Social Business in Insurance: Building Trusted Relationships
Colleen Burns 120000C4RP firstname.lastname@example.org | | Tags:  reliance_life insurance social_business christian_bieck
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We are increasingly living in a social world: The average U.S. internet user spends 32 hours online each and every month, the average European user 27 hours. That is time people used to spend watching TV and it’s now instead being spent Tweeting, liking, searching, downloading, chatting, and shopping. And it’s not just a young person’s game anymore, if it ever was; the fastest growing Facebook segment is over 40. Almost all of my friends play games online, and none of them are younger than 30 – the social aspect of online gaming is what fascinates all of us the most.
What about insurance? Not a simple question. On the surface, becoming social is moving things online, and I already blogged about that: I don’t buy insurance online, and share that sentiment with a large percentage of other consumers all over the world. On the other hand, I do like to browse online – gathering information online and a seamless transition to offline purchase is something the insurance industry has to be ready for. I can easily interact with other companies on Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn – not so easy with insurance.
Agents, brokers, distributors are experimenting with engaging customers online but there are some challenges. Control of customer data is a concern: should we be loading information about customer and property on unsecure external clouds? In addition, regulatory compliance is a hurdle – are distributors making statements via social media that can get you in trouble? With compliance fines being levied per incident, this can quickly become a major liability. Beyond that there are potentially skills gaps internally for insurance companies. Finally, some executives regard social media being a “flash in the pan”; indeed, overall I still stand by what I wrote a few months ago: insurers don’t “get” social media.
But Social Business is more than just the use of social media towards the end customers. Social refers to all parts of the ecosystem. Demand is huge and not playing is increasingly not an option – there are too many benefits on the table. For instance, reputational management – can I identify when my company is being recommended? Being trashed? Getting in front of issues early can save millions in branding and retention costs. Another example is in sales and service – I hear anecdotes that some of the highest-performing young agents are the ones leveraging social media to make connections. They don’t just offer personalized advice and products, but go beyond the business relationship in helping their customers. This is nothing really new – agents that were part of a community have always done that; insurance, after all, is there to protect in life situations where protection is needed. What is changing is that much of the community is moving online – in low-density countries like the U.S. or Australia more than in Europe – and service providers have to adapt.
If you can get everybody connected: customers, employees, partners, agents and brokers, and even the CEO, then you have a major lever to drive progress. Insurers are tackling this space in three steps, and they are doing so right now.
1. It is important to understand what is happening. Analytics, reputational monitoring and social graph analysis can help create a picture of your customer’s experience and how they interact with your offerings. Pilot projects, small investments, experimentation, keyword analysis establish a good first step towards social response.
2. You have to connect your ecosystem. Insurers are looking to improve connections between the insurer and the people and enterprises they do business with. Doing underwriting, claims connections and risk management in the field can be a differentiator for your business.
3. Connect with the end customer. With social business you can find ways to identify life stages and major risk changes with customers and be there for them when the customer has a concern, not only when you want to sell something. Instead of channeling at your customer, you build a partnership and mitigate risk.
A good example illustrating what is happening right now is the work my colleagues did at Reliance Life in India building a “Virtual Office”.
In this emerging market dependence on physical locations is a limiting factor. At the same time the market is growing double digits every year. Reliance Life needed to have self-service to speed time to market for new offerings and gaining advantage over competitors
The goal behind the Social Business plan for Reliance Life was to connect customers, Reliance employees, and agents.
In a Virtual Office, customers can shop for products, plan and manage portfolios, and see all their premiums in one place. Agents and employees see a unified view of the customer portfolios. They can easily customize service and cross-sell. Analytics are applied to the office to personalize offers and extend existing services that are relevant to the customer.
Results are simple: Increased new business premiums by up to 100 percent. However, the intangibles are more important: you have the data to see marketplace trends and identify sales opportunities more quickly. Managers now have granular visibility into staff and policy performance and can invest in the right distributors to scale at speed.
Social Business is a really hot topic among insurers – hot and controversial. It is important to do it right from the start – as with all other interaction, doing it badly is worse than not doing it at all.