Opinion: How insurance firms can cope with the growing pace of digital change

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By Craig Beveridge, general manager – Australia, Jade Software
Insurance companies everywhere are struggling through an unprecedented period of disruption and change, and many are wondering how best to cope.
Most customers are seeking services delivered via digital channels as they become increasingly used to transacting and engaging from wherever they are, and on whatever device they have.  Meanwhile, some customers still prefer to deal with insurers using more traditional communications methods.
As a result, the game is changing for insurers. They need to examine everything from the new products being brought to market to the ways in which sales teams interact with clients. They must understand that a one-size-fits all approach is no longer good enough.
Shifting from 'reactive' to 'proactive'
So how can insurers shift from being reactive to these changes to proactively growing their market share? There are four key steps that should be followed:
1. Start with planning
Emerging digital channels are not only another way to engage with customers, but also a way they expect to interact with insurance firms. Encouragingly, a recent Jade survey found 71.2% of insurers list digital customer experience as their most important IT spend.
Developing a plan to keep on top of changing customer behaviour is critical. This involves offering products and services that meet their individual needs which, in turn, creates deeper and more meaningful relationships. However firms should also be wary of over planning as too much rigidity and process can stifle innovation.
One idea is to run design thinking workshops with people from throughout the company and clients, too. This will draw together logic, imagination, intuition, and reasoning and help to explore what solutions and initiatives might work.
2. A connected customer experience
Research shows new digital customers are less loyal and more willing to switch insurers for better value. This trend not only drives a need for new business strategies, but also changes how firms must interact with their customers.
Great customer experience affords businesses an opportunity to build deeper relationships. Experience shows customers are looking for a personal connection rather than being treated just as a number.
Armed with more data than ever before and the ability to engage with customers at any time in any place, firms are now well placed to meet this desire. The challenge, though, is finding ways to integrate the right systems and making sense of the data obtained from them.
This data comes from multiple sources including social channels, online interactions, CRM systems and billing platforms. It needs to be collected, aggregated, analysed and put to work to add value for the organisation.
It should be noted that customers don’t think in channels - they simply recognise a good or bad interaction. Of those polled in the Jade research, 82% listed the importance of channel hopping as very critical. The development of a seamless omni-channel experience will therefore allow customers to engage on their terms without repeating information they’ve already provided.
3. Integrating and maximising data
Wearable technology, the Internet of Things (IoT), and other IT trends are creating massive data sets which offer the prospect of much better understanding of how customers behave. Yet, despite this data smorgasbord, many insurers are struggling to make use of it or turn it into actionable insights. Data can help improve the customer experience, however without a strong, efficient, and informative data platform in place, it won't achieve this aim.
The best approach to take is to integrate existing systems to allow data to be easily shared for analysis and use within the company. This will support quick, flexible operating models that are adaptive to disruptive technologies. It also sets the organisation up to become a thriving digital business.
This goal can be achieved by having a single integration layer above existing back-end systems. This, in turn, will deliver access to all business data in one central place and provide a consolidated view of each customer’s information whenever wherever it is needed.
4. Rapid innovation in the digital age
Emerging business models are highlighting the need for insurers to not only adapt to disruptive technologies but also to reinvent themselves, and such reinvention is as much about culture as it is about the application of IT.
Whether it’s an internal program, or an external digital partnership, building a culture that encourages innovation will pay significant dividends in the future. Surrounding this culture with processes such as agile methodologies, failing fast, and rapid prototyping will further position the company for future growth.
Insurance is becoming a digital industry dominated by customers and data. This rapidly changing business landscape requires a new way of thinking, new relationships, and new processes.
As advances in technology continue to accelerate and consumer behaviours change, having a culture and strategy that fosters innovation and pro-activity will be crucial for future success.

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