Embracing automation of marketing and sales in insurance

Analysts expect insurers to focus on automating the marketing and sales functions. By doing so, insurers can embrace a data-driven marketing approach which enables personalised campaigns that are more relevant to customers. In turn, this will create an opportunity for insurers to access previously untapped revenue opportunities. As part of this, the injection of advanced data analytics can assist insurers to gain a better understanding of customer behaviour. This lets them become more relevant and increase the success rate of their end user engagements.

Even before the developments of the past two years, lead generation has been a notoriously challenging undertaking for insurers. Thanks to increased competition and customers doing their own research on the best insurance solutions for their needs, marketing and sales teams have had their work cut out for them to create differentiation. Thanks to the rapid evolution of technology, insurers are better able to respond to the need of providing end-to-end digital experiences as well as combining the human element where it is required. This sees them embracing an omni-channel approach that delivers to an enhanced customer experience on the channel they prefer using.

Playing off strengths

As part of this, there are five best practices to consider when it comes to marketing automation in insurance.

It begins with the creation of an efficient customer acquisition strategy. Buyers will make a purchase only if their journey is smooth in terms of understanding the product, benefits of having it, and assurance of assistance. Insurance marketing automation allows for an understanding of where the customers are and how to accelerate them as fast as possible.

Next is the building and execution of an end-to-end nurturing and retention strategy. This is where the actual marketing efforts start after identifying a potential customer. It is always essential to answer customer queries, keep them updated with all the information, and give them a platform to voice their opinion.

AI distribution enhancement

Insurers are data-rich businesses. And thanks to the availability of more advanced technologies, they can extract even more value from the available data to capitalise on new opportunities. This is especially the case when it comes to driving sales, supporting the sales channels, and providing fresh insights to intermediaries.

More mature markets have shown how it is possible to integrate this advanced technology and resultant data analysis techniques to bring value to distribution and sales. Artificial intelligence (AI) is used to recruit agents by identifying the key attributes needed to deliver value to customer engagement. It is also integrated into the back-end systems that analyse customer personality types. By identifying which customers are likely to buy what solutions as well as their potential spend, an insurer can deliver targeted value propositions to those segments. Beyond that, AI can also assist the insurer to best match agents to clients and ensure the greatest possibility of success. This profile-matching extracts invaluable insights from the client and links that to agents with relevant expertise in dealing with those requirements.

At a fundamental level, the AI-powered customer journey entails mapping and understanding their behaviour to create a positive experience across all touchpoints. It involves generating insights using existing data that assist with driving sales in a dynamic new environment.

All about the data

Throughout the automation process and injecting AI capabilities into the value chain, insurers must be able to access all relevant customer data. Even though insurers are striving to be more data-driven, they need to rethink their traditional approaches and become more reliant on this information to optimally manage the marketing and sales functions.

AI as a technology creates opportunities for this. However, there must be an organisational need to change. This need is driven by the business leaders at the insurer who require the organisation to respond to evolving customer needs. The only way to do so effectively is to take the information at hand and embrace the opportunities presented by technology advancements.

This enables the insurer with the capabilities to enhance both the marketing and distribution processes. And by identifying the ways to achieve the best possible growth, combining data analytics with automation inject scalability into the insurer’s marketing and sales functions that can significantly improve the performance of agents.

Remote working means greater workforce support is needed

by Annalie Terblanche at SilverBridge Holdings

Remote working has become part of the standard operating procedure of many companies across industry sectors. At the very least, business leaders have embraced a hybrid environment where employees split their time between the workplace and home. But critical to the success of this new corporate footprint is how companies support their remote workforce.

As we head into the start of another year under the shadow of the pandemic, executives have a better understanding of the benefits and disadvantages of remote working. It is particularly in the insurance industry where a mindset change had to be made especially when it comes to traditional in-person interactions.

According to some, ‘sprints’ of intense, co-located work that last for finite periods of time before returning to long-term cycles of remote work may actually be more productive. During these high intense sessions, employees have the bonding and relationship-building time essential to any workplace culture. This reinforces teamwork and collaboration that lasts even into the remote environment. The reason insurance companies are equipped to adapt to this new reality is that the industry is more agile than many people give it credit for. Working together to roll a product out is key, but so is staying close to the customer and evolving the product in real-time—this process can be easily facilitated in a remote environment.

For this to work, an organisation must be willing to rethink how it approaches its solution development and management. At SilverBridge we understand that the new operating environment requires a more nuanced approach to better enabling teams. At a fundamental level, this sees us creating more value for our clients by giving them solutions capable of working in today’s hybrid environment.

Digitally-led

According to McKinsey, one of the reasons insurance is so agile is the ongoing work the sector has done to embrace modernisation and digitalisation of existing practices. A significant portion of the focus in recent years has been on rebuilding the talent acquisition processes and pipelines for a more modern era.

It believes the pandemic has highlighted how insurers can successfully form virtual agile teams, provide remote insurance advice, and handle policy sales and routine claims management remotely. There have been many instances where management teams have interacted only virtually, having come together after the start of the pandemic. Many insurers are also considering how working remotely can help them become more diverse, especially for technical roles, historically an area in which companies have had difficulty making progress.

As a Microsoft Managed Partner, we have taken the shifts in the landscape to heart. To this end, SilverBridge has integrated Microsoft Teams into the Exergy policy administration suite to make it easier than ever for the distributed workforce to fulfil their strategic deliverables.

Managing relationships

Of course, there is a balance to all this. Even though insurers have generally been accepting of remote work, maintaining good relationships with colleagues are still critical. The perceived value of solid relationships with peers is a significant influencing factor in how hybrid work and ongoing support in this environment are managed.

Unlike many other industries, employment levels in insurance have remained constant with people working the same amount of time or more than in the pre-pandemic days. However, the shift to remote work has accelerated digitalisation and automation to ensure remote employees remain productive with access to more data-driven tools.

Overall, insurance is well-positioned to capitalise on hybrid working and continue providing employees with the means to be effective. Upskilling and reskilling continuously will be important, but also access to the right technology. Fortunately, these are all things that have been central to the modernisation processes of insurers for many years.

Insurance risk managers must embrace technology disruption

by Patrick Ashton at SilverBridge Holdings

The accessibility of sophisticated artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning (ML) algorithms, enabled by the high-performance capabilities of cloud-based data centres, mean insurers can more readily embrace a culture of innovation when it comes to their traditional approaches to business processes.

Of course, the rising number of insurtechs, and evolving customer demands, have contributed to the creation of a disruptive environment that can capitalise on digitally-driven solutions. Whether through partnering with insurtechs or looking at more effective ways of modernising their existing processes and systems, insurers are well-positioned to capitalise on global changes in the industry that have been accelerated with the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic.

AI and ML introduce a level of automation in data analysis and the decision process that was not possible before. It is especially in underwriting, claim decisioning, and product development that these technologies prove to be invaluable. Consider the potential of underwriting or making claims decisions by machine thanks to injecting AI into processes that can now learn from and replicate decisions from experienced consultants. This sees machines capable of making decisions just as their human counterparts would have done but at a faster rate with absolute consistency and 24/7 availability. And then there are the opportunities for developing products based on changes in risk and customer life stages at an individual level to provide dynamic pricing. No longer does insurance simply have to be an off the shelf solution but one that reflects the unique risks and preferences of individuals.

Confluence of technology and partnerships

With numerous insurtechs providing specialised data, service, or product offerings, it becomes increasingly important for insurers to look outward to these new providers for integrated solutions. These solutions should combine credit, health, and fraud risk views on business decisions, overlaid with AI and ML capabilities to minimise manual, inefficient interventions.

To scale and remain relevant, insurers need to embrace these new technologies and partnerships. Their policy holders demand modern user interfaces with real-time decisioning and service and the only way to achieve this is through automation, driven by intelligent risk processes.

Managing change

There are two ways that technologies like AI and ML can be integrated into the insurance process. Firstly, there is the outside-in approach. This focuses on strategy development that reads and responds to market dynamics, customer insights, and emerging technologies to create differentiated value. Secondly, is inside-out. This is an approach to strategy development that is internally-focused, leveraging the insurer’s capabilities and strengths as a primary point of departure to create differentiated value.

Both these strategies account for how technology use within insurers is evolving and how the insurer can potentially future-proof themselves against ongoing external market changes. Even so, risk managers must embrace the implications that innovation can unlock inside the insurer. To do so requires a mindset shift towards one that actively seeks AI, ML, and insurtech partnerships as enablers for growth. Once this is done, one of the biggest obstacles to providing agility within traditional processes is removed.

About SilverBridge

With extensive experience in designing and implementing solutions for retail and corporate long-term insurers, including pensions and employee benefits, SilverBridge is one of the largest providers of specialised technology solutions to emerging markets. Its experience also includes the development of artificial intelligence and robotic process automation solutions not only for insurance, but also in the banking industry.

 

Reimagining the customer experience

Even though the value proposition behind insurance has not fundamentally changed over hundreds of years, advancements in technology and the rapid digital transformation brought about by the COVID-19 pandemic have contributed to an increasingly sophisticated customer base that is demanding more from service providers. Machine learning, the Internet of Things, artificial intelligence, and other shifts are challenging traditional insurance products and engagement models.

Today, incumbents have two key areas of focus – modernisation and digitalisation – as they look to respond to the enhanced expectations from their customers. But beyond the technology side of things, trust and relevance will be deciding-factors on whether customers stay with their current insurers or look elsewhere. These are two sides of the same coin. If an insurer does not deliver solutions tailored to the unique needs of an individual customer, then that person is likely to lose trust in how the organisation is using the data it has compiled of them.

Different views

This could result in insurers partnering with fintechs to deliver a more comprehensive offering that blur the lines between traditional products and more agile, future-forward ones. Critical to this partnership-driven approach is having the understanding that customers are integrated ‘entities’ and not siloed. They require insurers to have an overall view of all their needs and not just fragments of them.

Whether it is in partnership with one another or individually, insurers and fintechs must start treating customers holistically covering their physical, emotional, and financial wellbeing. Data analysis through modern, digitally-driven solutions leveraging the high-performance computing capabilities of the cloud become one of the keys to this success.

Doing so will see the service provider expand the value proposition. It is not a case of reinventing the wheel but identifying ways to enhance what is already in place. Rewarding ‘positive’ customer behaviour through discounts on premiums or other value-added services can also show them that the insurer is considering them more holistically than in the past.

Identifying growth

Of course, the focus must expand to include identifying opportunities for growth. Simply catering for existing customer needs limits the business when it comes to potential to differentiate amongst its competitors.

Expanding its strategy to deliver more innovative solutions that cater for a younger customer base that is more focused on digitalised solutions can position the insurer for more robust (and long-term) growth. Along with this can come things like subscription or consumption pricing models for customers, leveraging mobile payments as a more effective way of collecting premiums especially in Africa with its large unbanked population, and even considering cryptocurrencies as payment methods.

The takeaway is that insurers must not limit their thinking to what has worked in the past. It is about identifying the modern innovations that are gaining traction with today’s customers that bring with it the agility needed to adopt to future trends more effectively.