Digital Transformation, Technology and The Insurance Industry.
A 10 minute read outlining the processes we believe best serve the insurance and financial services industries when considering or undertaking digital transformation either client-side or as part of a back-office change.
Preface. Our work in the insurance sector.
Stunn consults on customer experience, and design and makes software to digitise your sales and back-office processes. We’re not an off the shelf solution provider, we’re not affiliated with, or limited to one particular platform. We are focussed on how your business operates, and how we can enhance business outcomes for you with effective use of design and technology.
We know from working with some of the world’s largest insurers and brokers that strategies, workflows and processes differ across businesses. We know that different classes of business require different workflows, and different customer groups have different requirements and expectations. We also know that wholesale adoption of new platforms and methods won’t generally be an exact fit with “business as usual” and can present huge change management challenges.
If you are a business that recognises the benefits of digital but hasn’t found a ‘catch-all’ that works for you, then we can probably bridge the gaps for you. We work around existing and incoming IT systems so you can make the most of the systems you already use, without compromising your proven processes.
What this means in practical terms is “joining the dots” between your systems, data, partners and customers to create digital environments where your work can get done quickly and reliably. Customer portals, underwriting portals, broker operating systems, digital proposal forms and custom-made documents, Management Information, CPD, rating, binding, payments and accounting...
In the following text, we’ll walk through many of the facets and benefits of an incremental, strategic digital transformation. We encourage you throughout to consider measured improvements where your systems are developed and adapted around your users, core practices and processes. Our work can assist with anything from taking manual processes out of advisory business to a full end to end digital journey where proposals, rating, binding, payment and document delivery are led by the customer and completed online. This work can be completed on a project by project basis or as part of an enterprise-wide programme using a proven programme management framework that genuinely gets the job done.
We use a methodology that is extremely strategic, completely user-focused and is proven across industries to achieve optimal business outcomes. The following pages explain the process of User-Centred Design (UCD) and its application in technology solutions for insurers and brokers.
User-Centred Design: Learn lots, learn early.
User-centred design (UCD)is a methodology that puts the user in the centre of the design process. You base your project plans upon an explicit understanding of the needs of users and the tasks you want them to complete. By designing digital products and services that work beautifully for them, you’re designing tools that work for your business, almost by default.
UCD is an iterative design process that recognises your operational constraints and considers your business as a key stakeholder; meaning that meeting your strategic business objectives is a critical measure of success. Defining both the constraints to work under and the needs of users, user-centred design delivers a balanced approach to product and service design driving better business outcomes.
The methodology brings your users into every stage of the design process. As a working group, we invest effort into finding out what works well, what doesn’t and why. Your users become an early-warning system that you can use to course-correct and fine-tune your projects. Empathising with and considering those users can expose many key considerations that your team may have otherwise overlooked. The process will also pick up gaps in knowledge, specification and thinking that may otherwise be costly to correct later.
To properly address a user-centred challenge, three fundamental questions need answering;
- Why are we doing this?
- How can it be done?
- What form will it take?
There’s no one answer and by consequence no single ‘plug and play’ solution that a business can adopt to satisfy a web of unmet needs. Of everything we touch on in this document, the most important take away is that digital transformation isn’t about trying to reinvent the wheel, nor is it necessarily trailblazing or going it alone. Sustained transformation is achieved by leveraging the tools you have, replacing weak links, and designing for the gaps, the challenges and the opportunities that present themselves as we traverse an ever-changing business landscape.
User-Centred Design: Key Principles
- User-Centred Design (UCD) is an iterative process that uncovers the unmet needs of your customers and uses customer success to drive business success.
- UCD does not require extensive briefs and huge amounts of background work by your business. If you know what the challenge is, what the potential business impact of action/inaction is, and what the budget and time constraints are, UCD will quickly confirm the feasibility and deliver a workable plan based on your business need.
- UCD is customer focussed in its application, but is fundamentally business first and delivers sound business outcomes.
- You do not need to change embedded systems or workflow, nor do you need to rely on anyone ‘magic wand’ to deliver brilliantly on back-office and customer requirements.
Your industry is unique, your business is unique, your processes are probably unique, your customer’s expectations are absolutely not.
Before we talk specifically about customer journeys in our sector, let’s first consider the case of Amazon. Almost 90% of UK consumers now buy from them. 40% of UK consumers are Prime subscribers, so actually pay to buy from them. How have they done it? How have they managed to provide such valuable service that 9 out of 10 of us buy from them, despite a lot of us not actually “liking” them?
Amazon’s brand and success hasn’t been built on messaging or straplines, it hasn’t even been built by responding to customer expectation; Amazon has consistently set the expectation and actually driven consumer behaviour; using its financial clout and market share to force the rest of the eCommerce world to try to keep up with the shifting customer expectation it has created. Amazing, really.
As an insurance provider, you can’t expect to be Amazon, but there is a warning to heed in Amazon’s service level. If 90% of us experience that level of service in daily online transactions, as each day and week passes, more ‘digital players’ respond, customer expectations shift further and any inaction from you widens the gap between your digital service level and your customer’s expectation.
Consider also the sea change in banking. As individuals, we’ve moved away from standing in line between 10 AM & 4 PM Monday to Friday and switched to online services. Corporate, investment and private banking have followed suit, suggesting that even with advisory services, the absence of digital touchpoints are at best as an inconvenience and at worst a deal-breaker. If aspects of your business can be transacted online, but aren’t your customer will seek out more convenient alternatives. This isn’t a question of if, but when.
Digital is improving customer experience while reducing the cost to serve and maintaining or improving otherwise contracting margins. Digital means that fewer people can serve more customers with higher margins. If you don’t respond to current customer expectation, then how do you compete long term? How will you stop churn, or grow market share if there are perceived entry barriers to trading with you?
This brings us neatly back to the importance of user-centred design and why delivering for your customer is delivering for your business...
Customer Expectation: Key Principles
- Your B2B buyer is also someone else’s B2C consumer.
- The expectation of your service levels will be formed in the mind of the customer by drawing parallels with their experiences elsewhere. How do you shape up?
- Modern buyers have different expectations around what constitutes good service. They have different needs around buying too.
- Few of your customers will be emotionally engaged and less still want to be told when and how they can do business with you. The more competitive your product and the easier it is to buy and the more visible you are, the more you will sell.
- Brand values, brand perception, trust, history and virtues are secondary to convenience and ease. No slick advert or great strapline is going to compete with a one-click renewal at a fair price, at a time to suit the customer... ever.
Technology shouldn’t do an advisor’s work, but it should be allowing people to thrive and be designed to reduce operational risk.
In an advisory business, your account executives are the ‘front of house’ with whom the customer communicates; the people who deliver tangible value that your customers experience. Behind the scenes, the communication and back-office processes that support customer value is where much of the account exec’s time is spent. Relatively ‘low value’ work, from highly paid professionals, taking them away from critical customer-facing activity and revenue opportunities.
There is pressure to perform, to make time for customers, to meet targets and make bonuses. There are conflicting priorities around completeness, accuracy, audit trails and documentation. Often an exec will be maintaining information trails in multiple systems, relying on phone, email, accounting systems, document systems and a CRM to service a piece of business. It’s time-consuming, amorphous, often disorientating and open to error and data loss. Then there’s security, training and onboarding...
Process automation can really help. Technology can be used to gather and collate data into a single secure source of truth, it can record and manage communications between broker, insurer and customer, gather rating and other key information, manage repositories of management information, automate endorsements and specificities, take the heavy lifting out of proposal generation, manage compliance and TCF requirements, KYC, payments and binding.
If you use technology to automate the processes your people already undertake, you need fewer people to run a book of business, and the team you have has more capacity to work on retention and growth.
Digitising processes can be a direct driver in increasing product margins too, so in looking after your back-office processes, you can directly reduce the cost to serve and increase revenues. The final piece of the jigsaw is how we can then use this new digital framework to create better digital touchpoints for the customer and remove yet more low value and routine interaction from the exec’s day, all whilst wowing the customer.
Adopting Technology: Key Principles
- Adopting the correct digital strategy will dramatically improve operational resilience.
- Technology can be used to enhance what you do, whilst maintaining business as usual.
- Digital can manage workflows to prevent steps being skipped or missed.
- A bespoke design can accommodate any number of nuanced workflows so business unit independence can be maintained even within an enterprise digital transformation framework.
- Technology can provide a single source of truth for information flow that is both secure and compliant.
- Technology can improve task focus and positively impact productivity
Is your business adding directly visible value to the customer experience beyond the account exec? What if they leave?
Right at the heart of a good digital strategy is client retention. Manually executed, exec led business is often too reliant on the relationship between individuals, and few customers are truly brand loyal. If year to year, your sales staff are the critical touchpoint with your customer, then should an employee leave, there’s a strong possibility that a lot of business moves with them.
If a good exec is moving between similar competing businesses, from the customer’s viewpoint, it may be the exec rather than your business that is the differentiator, and your customer is at risk.
Where are you as a business delivering value that the customer appreciates? How do we combat the risks? Digital can be a major factor in your retention strategy. By way of example, customer portals help to forge a direct relationship with your brand. If you can provide ongoing value to the customer that is delivered directly by the business rather than individuals within it, you have completely changed the dynamics of the client relationship.
What a customer focussed product comprises will be dictated by the type of business, and what is important to that customer cohort. Perhaps it is providing CPD as part of your Legal PII and Risk Management offering, or benchmark claims and risk data to construction clients. These factors will vary, and a bespoke approach allows you to cater to each of them. There is any number of relatively straight forward strategies that digital can assist with, most of which are centred around two things - ease of purchase and perceived quality of service. Good questions to ask yourself are:
- How can we make the application process easier?
- How can we make the purchase process easier?
- How can we make the renewal process easier?
- How can we add real value to the customer when they interact with us digitally?
- What information are our execs asked for regularly that we could provide instantly and digitally?
- How can we tailor and merchandise related products and services in a relevant and custom focused way?
If you can answer these questions effectively, and satisfy customers as a result, your lifetime value and retention rates will improve; and lack of brand loyalty or an exec moving on are by definition less of a risk.
Client Continuity: Key Principles
- The easier you make it for a customer to transact with you, the more likely they are to do so.
- Using digital is a cost-effective way for your business to strengthen its connection with your customers.
- Pre-populated proposal forms and other forms of personalisation are powerful tools to reduce churn, especially for complex products.
- Client portals provide added value to the customer and provide relationship building and upsell opportunities for your business.
- Providing more customer touchpoints to assist with queries, add value with content and provide options to interact and pay 24/7 enhances your brand perception and reduces churn.
- Automations focussed on customer service will also reduce the load of back-office functions.
Digital transformation is best thought of as a process comprising a number of projects, built around an overall vision.
We don’t believe that any large scale transformation should be viewed as an end to end project. There are too many variables to consider, and with the pace of change of technology and consumer behaviour, any project that is too wide-ranging in its remit risks missing an opportunity, or potentially faces obsolescence before it is completed.
The best digital work is executed around a vision of what a better business looks like. The landscape may change quickly, but if the transformation is underpinned by a cohesive strategic vision, then any tactical course correction does not need to compromise that vision.
Breaking down the challenges and ring-fencing projects where the most value can be added is key to maintaining momentum and driving value from your investments. The work done to address the biggest opportunities and challenges can be recycled into similar projects later, with reduced costs and increased learning. Each upgrade and iteration to your systems can add value to software that you’ve already written. Each change that you make is built around a business case that should support the effort and investment required to complete it.
Perhaps your back office is world-class, but your customer layer is lacking. Perhaps the customer layer looks brilliant, but behind the scenes the processes and practices are unwieldy. It’s entirely possible that you went big and early, that everything is still “OK” but you’re worried that competitors and disruptors have caught up and are beginning to move ahead.
A measured approach to transformation may manifest as enterprise-wide, or as discreet problem solving digital solutions that add value to different aspects of your business, or some combination of the two. Our belief is that if your business that values continuous improvement, with the customer at the heart and a vision to guide you, that incremental yet ambitious adoption of tailored technology is an excellent route to extraordinary success. Our experience and customer stories over the last decade or so working in the sector support this belief.
Digital Transformation: Key Principles
- Digital transformation does not have to mean wholesale change.
- Work on low hanging fruit and specific big opportunities to build learning, revenue and momentum.
- Focus on the vision, not the tactics.
- Think laterally - where can an investment you make now be reused later.
- Bring together working groups from across the business who can take ownership and see the bigger picture.
The value that digital transformation delivers to your firm.
Everything that has been discussed in these pages relates to ‘digital transformation’ and the value to your business can and should be transformative.
Correct digital strategy, consistent effort and considered investment deliver measurable benefits to all aspects of your work.
- A user-centred design delivers better experience for customers. This positively impacts brand loyalty, improves conversion rates and reduces churn.
- Increasing conversion rates and reducing churn reduces the cost of customer acquisition and increases lifetime value, two of the fundamental drivers of sustainable growth.
- Process automation delivers consistency, reliability and time-saving benefits. This impacts on productivity, compliance and cost to serve.
- Using technology to underpin the work of valuable human resources encourages traceable collaboration, improves customer experience and delivers consistent compliant working methods across organisations.
- Creating digital touchpoints allows your business to provide visible value to your customers that transcend the relationship between the buyer and the seller. This reinforces that it is your organisation as much as the people within it who provide value to the customers it serves.
- Implementing technology for staff that ‘improves the working day’ underpins employee retention by building loyalty, inclusion and improving morale.
- Taking a measured, strategic approach to change allows you to address tactical problems that provide immediate benefit and build momentum without alienating customers or employees.
What’s In It For You?
- 24/7-365 communication with your customers.
- Measurable improvement in conversion and customer retention.
- Reduced cost to serve.
- Intrinsic consistency in working practices.
- Increased productivity.
- Regulatory compliance.
A discovery day with our managing & technical directors.
How can we better understand your challenges and you better understand how we work?
Most of the information we’d want to get across in a traditional introductory meeting is documented in these pages. If you’d like to understand more about how our thinking applies to your business, we’d like to offer you a day of our time. We’ll set an agenda based around what your challenges and opportunities are and offer our experience to help you to gain some clarity around how to approach them.
We’ll use the time on the nitty-gritty either in the form of a discussion around the challenges and opportunities from a C-Suite perspective or if you prefer, to run an ideation session with a group of stakeholders around a specific opportunity or challenge. Either way, you’ll come away from the session with actionable ideas that you can take away. No sell, no fluff, just straight to business.
All that we ask of you is:
- That you intend on working on a digital project that may be a fit in the coming months.
- That decision-makers are present at the meeting.
- That you are willing to openly discuss the impact of change so we can understand the practical and commercial viability of ideas and opportunities we bring to the table.
After the meeting, we’ll provide you with a document summarising points raised around the opportunities and challenges, our thoughts and findings and some actionable next steps that you can carry forward. Meetings can be conducted face to face or remotely by video conference.
Thank you for reading, we recognise that your time is valuable. Our hope that this document has provided you with firstly some additional perspective on the use of technology in our sector, and secondly how partnering with Stunn can be of benefit to you. We look forward to moving forwards together.
Karl Baxter, Managing Director.
How To Contact Us
If you’d like to discuss any of the issues raised in this document or would like to book a discovery day with us, please contact Karl Baxter via any of the methods below:Karl Baxter, Managing Director.DDI: +44 121 616 0093
Mobile: +44 7968 598103
Linkedin: / karlbaxterukBook a meeting now via Karl’s online diary.