Canadian Underwriter

The limits of data collection: Making a case for pounding the pavement

April 20, 2021   by Jason Contant

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To provide an excellent customer experience for your clients, data can only take you so far, the digital director of a brokerage said recently during the CIP Society Symposium’s virtual conference. Sometimes brokers simply have to hit the pavement to find out directly what their clients want.

“Data might not give you the whole picture,” said John McClelland, founder of miBroker and a broker and director of digital with McClelland Insurance Brokers. “You might be able to tell from analytics data that a lot of users are falling off on a particular [webpage] screen, [but] not what particular question or phrasing is causing the problem.

“In these situations, data can help validate what users are telling you is correct, or that certain features are being used, but talking to real people is always better.”

McClelland was discussing his company’s miCtrl on-demand episodic business insurance platform during a conference session called Big Impact: Artificial Intelligence and Big Data in the Industry. He said during his 14 years as a broker, he kept encountering the same scenario: He would get a panicked call from somebody like a photographer who needed immediate insurance coverage.

“I’d have to explain to them that quotes could take up to two weeks and they’d have to pay upfront with a cheque,” McClelland said. “‘Two weeks?” would come the response. “‘The wedding is this weekend. Pay for an annual policy upfront?’ It’ll probably mean they’re losing money on their first gig and who has cheques these days?

John McClelland (top left), founder of miBroker and director of digital for McClelland Insurance, speaks with other panellists during the CIP Society Symposium virtual conference.

“This wasn’t the 90s, this was a few years ago,” McClelland said. “We’ve got to do better.”

Once he thought he had a product solution, McClelland “met with every photographer I could find to talk about what they perceive as pain points in insurance. This is important because data might not give you the whole picture.

“We’ve all spent time crafting the perfect survey only to get a handful of responses, so sometimes it’s OK to do thing that don’t scale,” he said. “After I phoned every photographer in my network, I hit the pavement.”

McClelland said he went to every photography event in the Greater Toronto Area and talked to even more people. He went to a wedding show just to talk to vendors and participated in exhibitions — not to sell insurance, but to talk with people. “I’ll take a five-minute conversation with a customer over 100 survey results any day.”

What has the data shown miBroker about the customer experience so far? “People still want to talk to a broker,” McClelland said, adding that the “vast majority” of people will call or email with questions. “Insurance is complex and people want to be certain they’re buying the right coverage, and want to know there’s real human they can contact.”

The brokerage also found customers want flexibility in policy terms. “People don’t like committing to long policy terms,” McClelland said. “It’s a barrier. What if they are only working the odd weekend or a few months in the summer?”

If your brokerage offers only daily or monthly options, that’s an instant purchase decision, McClelland said. “If you only have an annual option, now the prospect needs to think about it,” he said. “Maybe they’ll keep putting off getting properly insured.”

It’s true that policyholders can cancel their annual policies anytime, but minimum retained premium and short-rate tables are very confusing to consumers, McClelland said.

“Monthly payment plans with pro-rated cancellations are a great first step,” he said. “We’ve seen examples of insurers embracing these strategies in the last few years. Getting creative with payment plans can help digital natives feel more comfortable with purchasing a policy.”


Feature image by Yuno

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