Canadian Underwriter

Digital business about understanding the customer and meeting needs, whatever the channel

March 19, 2014   by Angela Stelmakowich, Editor

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The “digital insurer” must provide cross-channel excellence, which demands not only understanding the customer, but also presenting the same face to that customer regardless of the channel or situation, Scott Laiken, managing director of insurance strategy and transformation at Accenture, suggested Monday.

“Digital business is about customer experience. It’s not about being the cheapest provider anymore,” Laiken noted during a presentation Monday at the 12th Annual P&C Insurance Technology Conference in Toronto.

To have relationships that scale and treat each customer individually, an insurer needs a platform that is operationally simple and agile “because what the customer wants tomorrow isn’t going to be what they want today,” he said.

“Your ability to keep up with the customers is what is going to separate you.”

Business has always been about experience, Laiken said, but things are different now. “The challenge now is the whole interaction process with customers has gotten more complicated, it’s gotten more challenging and, therefore, building experiences across it is more difficult,” he suggested.

Even though people are still buying insurance predominantly through brokers, “they show up much better informed, they’ve talked to a much wider set of people, they’re a lot pickier, when they have a bad experience, they’re a lot louder about it, and they’re informing people,” Laiken said.

It used to be that insurers would contact clients only a couple of times a year. “That is a different cadence than the continuous interactions people are used to today,” he pointed out.

Steve Livingstone, vice president of telematics for RSA Canada, told session attendees that, on average, insurers talk to their clients (not including brokers) about 1.2 times per year. “On the platforms that are emerging to leverage telematics effectively, that number grows exponentially in a very short period of time,” Livingstone said.

“That’s powerful, and that is going to profoundly change the dynamic of the consumer in terms of their relationship with their insurer,” he predicted. “That, to me, is a real springboard in terms of leveraging the digital space.”

Pointing to different types of data that are now available – such as publicly available information on social networks – “we’ve stepped very quickly out of the dimension of traditional insurance data,” Livingstone suggested.

“We’re talking about data that can be used not only to better understand that individual from a risk perspective,” he said, “but it’s also about communication.”

Improved communication then “derives a better cognizance and a better capability to drive things like customer acquisition in a much more specific fashion,” Livingstone suggested.

He said he sees a unique evolution in consumer dialogue. “I look at that as a real tipping point in terms of how we can modify the way we relate to our consumers,” he added.

“Because we have more data and more insights – and, in theory, a more flexible platform – we can become more sophisticated in terms of what we present to an individual customer,” Livingstone said.