relationship with the insurer.  In a hyper-competitive market, customer experience is a key differentiator.

If you are interested in building a better customer experience, here is a report you may find interesting, Standing Out in a Bland World: Global Life Insurance Customer Service Strategies.

Learning from the Best: Operational Excellence from a Model Insurer Viewpoint

Learning from the Best:  Operational Excellence from a Model Insurer Viewpoint

I am privileged again this year to be part of the team that judged the Celent Model Insurer nominations. My focus is on the nominations in the Operational Excellence theme. In reality, every nomination demonstrates a high degree of operational excellence. It is a tough job to choose only three winners in the category. 

You may wonder how Celent decides which nominations are the best of the best. We look at the disciples included in successful operational outcomes. Achieving operational excellence, requires transforming processes and systems into competitive advantages by making them leaner, faster, more flexible and of higher quality.

It’s not just what is done, but how it’s done. The project should have lasting effects and transform the organization in multiple aspects: Processes, Technology, Culture and Business Model

This year’s operational excellence nominations run the gamut from project methodology to straight through processing to infrastructure outsourcing.  Following are examples of a few of the nominations: 

  • A P&C insurer in the Cayman Islands moved to a virtual business. Instead of replacing their on premise infrastructure, they transitioned to a cloud environment for all systems including: core insurance operations, human resources, and call center. By moving to a third-party cloud provider, the insurer could go global to support local operations with consistent technology expertise to host and maintain the applications.
  • One of India’s leading life insurance companies which had experienced tremendous growth of 380% in the last financial year required a simple, streamlined and cost effective system to service their growing customer base and extend the enterprise for continued growth and market penetration. The company implemented a document management solution for processing new business and claims. The solution is designed so that it requires no or minimal manual intervention for the end-to-end document life cycle process.
  • An innovative testing solution created in collaboration between a North American P&C insurer and its vendor was implemented after it was found that the existing testing environment, approach and methodology was causing delays and quality assurance problems for the transformation program. The solution is a cloud based, open-source testing environment that has reduced both risk and cost by improving the quality of the testing. 
  • A North America supplemental benefits insurer adopted an Agile project methodology in response to its need of modernization and in recognition that it will undergo more change as the industry continues to capitalize on social, mobile, wearables, etc. The change brought about increased accountability, efficiency and organization that have allowed the company to be poised and ready for all opportunities, producing results at record speed.
  • A reinsurer based in Europe implemented artificial intelligence and machine learning algorithms to allow automatic verification of clauses in contracts and matching of official comments stored in a large database.  This allows experts to focus their attention on parts of the contract that have not been seen before and will allow back searching thought any collection of documents for clauses containing issues of interest as well as comparing contracts on a clause level with calculated accuracy scores.   

As you can see from this sampling of nominations, choosing the winners was hard.  However, it is easy for you to be on hand to network with and learn from the insurers and vendors who submitted the winning projects.  Please join Celent in Boston on April 4 for Innovation and Insight Day where the winners of the 2017 Model Insurer awards will be announced.  You can register here.   

The new customer experience – or how so many carriers are getting journey mapping wrong

The new customer experience – or how so many carriers are getting journey mapping wrong

Journey mapping, the process of defining the customer experience, is an activity that has been gaining in popularity over the last two years.  Carriers are using this technique to document the existing customer experience in order to identify areas to improve.  The underlying assumption is that a superior customer experience will drive retention and perhaps improve new business.  Which makes sense.  After all, it’s pretty evident that customers are demanding a different relationship model from their insurers.  They are looking for more transparency and simplicity. They are increasingly self-directed and financially literate.  And they are demanding increasing participation. 

Their expectations are increasingly driven by experience in non-insurance categories.   I can see where my uber car is real-time – why can’t I tell if my claim check has been issued.   I can custom assemble a new pc online with instant knowledge of all the options available and the price associated with them – why can’t I tell what additional insurance options are available and what they cost.   I can get recommendations from Amazon on what I might like and what others like me are purchasing – why can’t I get  good recommendation from a carrier to help me compile the best package of coverages, terms and conditions to suit my profile. 

While efforts have been made to drive effectiveness for insurance processes from an internal perspective, there are still many areas where improvements are possible from a customer perspective. So carriers are working to define an extraordinary experience for customers. They’re defining personas, mapping the new business acquisition process, the billing process, claims, complaint handling, customer inquiries, and all the major processes that occur when customers interact with carriers. 

But that’s the problem. Carriers are focusing on optimizing all those places where the customer and the carrier interact.  Now don’t get me wrong. There is nothing wrong with this.  Carriers should make sure that interactions are optimized.  Focusing on automating decisions, automating correspondence, and using workflow to assure tasks are completed in a timely manner can have a dramatic effect on delivering a consistently good experience.  Omni channel, real time, digitization – all those trendy words – are very relevant here. But it’s not enough.

If you really want to build loyalty, think about the customer experience when they aren’t interacting with you. Let me give you an example. 

Allstate has a target market of motorcycle riders, and has a mobile app for them called GoodRide.  The app is available for both Allstate customers and non Allstate customers.  It helps riders keep track of all repairs and maintenance.  They can plan a ride –  checking weather, locate gas, and even find others to ride with as it is integrated to social media. They can track their ride by adding notes, adding photos and tracking miles ridden. There’s even a gamification element that awards badges.   And by the way, they can report a claim, check proof of insurance and pay their bill.  So this application really looks at what motorcycle riders are looking to do outside of the insurance interaction and embeds the insurance interactions within the full context of the customer’s life and where insurance itself plays a role rather than simply looking at the interactions discreetly.

In the commercial lines world, a similar application could be industry based and provide tailored risk management materials, an “Ask an Expert” corner where customers can check in with risk management consultants,   create a Facebook-like collaboration mechanism for customers to talk to each other,  arrange discounts on products relevant to the industry.  and of course, access their policy online, pay a bill, pull a loss run or handle other interactions. 

Expanding the customer experience beyond the pure insurance interactions makes a carrier more relevant to a customer by engaging in their everyday lives and looking for ways of adding value within context.  And it creates a way to have an ongoing conversation with a customer – building personal loyalty. 

So – is customer journey mapping a good idea?  Of course.  Are carriers thinking big enough? That is a different question.

What I will say, is exactly what I told a carrier earlier today –  The secret to organic growth?  Deliver a customer experience that your competitors can’t match. 

The Best Advice is Personal

The Best Advice is Personal

Much discussion has happened in the industry portending the inevitable elimination of the insurance agent as consumers move to purchasing insurance direct and online. Disruption of the agency model seems to be a foregone conclusion judging by the amount of recent investment in InsureTech startups focused on transforming the distribution model. The increase in insurers offering commercial insurance direct may be seen as an inflection point not just in terms of commercial lines sold direct, but in terms of a shift in momentum from the agent to technology, across lines of business. It’s not surprising that both insurers and consumers are interested in a shift in channels. It promises to be less expensive for an insurer to go direct, and consumers are clearly showing a shift in preferences for accessing coverage

However, consumers use agents for very good reasons. Prior to direct purchase on the internet, consumers needed agents to access different markets. There was no mechanism for a consumer to purchase directly from an insurer. With the advent of digital agents, aggregators, and direct-to-consumer insurance insurers, this reason is less important than it used to be. However, replacing an agent isn’t as simple as simply automating access to markets.

One of the primary points of value provided by an agent is personalized advice. Although access to markets is more readily available, consumers still need advice and guidance. Insurance is a complicated product. Understanding which coverages they should purchase, what limits and deductibles are appropriate, and whether additional terms or endorsements are relevant is one of the key points of value that an agent offers.

Consumers are more financially literate than ever before given all the information available on the internet, yet still want transparency in the choices available, and value guidance and advice as to what options are appropriate and why they are appropriate. 58% of consumers surveyed say that when choosing a financial services provider, they are looking for a personalized offer, tailored to the individual firm or person.

Until an insurer can accurately and appropriately provide advice it is unlikely we’ll see a wholesale shift of the channel. Some insurers focus on giving consumers choices by providing price comparisons with other insurers. Others have tried to provide choice by labeling side by side choices with titles such as “less coverage”, “standard coverage”, and “more coverage”. But these choices don't usually have any relationship to the actual risk profile of the prospect and don’t offer any suggestion as to why one option is better than another. Consequently, consumers aren’t confident enough to make a decision.

Want to know how to improve online conversion? Provide actual advice to a prospect with an explanation as to why a particular limit, deductible or coverage is relevant. Anecdotal conversations with companies who have implemented a feature like this indicate potential conversion improvements of 20-30% or more.

Automated advice comes in a variety of permutations that vary depending on how much automation is utilized and how much personalization is provided. Insurers can assess their capabilities and determine how to proceed down the path. Even small amounts of advice seem to have an impact on conversion.

Automated advice can range from very simple parameter driven advice, to incredibly sophisticated advice-for-one backed up with sophisticated analytics. It can be delivered via simple online suggestions, or through a guided journey using a chat bot. Each successive generation of advice engine seems to bring increasing benefits when it comes to conversion.

Yet automated advice also carries potentially significant risks. The customer is relying on the technology – including the assumptions and methodologies that underlie it. For example – did the system ask the right questions; did the prospect understand the questions adequately to answer accurately; did the algorithms act as intended, were the underlying business rules appropriate?

Using third party data can mitigate some of these risks, but raises other issues including the accuracy of that data. On the one hand, consumers are more financially literate, are looking for more transparency and control, and expect insurers to utilize technology in an online environment. However, insurers also have to be careful not to be creepy when using third party data.

Insurers can overcome creepiness by not overreaching, and by clearly communicating how they arrived at their conclusions. In this transparent world, the path to the recommendation becomes nearly as important as the outcome.

Interested in learning more about automated advice engines? Check out my newest report “The Best Advice is Personal: Robo-Advisors v. Agents”.  

Have Electronic Applications Come of Age?

Have Electronic Applications Come of Age?

My first experience with an electronic application was in 2002.  I was working with a major credit card company who included a flyer along with the billing statement that provided information about how to apply on-line for their term life insurance product. We didn't know how many applications to expect; but based on the wide distribution, we planned on a high number.  Many months of effort went into developing the eApplication on the website and creating an interface for the collected data into the new business and underwriting system. This was cutting edge technology at the time. The electronic application collected the Part 1 – demographic information – of the application. The Part 2 – medical information – was collected by a third party. A whopping 523 applications were received from the first mailing. The campaign continued on an intermittent basis for a year with a few over 2,000 applications received. At the end of the year, we threw in the towel and quietly closed down the campaign.  

Why did the campaign fail? There was nothing wrong with the process and the technology, while primitive compared to today, worked well.  The problem was that the idea was ahead of its time.  People were not ready to buy insurance on the internet. In fact, most of the applications received were declined or heavily rated.  The people who applied were driven to do so by a less than stellar health history and had few other options available to them.   

Flash forward to today; digitization of life insurance new business is a hot topic. Consumers are buying everything from mutual funds to groceries on the internet.  However, based on Celent’s recent new business and underwriting benchmarking report, Resetting the Bar: Key Metrics in Life Insurance New Business and Underwriting, nearly 52% of all insurance applications received are still in paper form.

There are a number of problems associated with paper applications, from missing forms to illegible writing, which creates a tremendous impact on an insurer’s ability to process an application quickly and/or accurately. Industry benchmarks have placed NIGO (not in good order) rates at greater than 50%. Electronic applications essentially eliminate NIGO.

Our research shows a significant reduction in new business cycle time for insurers between 2007 and 2016. For high face amount writers, the average cycle time decreased from 52 days to 44 days and from 42 days to 33 days for moderate face amount writers. When asked how the better results were obtained, the majority of insurers had seen a reduction in cycle time due to the use of technology. Some responses included “increase in eApp adoption and increased use of an automated UW engine,” “eApp, more skilled staff, cross-training with 60% automated underwriting, so huge reduction,” and “increase in auto-issue rate.” Obviously, the new business process is ripe for automation.

In Karen Monks’ and my new report, The Doorway to Straight-Through Processing: Life Insurance Electronic Applications 2016, we profile nine software vendors and their 10 electronic applications marketed to life insurance. The report focuses only on stand-alone solutions in North America. For each vendor the solution is described using the customer base, data sources supported, functionality, and technology, as well as implementation and costs.

In 2002, the buying public wasn’t ready to shop for insurance on-line.  That attitude is changing.  An electronic application, along with an underwriting rules engines and electronic contract delivery, to enable straight-through processing will soon be the norm. The time for eApplications has arrived.  An electronic application opens the door to transform the insurance buying experience, increase agent and customer satisfaction, and potentially sell more insurance.

  

 

Changing the Landscape of Customer Experience with Advanced Analytics

Changing the Landscape of Customer Experience with Advanced Analytics

That timeless principle – “Know Your Customer” – has never been more relevant than today. Customer expectations are escalating rapidly. They want transparency in products and pricing; personalization of options and choices; and control throughout their interactions.

For an insurance company, the path to success is to offer those products, choices, and interactions that are relevant to an individual at the time that they are needed. These offerings extend well beyond product needs and pricing options. Customers expect that easy, relevant experiences and interactions will be offered across multiple channels. After all, they get tailored recommendations from Amazon and Netflix – why not from their insurance company?

Carriers have significant amounts of data necessary to know the customer deeply. It’s there in the public data showing the purchase of a new house or a marriage. It’s there on Facebook and LinkedIn as customers clearly talk about their life changes and new jobs.


One of the newest trends is dynamic segmentation. Carriers are pulling in massive amounts of data from multiple sources creating finely grained segments and then using focused models to dynamically segment customers based on changing behaviors.

This goes well beyond conventional predictive analytics. The new dimension to this is the dynamic nature of segmentation. A traditional segmentation model uses demographics to segment a customer into a broad tier and leaves them there. But with cognitive computing and machine learning an institution can create finely grained segments and can rapidly change that segmentation as customer behaviors change.

To pull off this level of intervention at scale, a carrier needs technology that works simply and easily, pulling in data from a wide variety of sources – both structured and unstructured.

The technology needs to be able to handle the scale of real-time analysis of that data and run the data through predictive and dynamic models. Models need to continuously learn and more accurately predict behaviors using cognitive computing.

Doing this well allows an carrier to humanize a digital interaction and in a live channel, to augment the human so they can scale, allowing the human to focus on what they do best – build relationships with customers and exercise judgment around the relationship.

Sophisticated carriers are using advanced analytics and machine learning as a powerful tool to find unexpected opportunities to improve sales, marketing and redefine the customer experience. These powerful tools are allowing carriers to go well beyond simple number crunching and reporting and improve their ability to listen and anticipate the needs of customers.

The Great Pokemon Experiment

The Great Pokemon Experiment

Nintendo's latest mobile phone (and mobile) game just keeps smashing records – it's already the biggest mobile game in the US and is looking set to become a worldwide phenomenon.

It's not relevant to insurance though is it? Well it is sort of introducing new risks with players being mugged and wandering into dangerous places including Downing Street in London apparently.

What's more interesting to me though is the mix of gamification, rewards for movement and the way it is making people meet up in novel locations.

Two opportunities sprang to mind for the industry:

  • What's most interesting to me is that if we were to measure health app's impacts by how far they get people to walk Pokemon Go could be the biggest health app of 2016, despite only launching in July. I'm curious how the Vitality and similar propositions rewarding customers for healthy behaviour will respond to the sudden uptick in activity. 
  • From an advertising point of view and ability to drive foot traffic to say, an agents office, Pokemon Go has huge potential – potential not missed on the developers as hidden code in the game already points to a hook up with McDonalds. For now though, if you have a Pokemon gym at your office location it might be a great time to do a little advertising or push that recruitment drive you've been thinking about.

As a technologist the photos springing up around the world of "Squirtle" being found in toilets (be careful where you point the camera) also goes to show how augmented reality has become mainstream as well, along with the threats AR and virtual reality could pose in at least distracted walking. I love that the digital and physical world are coming together and it's actually bringing families together too.

Whilst some will marvel at this latest craze, for those insurers with investments in the real world like agencies, offices, billboards – and for those that are agile enough – this surprise trend could serve as a great marketing route to catching all the customers, as well as all the Pokemon.