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This article by Birgit Fien-Schmalzbauer was posted on the Digitalist on June 27, 2016

The insurance industry is seeing a significant technological revolution as the inner workings of agencies adapt to the digital economy. However, customer-focused changes are also necessary. Digital customer engagement and focused, lifestyle experience communications are more powerful and important than ever. Customers are demanding a simple, seamless way to interact with the insurer they select. Often they determine whether a particular insurer will meet their needs long before that first touchpoint.

How can today’s insurance companies meet customer demands for hyper-connectivity and personalized lifestyle experiences?

Trends reshape the insurance buyer’s experience

Insurance customers are demanding simple and personalized experiences, and they want those experiences to match their lifestyle needs. The concept seems complex, but it does not need to be. Insurers must create the right impression, build a solid brand, and integrate key components of the business to meet customer needs. Consider that as many as 70% of customers are making purchase decisions prior to engaging with the agent. This demonstrates the importance of connecting with and creating the right interactions long before the agent calls the customer. It also showcases the importance of digital connectivity.

A good place to start meeting this demand is to look at the trends that are reshaping the insurance buyer’s experience. For example, today’s insurance buyer has immediate access to the pricing and product information he or she needs to make decisions. They can gather feedback. They may compare policies. And they will get recommendations from multiple sources. This happens everywhere, allowing the customer to make better-informed decisions.

Customers also want a personalized journey through the sales cycle. They want access to multiple ways of connecting with the company to create a seamless journey. Channels in every aspect of the insurance business must communicate the same message and provide the same ease of connection with the customer. One survey found that 29% of customers view companies that deliver on their promised value at the right price to be worthy of their business, and 21% of customers want personalized services and products to meet their needs. Among those looking for ease of business, 22% want both online and offline touchpoints. Companies that fail in these areas often miss key opportunities to form positive relationships with insurance buyers.

Consumers today are more willing to provide detailed data for analysis. Although more data is available, many companies still do not use it effectively enough. However, consumers expect and want insurance companies to use their data to create enriching, better-reaching solutions. In other words, customers are giving data. They want insurers to use that data to create insurance products that best meet their needs.

What technological solutions do customers need to engage?

Understanding the trends in the insurance buyer’s sector is important, but implementing solutions is even more essential. Every aspect of the insurance provider’s business impacts the customer experience. To create a lifestyle insurance experience that meets the trends and demands of today’s customers, companies must accommodate their increasing digital lifestyle. To do this, a number of tools must interconnect to reach consumers.

Companies must bring together all business components, including marketing, sales, services, and commerce. With the customer at the center of every process, insurance businesses must focus on delivering comprehensive service.

Within the marketing component, for example, digital connectivity may seem obvious. But today’s insurers must reach beyond traditional TV advertising. They also need to consider the value of adding video and social media. Consumers engage with companies quickly and efficiently online. Social media, for example, is where they go to gather information about a company’s reputation. They use it to report concerns directly to the company. Consumers also use it to gather information about services and products. Video is an excellent form of engagement that aids in brand-building as well as creating personalized experiences.

Within the sales component, businesses must include traditional sales methods while also focusing on digital connections, including mobile, quote to cash, and execution. Digital customer engagement, even within the agent’s phone call, can secure more leads and improve an insurer’s ability to reach a larger audience.

The digital economy also impacts the commerce component of the insurer’s business. Trade, retail, and e-commerce are all equally important. When reaching and interacting with customers, providing for their needs, and delivering service, all levels of commerce must be digitally connected so companies can interact with and deliver the type of personalized service consumers need.

Of course, the service sector also plays a very important role in developing a personalized solution for consumers. Here, every component of the insurer’s services must connect digitally, from phone SMS and self-service to call centers. All touch points play a role in exactly how the customer interacts. They also play a role in how the company’s departments interact. It all impacts how the expectations of the consumer are met.

Creating digital customer engagement in the digital economy

Creating a digital business is essential to all companies in today’s economy, and customer engagement simply must happen. This includes providing multiple channels consumers can use to connect with your business, as well as providing personalized experiences. Every interaction needs to provide options. And all business processes, from sales, service, marketing, and commerce, must align.

Giving customers a way to interact is important. Giving them numerous options to connect is game-changing.

Download our insurance white paper “How Insurers Can Prepare for the Digital Revolution” today to see what SAP has to offer. We will work with you to develop an insurance business that’s ready to meet the needs of digital customer engagement.

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