Consultants' Corner

It's All About the Customer Experience

Ben DiSylvester
Insurance Experts' Forum, August 17, 2011

A recent article titled “Branding in the Digital Age” (Harvard Business Review, December 2010) described how purchasing decisions are changing for products and services. The buying process used to be thought of as a funnel, where buyers narrow their choices from many down to one. Now, that process is more like a continuous journey during which buyers consider their options—continuously adding and subtracting as they go along—and then making the decision to buy along the way. But unlike the previous funnel model, the buying process doesn’t end after the purchase decision is made. Rather, buyers continue along their “journey,” building loyalty or not, through their interactions with the company.

The Harvard Business Review article focuses on the marketing implications of the customer buying journey and how companies need to rethink how they allocate their marketing resources. However, we also see major implications for the service-delivery functions of insurance companies. It is important that companies are sure they are allocating the proper resources (people, processes and technology) to the critical points of the post-sale portion of the customer journey. The better the service delivery, the stronger the “loyalty loop” and likelihood the customer will buy from that company again and become an advocate for its products and services. It is all about the customer experience during the key interactions with your company.

How will you know if your customers are having the right experience? Perhaps a good place to start is having your management team ask itself the following four questions and assessing (i.e., using data versus anecdotal evidence) how confident everyone is in their answers:

1. Do we understand how our customers’ needs are changing?

2. What is the path our customers take to decide to purchase our products, and are we there at each key juncture?

3. Are our customers having the best experience possible at each key juncture?

4. Are we continuously improving our people, processes, and technology to ensure the best customer experience and address their changing needs?

Maintaining excellence in this new digital environment will not be easy, but working to close any gaps revealed in the answers to these questions will be a good start.

Ben DiSylvester is Executive Director for the Robert E. Nolan Company, a management consulting firm specializing in the insurance industry.

For 38 years, the Nolan Company has helped insurance companies achieve measurable improvements in service, quality, productivity and costs through process innovation and effective use of technology.

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