April 8, 2015 by Greg Meckbach, Associate Editor
Improving experience for customers is a high priority for North American insurers, but many businesses invest in technology for reasons other than customer service, speakers suggested Tuesday at AudaVision Toronto 2015.
Strategy Meets Action (SMA), a Boston-based research and advisory firm, publishes the top 10 imperatives for insurers every year, said SMA partner Mark Breading during a presentation at AudaVision, a two-day conference hosted by Audatex, a subsidiary of Solera Holdings Inc. that provides auto claims software and databases.
“Customer experience has probably been in strategy documents for a decade or more, but not necessarily acted upon with the energy and investments as we see now,” Breading said during his presentation, titled Digital innovation and transformation in the claims world.
But another AudaVision speaker suggested that not all businesses are actually improving customer experience even if they intend to.
Businesses tend to use information technology to improve processes, efficiency, margins and scale, rather than customer experience, suggested Brian Solis, principal analyst for the Altimeter Group, based in San Francisco.
“The decisions that you are making on behalf of your customer experience are actually not for your customer at all,” Solis said in a presentation at AudaVision titled The future of business. “They are for the people who are going to approve your budget, who are going to allow you pilot, who are going to allow you to do certain things to keep your job, or at least stay in good graces, but we have to accept reality.”
AudaVision was held at the Palais Royale on the shore of Lake Ontario west of downtown Toronto.
Solis noted there is “no common definition” of “digital transformation,” which he says “is as much about technology and you and me as well as it is about changing how we do business, how we structure business, how we engage customers before, during and after transactions and services or incidents.”
Digital transformation “is actually something bigger than just efficiency,” he said. “It’s the realignment of or new investment in technology and business models to more effectively engage digital customers at every touch point.”
Solis emphasized the importance of communicating with “digital consumers” using mobile devices and apps.
“It’s not just a millennial thing,” Solis said, referring to the generation born in 1980 and after. “It’s anyone who lives a digital lifestyle.”
By 2020 “over 50% of our work force will be millennials,” said Todd James, vice president for industries and solutions, North America technology division at Oracle Corp.
“Millennials don’t think like folks from my generation – folks in their 40s and 50s,” James said during a presentation titled The Transformative power of digital, cloud platforms. “Even though we’ve raised them and we saw what was going on in the background, they think differently, so they want digital interaction. Everything they do, they are so distracted today with devices, you can barely get their attention. So the digital work force of the future is an engaged work force on a device.”
Breading noted there is a lot of interest among insurance providers in “omnichannel” environment.
“For a long time, the industry has been evolving to providing more channels for sales and service, and insurers often talk about multichannel integration,” he said. “If I have a website, if I have a mobile app, I have agents and brokers, I have contact centres, various touch points, ways I can communicate.”
Insurers are interested integrating these different channels, Breading suggested, “so that whoever is dealing with the policyholders knows the current status, knows the conversation stream, and has a good understanding of the context of that whole relationship.”
But service in an omnichannel environment also needs to be relevant, Solis contended.
“Omnichannel means being present,” Solis said. “Rarely do we hear, when we talk about omnichannel, is the word relevance. It’s not just being present, it’s also being relevant – contextually relevant and culturally relevant.”