Amanda Pitcher

­­­It’s finally here – The Age of the Customer – as analysts and industry experts have been telling us for years. Customers hold the power when selecting from the abundance of financial product and service providers. Specifically, search tools and social networks have helped cast a transparent light onto sectors such as insurance – and financial services in general – for inquisitive consumers as they look for the product or policy that best meets their needs.

These needs, however, extend far beyond the product itself. The customer’s experience with a provider is far more powerful. Their experience is what they share on social channels, reviews and with their peers. A positive experience can create a loyal advocate, a negative experience can result in a customer going to one of your competitors.

Having great, cheap or specialist products are no longer the key to customer loyalty and advocacy. Bain’s 2016 survey of 164,421 consumers (in 19 countries) revealed loyalty is the biggest challenge facing insurers today. Customer loyalty and advocacy cannot be achieved through traditional marketing channels, which focus on product features and competitor comparisons. Now, with greater clarity and increasingly demanding customer needs, providing an excellent experience is the answer to acquisition, retention, and advocacy.

Your customers expect more

Put simply, consumers expect more. Your products must, of course, meet their basic needs, however, what is more important is that the insurance provider must meet – or exceed – their service expectations. Customers want businesses to know who they are, anticipate their needs and meet them with the highest level of service in every interaction they have – websites and mobile, tablets, phone calls, emails and beyond.

With this in mind, it’s no surprise that insurers are investing big money in re-designing their customer experience (CX) to get to know their customers and better meet these expectations. A recent McKinsey survey of senior financial services executives identified CX as of the top three priorities for CEOs. They’re acutely aware of the rising expectations of their customers, and that puts customer satisfaction at the top of their list.

Good CX must align with business priorities

The CEOs did say “top three” priorities. While there’s no denying the customers’ needs come first to ensure loyalty and advocacy, a good CX strategy must consider the business’s needs and priorities equally as important.

In a CX process, the first step is to understand who your customers are – not just your current customers, but also potential and past customers. Map out their insurance journeys from research through to purchase and changing providers. What drives them to make decisions? What is a positive customer experience from their point of view? The next step is make or break for effective CX design: understand the business, inside and out. What are their aspirations, what drives them, what’s the culture, values and priorities?

Why is customer and business alignment so important?

The saying goes, “You cannot be all things to all people, You can’t do all things at once, You can’t do all things equally well…” [author unknown, but spot on]. Customers are more empowered than ever before, but no business can simultaneously meet the expectations of every single potential or existing customer, deliver an excellent experience for all of them and turn them into loyal advocates. Not without significant business change, financial investment and the challenges that go with it.

Finding the sweet spot

To decide what to tackle first requires a business to temper the ideal with the real: balance customer experience with business value and look for alignment – where do the customers’ needs meet a business goal?

For example, if you are an insurer and your 2017 goal is to increase acquisition by 15%, then focus on what customers say they need when they are looking for an insurance provider, how they look, what makes them choose one provider or product over another. Here is where you’ll find the balance – the CX sweet spot – an opportunity to meet both business and customer priorities.

Yell believes the same balancing act – weighing customer ideals against business reality – should be taken when identifying and implementing solutions, whether it’s digital, physical, process, system, or a platform. And while this shouldn’t be an overriding principle, cost must be acknowledged as a factor in the decision-making process. Because the reality is there is an opportunity cost and business impact associated with every change.

Yell’s approach is to assess any potential solutions on both the value and benefit to customers, and the business value – whether that’s ROI or alignment to priorities or goals. Solutions that score low on both aspects are less important to the overall customer experience or customer journey. While solutions that generate high business value to the detriment of the customer are also not viable, and vice versa. The best solutions are the ones that deliver high value for both customer and business.

These decisions need to be made on a level playing field, using a consistent process and empirical data, rather than assumptions or hunches clouded by emotion or personal opinions. Data can take many shapes and forms when it comes to Customer Experience, but that’s for another blog post.

 

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