April 28, 2020 by Dirk Schmidt-Gallas, PhD, Global Head of Insurance, Simon-Kucher & Partners.
Consumers are afraid. They are deeply concerned about their health, jobs, the economy, social cohesion, and sometimes their supply of toilet paper. The current situation presents a defining opportunity for the insurance industry to reinvent itself and emerge from the crisis, stronger, more relevant and better equipped for a digitized world. We have the benefit of a strong tailwind, but we must act now.
Our customer’s vulnerability has never been greater. The danger the virus poses affects all demographic groups, not just the elderly and infirmed. State entities are stepping in, but how quickly and how effectively will that work? There is an opportunity for insurance companies to understand and respond to their customers’ evolving needs.
Here are five priorities we must focus on in the immediate future:
1) Sell digitally across all channels
The buying behaviors of our customers have changed. The lockdown forced many people into contact with digital interactions they would not have otherwise considered, and hastened the shift to digital channels for everything from online medical consultations to digital banking, to insurance buying.
This does not mean a robot sales force will have its day. Customers still expect competent advice on how to navigate the jungle of dangers. However, there will be less interest for brokerage visits and face-to-face sales talks. We must start now to digitally-enable our intermediaries, advisors and sales force. This means we need digital sales processes with structured guidelines for human interactions appropriate to the medium. These are exactly the omnichannel solutions that the industry has been talking about for so long.
None of this is rocket science. But this program requires foresight, courage and, above all, action. Those standing on the sidelines waiting will lose inventory and new business. Whoever starts now can emerge from the crisis better positioned to benefit when we return to growth.
2) Talk about customers’ concerns
We must prioritize efforts to understand how our customers’ hierarchy-of-needs are changing, especially if we want our offers to resonate and capture their attention. This is also the time to move from a price to a value discussion. This is the case for personal property insurance (home and auto), as well as for business insurance. The insurance industry has focused far too much on price.
3) Retain customers
The insurance industry is a subscription business. Like all subscription models, it faces a higher rate of cancellations during times of financial hardship. Insurers must act now to implement measures to support customer retention. This can include win-back hotlines, relying more on brokers, selected deferral options, or premium breaks.
4) Offer new value
COVID-19 has permanently changed customer preferences. Many will remember the vulnerability, the deep job cuts, the anxiety over money, and fear of illness. There will be no “back to normal.” We must analyze the shifts in priorities and adapt products to meet evolving behaviors. Products that present a compelling argument and address people’s problems sell themselves.
5) Set fair prices
Even the Romans had a term for price and value: Pretium. A fair price is one that reflects the product’s value. Costs do not represent the product’s value and are therefore unsuitable for setting fair prices. What matters is the perceived and tangible value a product creates for the customer. Products that address customer’s pressure points command a willingness-to-pay that is significantly higher than its costs. But be careful: do not overdraw. Customers who forgive the price gauging in the crisis do not forget them. So, stay fair.