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Who's the Boss?

Denise Garth
Insurance Experts' Forum, September 12, 2013

 

It's a classic movie and TV theme … the confusion over who is really the boss. It was even a hit show for Tony Danza. Does the housekeeper or butler really run the household? Is the secretary really running the office? Sure, those things lead to great comedy, but if you don't realize who is really in charge of the customer-insurer relationship at your company, the results may not lead to laughter.
It's simple really. We've all heard it … "The Customer is King or Queen!"  If you don’t take care of your customers, someone else will. And without customers, you don't have a business. It's a lesson many business leaders learned and have shared with all of us over the years.
Insurance is a competitive industry. Just look at all the commercials on TV boasting about how much they care about their customers, how the go that extra mile to take care of them and the unique features they offer their customers to differentiate their product and service. They are there for them any time of the day or night. They aren't just their insurer, they are their friend. 
At a recent roundtable of industry leaders hosted by Innovation Group, Peter Settel, senior vice president and chief information officer, Homesite Insurance, remarked that consumers aren't just judging insurance companies one against another. They are looking at the services they receive from brands such as Google and Amazon among many. "They’re measuring us based on their standards for who is creating the best customer experience on the device they choose and in the way they choose.” He also noted that "you have to have a road map and you have to have the opportunity to invest to continually upgrade and improve your core infrastructure and have the ability to determine moves to make to really satisfy your customers."
But what's behind all of that care and service? How can they take such good care of the customers efficiently and cost effectively? Technology. Without it, there wouldn't be rapid response or apps or portals or any of those things that give customers that warm feeling. However, if you can't provide those services, your new boss, the customer, will be the first to fire you and replace you with someone new and fast!
Sam Walton of Wal-Mart is quoted as saying: "There is only one boss. The customer. And he can fire everybody in the company from the chairman on down, simply by spending his money somewhere else."
So what's an insurer to do? Well, it starts with the basics of customer service that are sometimes forgotten.
Understand 
Who is your customer? What does he or she really expect? If you're still operating under the "one size fits all" concept and treating the person like a policy number, it's time to join the 21st Century. Today's world is customized and personal.  No one wants to go through pages of information or search a site for information. They want it up front in an easy to understand format and on any device they chose.
"Who decides what's in Windows? The customers who buy it." - Bill Gates 
Communicate
While many people will go to your website to look at information, many also want you to proactively communicate to them … but only the information they want or need. It gives them that sense that you care and really know them.  It could be warnings and preparation ideas for storms. It could be a simple acknowledgement that you received a payment.  Some go as far as to send birthday greetings or offer discounts through unique partnerships with other companies. And be sure you provide it the way they want it … text or graphical … and on whatever device or devices they use.
"If you do build a great experience, customers tell each other about that. Word of mouth is very powerful." - Jeff Bezos 
Respond
Timely and quick response is critical. It's a fast paced world and people expect you to respond immediately. Whether it's by phone, text, email or online chat, you need to have all the information available at your fingertips. And you can only do so if you have agile, modern, integrated core systems to provide and compile the data.
"The single most important thing to remember about any enterprise is that there are no results inside its walls. The result of a business is a satisfied customer." –  Peter F. Drucker
It's essential for insurers of all sizes to provide customers with the highest level of service possible. To do this, they need core insurance systems from policy thorugh claims that are flexible, responsive, configurable, and efficient so that they can serve customers on-demand. They also need to be agile and flexible enough to offer different methods for different people. And they need to make it personal!
As author and speaker Dr. Michael LeBeouf said, "A satisfied customer is the best business strategy of all."

It's a classic movie and TV theme … the confusion over who is really the boss. It was even a hit show for Tony Danza. Does the housekeeper or butler really run the household? Is the secretary really running the office? Sure, those things lead to great comedy, but if you don't realize who is really in charge of the customer-insurer relationship at your company, the results may not lead to laughter.

It's simple really. We've all heard it … "The Customer is King or Queen!"  If you don’t take care of your customers, someone else will. And without customers, you don't have a business. It's a lesson many business leaders learned and have shared with all of us over the years.

Insurance is a competitive industry. Just look at all the commercials on TV boasting about how much they care about their customers, how the go that extra mile to take care of them and the unique features they offer their customers to differentiate their product and service. They are there for them any time of the day or night. They aren't just their insurer, they are their friend. 

At a recent roundtable of industry leaders hosted by Innovation Group, Peter Settel, senior vice president and chief information officer, Homesite Insurance, remarked that consumers aren't just judging insurance companies one against another. They are looking at the services they receive from brands such as Google and Amazon among many. "They’re measuring us based on their standards for who is creating the best customer experience on the device they choose and in the way they choose.” He also noted that "you have to have a road map and you have to have the opportunity to invest to continually upgrade and improve your core infrastructure and have the ability to determine moves to make to really satisfy your customers."

But what's behind all of that care and service? How can they take such good care of the customers efficiently and cost effectively? Technology. Without it, there wouldn't be rapid response or apps or portals or any of those things that give customers that warm feeling. However, if you can't provide those services, your new boss, the customer, will be the first to fire you and replace you with someone new and fast!

Sam Walton of Wal-Mart is quoted as saying: "There is only one boss. The customer. And he can fire everybody in the company from the chairman on down, simply by spending his money somewhere else."

So what's an insurer to do? Well, it starts with the basics of customer service that are sometimes forgotten.

Understand 

Who is your customer? What does he or she really expect? If you're still operating under the "one size fits all" concept and treating the person like a policy number, it's time to join the 21st Century. Today's world is customized and personal.  No one wants to go through pages of information or search a site for information. They want it up front in an easy to understand format and on any device they chose.

"Who decides what's in Windows? The customers who buy it." - Bill Gates 

Communicate

While many people will go to your website to look at information, many also want you to proactively communicate to them … but only the information they want or need. It gives them that sense that you care and really know them.  It could be warnings and preparation ideas for storms. It could be a simple acknowledgement that you received a payment.  Some go as far as to send birthday greetings or offer discounts through unique partnerships with other companies. And be sure you provide it the way they want it … text or graphical … and on whatever device or devices they use.

"If you do build a great experience, customers tell each other about that. Word of mouth is very powerful." - Jeff Bezos 

Respond

Timely and quick response is critical. It's a fast paced world and people expect you to respond immediately. Whether it's by phone, text, email or online chat, you need to have all the information available at your fingertips. And you can only do so if you have agile, modern, integrated core systems to provide and compile the data.

"The single most important thing to remember about any enterprise is that there are no results inside its walls. The result of a business is a satisfied customer." –  Peter F. Drucker

It's essential for insurers of all sizes to provide customers with the highest level of service possible. To do this, they need core insurance systems from policy thorugh claims that are flexible, responsive, configurable, and efficient so that they can serve customers on-demand. They also need to be agile and flexible enough to offer different methods for different people. And they need to make it personal!

As author and speaker Dr. Michael LeBeouf said, "A satisfied customer is the best business strategy of all."

Denise Garth is the executive vice president of strategic marketing and industry relations, and global head of market strategy for Innovation Group North America.  She can be reached for further comment or information via email at garthd@us.innovation-group.com

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