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When it Comes to Electronic Messaging, Generation Gap Emerges

Joe McKendrick
Insurance Experts' Forum, December 18, 2009

Everyone hates automated phone messaging and e-mail pitches, right?  Not necessarily, if done in the right context. 

A new survey of 2,300 consumers by Harris Interactive on behalf of Varolii Corp. finds that despite widespread negative perceptions about robocalls and spam e-mail, a surprising number of people are reporting benefits from automated communications. This has interesting implications for insurance companies looking for more effective and targeted ways to reach out to current and future policyholders.

Two factors may help increase the value of automated messaging for both companies and customers, the survey found. First, the key is delivering information that consumers want with a personal touch. Second, age plays a key role in the level of trust and acceptance.

The study found that consumers value automated personal reminders. Ninety-six percent reported they’d welcome an automated phone call or message to confirm a current or upcoming transaction. This could be an update on the status of a claim, or a reminder of an upcoming policy renewal options. By contrast, only 10% of adults consider a generic message about a political campaign or mortgage refinance to be very beneficial.

The survey shows that consumers tend to tune out the avalanche of e-mail, text messages and phone calls that come in every day, especially if it isn't tailored to them.

The research also found that as more individuals fall into a grouping called “digital natives,” companies may have an easier time reaching them. Among younger generations that are more immersed into technology, there is a greater acceptance of unsolicited phone calls and messages from companies. The research reveals that individuals under 34 years old are more accepting of unsolicited requests and offers.

More than 60% of these digital natives consider reminders to pay credit card bills to be at least somewhat beneficial (63%). Among respondents over 55, that number drops nearly 25 percentage points. More than three-fourths of respondents over 55 years old are likely, very likely or extremely likely to hang up on a caller they don’t know (76%), while that number drops to 53% among 18 to 34-year-olds.

On offers to refinance their mortgage, 18 to 34-year-olds were five times more likely to consider these calls beneficial, compared to those over age 55 (15% and 3%, respectively). When asked how they’d prefer to be contacted to refill a potentially embarrassing prescription, of those adults who receive emails, text messages and phone calls, 39% of 18 to 34-year-olds would prefer getting an automated phone call versus speaking to a human being. By comparison, the number of adults who would prefer getting an automated call dropped to 12% among those over age 55.

As insurance companies know, electronic outreach and marketing is a highly segmented art and science. These survey results show a younger generation more open to new approaches to reaching out through these new channels. Social networking—not mentioned in the survey—may also be a new frontier for engaging more closely with policyholders.

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.

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

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