Editors' Cuts

Why Insurers Will Miss Steve Jobs

Pat Speer
Insurance Experts' Forum, October 6, 2011

It’s unfortunate that death is often the event that causes others to become more alive. In this case, the passing of Steve Jobs brings to light his extraordinary accomplishments in the technology world; accomplishments that will offer insurers opportunities to be better at what they do for years to come.

Known for his curiosity and intuition, Jobs was more than a visionary—he got us to think differently about complex, technical concepts and processes, predicting succinctly what consumers would appreciate and find useful. And what consumers found useful was the power to compute, communicate, collaborate, transact business, appreciate music and film and more—and to do so on their own terms.  In other words, he brought the customer to the forefront, which forced insurers to respond to their demands.

His vision created in consumers a desire to consider technology as a conduit to better living, and in so doing, he inadvertently has nudged the insurance industry beyond its reputation as being technology laggards and forced them to keep up—to recognize and act on its customers’ desires to keep computing simple.

More importantly, Jobs’ goal in delivering technology innovations was to keep it “personal” for the user, putting the user in control of how they learned about the world and empowering them to actively use that power to change it.

By raising awareness of the power of the customer, his technology continued to anticipate and respond to a growing consumer demand for technological simplicity. For insurers, this played forward into the “ease of doing business” philosophy, creating opportunities for competitive advantage to those forward-thinking carriers that saw this as their new customer service calling card. Today, carriers fiercely compete down the channel, using a variety of devices to create ease-of-use in billing and payments transaction processing, customer service, claims handling and more with their agents, brokers, business partners and policyholders alike.

It also plays forward into touching the customer with applications running on mobile devices such as smartphones and tablets, born of Apple and now in play with a number of other companies.  With no discernable downside to these apps, insurers are becoming experts in soft-sell by educating, branding and engaging their customers via those customers' preferences.   In the words of Tom Petty, "the future is wide open."

What else can we learn from Jobs?  His ability to simplify complex, highly engineered products in many regards is not unlike the insurance industry’s need to make coverage explainable to the policyholder. Insurers have an opportunity in his passing to rethink how technology can “keep it simple” for the policyholder.

Steve Jobs’ legacy will continue to live on, having made the entire insurance industry better at appreciating technology for what it is: an enabler to improve the way we conduct business.

Pat Speer is editor-in-cheif of Insurance Networking News.

Readers are encouraged to respond to Pat by using the “Add Your Comments” box below. Shealso can be reached at patricia.speer@sourcemedia.com.

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

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