Insurers need personalisation to become more personal

Adopting a more personalised approach to customer engagement and product development present insurers with the opportunity to influence customer loyalty and respond to ever-increasing customer expectations. Nelson Camara, Go-to-market Executive at SilverBridge, believes this is where the ability of insurers to collect, analyse, and activate the right data from the vast amount of it at their disposal will become integral as they strive to differentiate their brand through a better customer experience.

Insurance is evolving, bringing with it an increased focus on customer touchpoints. This is in response to demand for an enhanced customer experience. Being able to analyse customer data and act on the insights in more innovative ways can greatly enhance these interactions and transform the relationship into a more proactive one. This is essential to counter the perceived agility of insurtechs and their focus on customer-centricity.

“Personalisation can make the entire insurance customer journey more relevant and personal to the individual customer. Advanced data analytics is now making it possible for insurers to become more proactive in how they engage with customers. This is resulting in the expansion of customer digital touchpoints. In doing so, customers can share more data, but expect to be ‘rewarded’ in turn. This talks to how people no longer want generic insurance offerings but prefer targeted solutions based on their individual risk profiles. Based on the data they share the insurer can now incorporate this level of personalisation. In doing so, personalised premiums can be delivered not only driven by usage-based coverage but also having more data to analyse,” says Camara.

This brings with it an implicit expectation of getting a more unified and personal experience. Simply focusing on age, wealth, and geographic location is limiting in an environment driven by a myriad of interlinked data entry points. In the past, push notifications and other one-way communications were considered satisfactory. Subsequently, this has evolved with customers wanting a more engaging experience.

“Today, it is about having a deeper understanding of the customers’ needs and desires and providing the product and customer experience to match. This is putting insurers under pressure to continually develop innovative experiences to meet evolving customer expectations,” says Camara.

CX-driven

The shift towards personalisation can also transform the underlying insurance focus towards prevention instead of only making claims easier to do. This is where the data generation of Internet of Things (IoT) devices become critical. From telemetry in cars monitoring driving to chips on geysers that can identify when maintenance is due, these can contribute to making insurance more focused on the individual instead generally targeting a broad customer segment.

“Furthermore, this also contributes to gaining an integrated understanding of each individual customer. By collating data from all touch points, the insurer is better able to respond to their expectations. In many respects, this assists with taking the theoretical understanding of the omni-channel and transforms it into a practical one driven by digital insights,” adds Camara.

An example of this can be seen by the approach some insurers like Naked have taken when it comes to vehicle cover. Even prior to the lockdown, customers can pause vehicle cover for the duration they are not driving, reducing their monthly expenses. This has become a significant advantage during this time.

New ways

“An insurer can only adopt this pay-as-you-live model if it understands the data at its disposal. More than that, it can provide customised advice and even more tailored pricing based on the risk profile of an individual.”

This agility also brings with it the opportunity to reach the previously uninsurable. For example, Rwanda is seeing micro-insurance companies coming up with a human-centred solution with those unable to access traditional insurance policies.

“At its core is the willingness to understand the precise needs and the daily lives of the people the insurer is serving. With this comes an increased relevance to customers in a more direct way. By emphasising the customer experience, an insurer can get the much-needed competitive advantage required for the digital world,” concludes Camara.

Embracing digitalised decision-making

On 11 March, the World Health Organisation declared the coronavirus outbreak a global pandemic. In response to the spread of the virus, at least half of the global population has been placed on lockdown to try and ‘flatten the curve’. Unfortunately, the spread of the virus is not the only thing that will slow down. Research expects the global economy to experience an unprecedented contraction during the first half of the year. This may even extend further should the impact of the virus be worse than anticipated.

Companies have been forced to ensure those employees able to do so are properly equipped to work from home. These information workers must be enabled to service the customer base effectively. This means having good, accessible IT systems in place with enough internet bandwidth and all communication channels properly operational. These employees need to be managed differently, customer engagements require a different approach, and business processes need to be digitised as far as possible.

This increasing online business model requires a new, more digital, mindset to continue to service customers, keep employees happy, and keep operational costs under control. With no employees allowed at the office, business bottlenecks must be removed, and remote productivity controls improved. Of course, the expertise of employees can still be leveraged using digital assets. For example, key decision-making within business processes – the faster, more consistent, and more automated these decisions can be made the more effective an organisation can become in a remotely operated world.

At every organisation, there are stand-out employees with whom entire projects or solutions can be entrusted. These people are typically experienced, embrace company culture and values, and bring with them a raft of knowledge and expertise that is difficult to replace.

AI decision-making

TOM (tacit object modeller) is a niche artificial intelligence (AI) technology designed to replicate this invaluable human expertise. Subject matter expert decisioning can be modelled in a series of steps which considers the tacit knowledge of the expert, along with existing business rules, and simulates their thinking during decision-making processes. The result becomes a digital asset, which is essentially a cloned version of that expert decision, that can be deployed virtually within an organisation.

The modelling as well as the deployment process can be performed remotely from anywhere and at any time. Virtualised expert decisions can be tested against historic data sets for accuracy and tweaked quickly when discrepancies show. This provides experts the flexibility to work from home in a secure environment whilst maintaining their input into key business processes albeit in a virtualised manner. Productivity is improved, people stay safe, and these key individuals can focus on helping the company prepare for new business challenges, without a reduction in operational effectiveness.

A new world

Already, the outbreak of the coronavirus has changed many working behaviours. Following the crisis, companies could find themselves in a position where employees may not even want to return to the office, or a business may start promoting a remote working policy in a more widespread fashion.

If this does become the new normal then it would make sense to digitise as many assets as possible, including expert decisioning. With TOM, companies can take their digital expertise to work rather than their human experts.

The global benefits to a more digital workforce are enormous. This comes with no reduction in productivity, no drop in operational effectiveness, and improved people wellness. In such a digital-centric world, every organisation should give serious consideration to such an approach. Now is the time to reinvent traditional processes.

Move to cloud crucial for business response to COVID-19

The current lockdown is testing the ability of business to adapt quickly to changing market conditions. Companies that have embraced more digital ways of working have been far less impacted. Several slower respondents are turning their focus away from only the cost benefits of cloud-based solutions to the agility and responsiveness that they now require. The more connected businesses are those that will survive.

Several years ago, SilverBridge identified the cloud as a key business driver for the financial services industry and therefore also for its own business. It has formed an integral part of its strategy of providing the industry with solutions for modernisation and digitalisation. With Microsoft being a strategic partner for many years, it made sense for SilverBridge to align with their strategy and work closely with them to enable their joint clients.

“We implemented our first cloud-based client project on Microsoft Azure in 2015. This was a few years before the datacentres were available in South Africa and at a time when most financial services companies were still very cautious and sceptical about the cloud. Since then we have worked closely with Microsoft to move more of our solutions to Azure and enable our clients to not only modernise their core line of business systems but also unlock the benefits of digitalising their processes. We now deliver a complete cloud-based digital suite of products to our clients,” says Lee Kuyper, COO at SilverBridge.

Using the SilverBridge Exergy policy administration system on the Microsoft Azure cloud significantly contributes to the ability of its clients to modernise their core insurance system – the heart of their operations. It enables them to scale according to their customer requirements and be more agile in embracing digital technologies to deliver value. This cloud-based approach means an insurer can respond more efficiently to a changing business environment.

At a time when engaging with customers and staff is moving from physical to online, it is important to identify how best to apply digitalisation in a practical and people-centric way. Intermediaries, for example, can effectively onboard customers digitally and access critical information from any physical location. This involves replacing the previously physical processes of application and fulfilment with a completely digital experience.

“Those insurers who have already begun their digital transformation would have already put the necessary measures in place to enable staff to operate remotely. We can see that our clients who have partnered with us in using our cloud-based digital solutions still have complete access irrespective of the user’s physical location, ensuring the business can function as normal.”

However, those insurers who have been unable or unwilling to make the move to the cloud and who have been reliant on their own physical infrastructure to manage and engage customers will struggle to effectively do business during the lockdown.

“SilverBridge is now working closely with those customers who still have on-premise deployments to try and fast track a move to the cloud. This will not only modernise the way they work but will also accelerate the digitalisation of their businesses, something which every business would anyway have to do at some point in the future.” adds Kuyper.

However, security must form part of this as employees access critical systems, with sensitive customer information, remotely. Microsoft has already invested over $1 billion in developing security solutions for the Azure cloud, one of the key reasons that SilverBridge has chosen to partner with Microsoft in this regard. They have also largely addressed any regulatory and data protection concerns that businesses might have. If any concerns remain, they have the expert resources to assist clients to effectively deal with them.

The lockdown is giving insurers no choice but to think differently about how business can be done. This includes adopting a more digital and modern approach to prove value in a very uncertain climate.

“Post the pandemic, the world and business in general will be completely different. Companies across industry sectors will embrace online solutions to improve efficiencies and deliver value faster. The next few weeks will see cynics testing a digital way of working and realising that this is the future of industry. People understand this on a conceptual level but need to move past the expected and perceived barriers that exist. They need to start working with the practical elements of modernisation and digitalisation, while dealing with these barriers as they arise.”

Something positive that will come out of the current crisis, is that more businesses will embrace the cloud and digital transformation in more direct, practical, and beneficial ways.

About SilverBridge
SilverBridge has 25 years’ experience as a leading provider of software solutions in the financial services industry. Their experience includes working with over 60 customers across 16 African countries. SilverBridge’s digital suite allows financial services companies the opportunity to respond quickly to changing markets. With customers throughout Africa, SilverBridge has the knowledge, experience, and technology capabilities to help its clients do better business.

Understanding disruption in insurance

Disruption is a term used increasingly often in a digital environment. But what does it mean for insurers looking to differentiate themselves from the rise of agile insurtechs and fintechs? Jaco Swanepoel, founder and CEO of SilverBridge, examines the impact of disruption in insurance.

Disruption refers to a process that breaks or interrupts the normal course of action or the continuation of some activity. And when it comes to defining it in a digital context, it talks to the use of technology to shake-up an industry with ground-breaking new products and processes. Sometimes, it can even result in the creation of an entirely new industry segment.

For example, think about how mobile devices have disrupted the television industry. Some people have become so comfortable to stream video content to their mobile phones and tablets, that many millennials prefer these over big screen televisions. This has resulted in TV manufacturers being ‘forced’ to become more innovative in how they package screens and displays.

“Of course, in insurance, this involves more than just hardware, software, and the bits and bytes of what is happening around us. Meaningful digital transformation requires combining technology with powerful ideas that was not possible before and thereby creating new opportunities,” says Swanepoel.

In practice

At their core, insurers focus on meeting customer expectations to manage their risks. In a digital world, people want increasingly more intuitive, user-friendly options to fit into their real-time lifestyles. Whether that is 24-hour access to relevant information to manage their risk or use mobile apps to submit and resolve claims that are processed automatically with no agent interference, the ways insurers deal with people and manage the business have changed.

Research has shown by introducing automation, an insurer can reduce the cost of a claims journey by as much as 30%. Considering how tight budgets have become and the importance by finding subtle ways of improving the customer journey, this is a significant number. Furthermore, the reduction in size of devices have turned mobile phones into what can be considered portable computers.”

This means insurers (and consumers) can harness new opportunities to reinvent what has come before. An entirely new ecosystem is emerging that is driven by digital customer engagement. No longer do insurers have to exclusively rely on agents for user interaction. They can leverage mobile apps to provide a continually evolving set of products and services catering for more innovative ways of analysing customer data and market trends.”

People first

Much, if not all, of this is centred around a people-centric design. Customers want ease of use and want insurance to become a significantly more intuitive experience.

“So, even though technology is making all this possible, it only enables insurers to embrace disruption. It should never be the be-all and end-all of everything. The person remains at the core of the insurance experience.”

Another example is how some insurers rely on automation for the customer sign up process. By simply providing basic information, a user can have immediate access to full personal cover and submit photos of their insured items from an insurance app. From quotes to claims, the bulk of the insurance journey becomes automated thanks to better data analysis and artificial intelligence that deliver a more efficient way of customising products on a per user basis,” adds Swanepoel.

However, Swanepoel advises that the insurance approach must remain cognisant of identifying new opportunities instead of simply overhauling traditional processes.

“It is all about taking digital disruption and making it concrete and measurable in the hearts and minds of people. The customer should experience this as an improvement and not as a shock unless it is a positive one. It must demonstrate returns to all stakeholders and not just be technology for its own sake. Only then will companies be empowered to start reinventing how they manage insurance,” concludes Swanepoel.

About SilverBridge

SilverBridge has over 24 years’ experience as a leading provider of insurance software solutions in the African financial services industry. Our experience includes working with over 60 customers across 16 African countries. SilverBridge’s digital insurance suite allows financial services companies the opportunity to respond quickly to changing markets. With customers throughout Africa, SilverBridge has the knowledge, experience, and technology capabilities to help its clients do better business.