Instrumented Interconnecteds Intelligent

Christian Bieck, IBM Institute for Business Value, Insurance Leader

Christian Bieck, IBM Institute for Business Value, Insurance Leader

By Christian Bieck

The most urgent and strategic initiative that I currently discuss with insurers is that of “Customer Centricity.” That’s because a lot of insurers are having a hard time understanding their customers, many of whom are becoming multi-modal.

A multi-modal customer is one who interacts with a provider through a variety of modes – or interaction points – i.e., face-to-face, phone, websites or aggregators. Often, a multi-modal customer will not purchase a product or service from the interaction point they used to collect information and gather a quote.

Finding success in today’s environment means that insurers must present the right data, information and offers to the right customers, at the right time, and through the right interaction points – many of which are digital.

(Fourth in a series in support of Big Data Week.)

Closing the Trust Gap

The increasing digitization of consumer interactions is leading to a greater demand for transparency. Not surprisingly, customers are becoming harder to satisfy and maintain. IBM’s recent studies in the insurance industry are remarkably consistent in this regard, revealing that roughly 60 percent of customers do not trust the insurance industry. Those who lack trust are 25 percent more likely to switch carriers.

This gap can only be closed if insurers make an effort to better understand each customer as an individual with unique preferences, and actually act on that information by targeting customers with personalized services.

Fortunately, the technology exists today to help. Advanced analytics can be used to create a complete customer profile to better understand individual behavior patterns and preferences. These insights provide insurers with valuable new paths to engagement.

For example, a large European auto insurer used real-time Big Data insights to create a flexible pricing model that enabled drivers to pay only for the insurance they needed, based on their actual driving habits. By creating a more objective pricing structure, the company acquired 20,000 new customers within the first year of business. Customers flocked to the value of being serviced on an individual basis, versus being targeted with a mass-marketed sales pitch or even a micro segmentation.

According to IBM’s latest Big Data study, 47 percent of insurance providers seek to improve the customer experience by better understanding customer behaviors. More than half (55 percent) of all financial services providers want to apply analytics to boost customer-centric outcomes. While the industry is starting to recognize the need to better understand customers, it’s going to be essential for all insurers to do this.

The reality is that consumers can and will switch insurers if they can’t interact with their provider in the way that they want to. The ability not only to shop for and compare insurance prices online, but to compare outcomes and experiences through a variety of social interactions, puts consumers in charge like never before, making it easy for them to jump from one insurer to another with just a click of the mouse, or a swipe of a phone.

The Pay Off

IBM’s research found that all organizations – large and small – state that Big Data yields a competitive advantage. In the insurance industry, the percentage of respondents reporting a competitive advantage rose from 35 percent in 2010 to 74 percent in 2012 – a sharp 111 percent increase in two years.

So what do I tell insurers when they ask how they can become more customer centric? I tell them that it is not simply a matter of implementing a program: to stay competitive, insurers must put customers, and, more so, individuals, at the center of every decision. Providers must move away from treating customers as broad demographics and instead connect with customers as individuals. The beauty of Big Data is that it’s a treasure trove of untapped insights that can be mined to do just this – empower providers to deliver highly-targeted interactions while cementing important customer bonds.


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