Truth be told, the insurance customer experience has probably been in a state of transformation for as long as the insurance industry has existed. Transformation by definition is “a thorough or dramatic change”. And change is driven by – one, some or all – shifts in consumer preferences, marketplace competition, demographics, legislation, economic trends, and technology.
What else was going on back in 1752 when the first insurance company in the U.S., The Philadelphia Contributionship, was co-founded by Benjamin Franklin? The beginning of the Industrial Revolution, for starters, as hand production shifted to machines, machine tools were developed, and new chemical and iron production processes rapidly increased productivity. Unprecedented growth in population offered another impactful change curve. There were probably more distinct disruptors emerging at the same time than I could count on both hands.
I began my insurance career in the mid-1980s working at an agency during my college breaks, where I had the opportunity to learn about many of the facets of the customer experience, from policy applications, to reporting new claims, to billing and payments. What I quickly realized is insurance is all about service and change – because it’s all about the customer, and no two customers (or customer interactions) are the same. Great service meant the ability to consistently provide each customer with whatever they needed and valued, at any point in time. This could have meant waiting in line at the RMV (for hours) to get the plates for their new car, explaining (again) the difference between Underinsured and Uninsured Motorist coverage (and why they needed both), or guaranteeing that the water restoration company (by calling them over and over) would be at their home immediately after a pipe burst.
Today, the ways that customers and their insurance carriers interact continues to change. For example, we see businesses using what began as personal chat tools, like WhatsApp, for work communication. But one thing that has not changed is what constitutes great service – meeting each customer wherever they are, and making it quick and easy to get whatever they need.
Insurance companies have also been in a constant state of change since the days of Ben Franklin, as they strive to respond to, if not anticipate, the shifting needs of their customers, and address other forces including the economy, competitors, regulation and world events. During the more than 30 years that I worked at the same insurance company there was continuous growth and change, including several end-to-end restructures, some coupled with acquisitions or divestitures. In hindsight, I wish I had held onto organization charts to fully appreciate the breadth and depth of the company’s transformation over time.
My own career path far more resembled a jungle gym – unpredictable, but also exciting. I worked in 12 different offices and held about as many distinct roles, not only encompassing the full insurance lifecycle, but also spanning service, operations, and technology. Many times, I was leaping into entirely new positions and building new teams, driven by the pace of change within the organization, the industry, and the world at-large. As I continued to flex and pivot to where I could next add the most value to a changing company and its customers, I realized I had become a change agent. That might answer your question about why I recently jumped at the chance to join a software startup.
Flash forward to this past month, when I was given the privilege and gift of planning a webinar with three insurance industry icons and change leadership experts to talk about the transformation of the insurance customer experience. Needless to say, much of what we’ve been talking about is digital transformation.
I won’t spoil the punchline with the hope that if you’re reading this blog, you will join the live webinar, or watch the replay later. It’s going to be a great conversation from the front lines of the insurance industry’s digital transformation, where we will share what we have learned about what it takes to be a change agent, how to understand what customers value, and proven ways to explore, experiment, and deliver game-changing experiences.