Enterprising Developments

The Edge in Insurance Analytics: Agents

Joe McKendrick
Insurance Experts' Forum, September 12, 2012

Data analytics offers insurers incredible advantages for better understanding customers, their motivations, and what they will be doing 12 months from now. But there's something many insurers have that continues to run circles around even the most powerful analytical systems.

Lara Lee and Daniel Sobo, writing in Harvard Business Review, say that running on analytics can be highly effective, but it has its drawbacks. “Data can reveal new patterns that point a firm in the right direction, but it can't indicate what to do once there. It reveals what people do, but not why they do it. And understanding the why is critical to innovation.

For example, they write, “think of the last time someone winked at you.” A wink can be a very effective form of communication that speaks volumes—but interpreting this gesture requires a deep, intuitive understanding of its significance and context.

Lee and Sobo observe that companies attempting in more meaningful, one-on-one engagements, including “in-depth interviews and in-home ethnography to better understand the psychology, unmet needs, and underlying values” of customers, may yield more success.

Here's where many insurance companies have the ultimate advantage. They maintain networks of agents—be they independents or direct employees—who make it their business to be out in the market, making face time with customers, getting to know them one-by-one. It may seem old-fashioned in some circles, but this is the not-so-secret weapon that will keep companies light years ahead of anyone attempting to purely compete based on analytics—no matter if they have a room full of supercomputers and all the latest data mining technologies.

Lee and Sobo's “wink,” for example, would befuddle even the most advanced IBM Watson, but it would be clearly understood by an agent.

Where does technology come in? Insurers need to keep investing in solutions that enhance communication and collaboration with their agents. Agents need to have access to all the training and support possible to provide the highest and fastest levels of service possible with their customers. Before pouring all that money into analytics software and servers, be sure there is enough investment in the most powerful and intuitive analytics system on the planet—agents.

Joe McKendrick is an author, consultant, blogger and frequent INN contributor specializing in information technology.

Readers are encouraged to respond to Joe using the “Add Your Comments” box below. He can also be reached at joe@mckendrickresearch.com.

This blog was exclusively written for Insurance Networking News. It may not be reposted or reused without permission from Insurance Networking News.

The opinions of bloggers on www.insurancenetworking.com do not necessarily reflect those of Insurance Networking News.

Comments (0)

Be the first to comment on this post using the section below.

Add Your Comments...

Already Registered?

If you have already registered to Insurance Networking News, please use the form below to login. When completed you will immeditely be directed to post a comment.

Forgot your password?

Not Registered?

You must be registered to post a comment. Click here to register.

Blog Archive

Strategic Initiatives for 2015: Making Sense of the Shifts

Insurers must choose between embracing innovation or just continuing with business as usual and run the risk of becoming a casualty in the new competitive battle.

To Stay in the Game, Insurers Must Aggressively Embrace New Consumer Technologies

Emerging technologies displayed at the CES could be some of the greatest change agents since the introduction of the Internet, offering breakthroughs that could challenge many businesses.

The Usage-Based Insurance (UBI) Short Cut

Developing a usage-based insurance program has now gotten easier.

Marketing: The Insurer’s Shadow IT Department

Marketing executives continue their march into the insurance data center.

Digital Failings

We live in a brave new world now with digital devices and equipment surrounding us in a sea of capabilities that (generally) improve the quality of our experiences.

Life in the Cloud – Vendor Activity is High

Celent surveyed 41 vendors about their cloud applications, pricing models, platform investments and their expectations of where the market is going.