Canadian Underwriter

Changing the Channel

November 6, 2018   by Canadian Underwriter

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Denis Dubois, executive vice president, property and casualty operations, Desjardins

cu | Desjardins has a precise  understanding of what the term “channel” means. And it all starts with the concept of a network. Can you define the term “network” for us?


We did some work internally at Desjardins to make sure we understood each other on these concepts. We developed our own language, which I will explain to you. The first thing we have defined within the organization is our different approach. Here I am talking about our exclusive agents, which we refer to as Desjardins agents. For us, that is a “network.” Then, we have our pure mass direct approach – Desjardins Insurance, for example. That’s another network. Then we have a group insurance business, The Personal, which is another network. We define these as “networks.”


cu |How do you differentiate between the networks?


The reason why we have different networks is that there are different sets of customers out there; these customers do not respond to an insurance purchase the same way. That’s why we have those different networks, to serve those different profiles of customers.


cu | So how do you define the term “channel” then?


Within each of our networks, we have what we call different “channels” for serving each customer profile. Let’s take the example of the exclusive agent network, the Desjardins Exclusive Agent Network. Within this network, we have a multi-channel approach. For example, when a customer does business with an exclusive agent in the physical presence of an office, that’s a channel. The physical location is a channel. Also, customers can do business with our agents after-hours using our client call centre (CCC). That’s our CCC channel. Also, customers can do business on the web or mobile; those are other channels. Within the Desjardins Exclusive Agent Network, we have multiple channels.


Denis Dubois, executive vice president, property and casualty operations, Desjardins

cu | How would a multi-channel concept apply to your direct network?


It’s the same in the direct network as in the exclusive agent network. However, in the direct network, because the customers are more self-sufficient and price-sensitive, we don’t have the physical channel in that world. It’s heavily weighted in the CCC and web and mobile channels.

cu | How would you define an “omni-channel”?

An omni-channel is when you are going from one channel to another one within what we call a network. For example, if you are a customer being served by the Desjardins Exclusive Agent Network, it’s seamless for you to move from the web (one channel) to an agent (another channel). Let’s say you are doing an online quote in real time and you need additional information. In an omni-channel world, you may call into the CCC, and the person on the other end of the line would be able to know exactly where you are in the process and help you along. The reality is that today we have very few players who are able to do that.


cu | Why is that?


When we as an industry built the digital channel, we developed some connection between the different channels, but they are not seamless. The different channels were not developed in a way that each channel would interact seamlessly within another. So, the concept of an omni-channel is really the idea that information can be recognized completely no matter where you are in the process, and regardless of what channel you are in. Historically, the systems within insurance organizations were generally not developed in this fashion. And so very few organizations can say they offer fully-fledged omni-channel service.


cu | Is there a channel that best suits the times?


Whatever strategy you have, you clearly need to adapt to evolving customer needs. Things are changing quickly. People today have less time. That’s true of everyone, given the lifestyle that we have today. You cannot do a quote or a claim the same way you were doing it 20 years ago: people today don’t have 20 minutes, 30 minutes – or worse, an hour – to spend on getting a quote. So, when you see that trend, you need to adapt, whatever your model is. Digital is another obvious one: whether you are a broker or an exclusive agent, it’s true of everyone, you need to offer convenience. If it’s Saturday night and your customer wants to access information on their banking files, MSN account, or even if they want to work with John Doe, you still want to offer those options. Whatever your business model happens to be, you need to develop your digital capacity. You have no choice, you have no other option. If you don’t, you will not die the next day, but you will start to see your market share erode,  slowly but surely.

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