Insurers Will Pour Capital Into New Digital Innovation Ventures In 2015

Think that insurance is a sleepy industry? Think again.  In 2014, global insurance companies raced to out-innovate each other. They turned to new digital innovations to fend off threats from insurance start-ups like MetroMile and PolicyGenius and sorted out new ways to remain relevant as a host of well-known brands like Google and AT&T crept into realms historically owned by insurance firms.   We noted this innovation urgency among European and North American insurance firms earlier this year.

In casting an eye forward, we predicted seven events that would change the insurance landscape in 2015. A major force informing all seven predictions is the fact that smart insurers are recognizing that in the need to generate more good ideas faster, they have to radically change how they develop and execute new thinking. That means that insurers need to short cut the industry’s traditional “we’ll build and control” culture and instead go into the market, spot a hot business technology start-up that brings a lot of what’s needed to create a minimum viable product, and partner with them. And the smartest of the smart insurers are employing two unique industry forces—a very regular flow of premiums and the dynamics of equity markets— to get even closer to the source of new ideas:  By investing in them. In 2015, we’ll see more insurance venture capital startups form in the wake of similar VC business launches from insurers like American Family, AXA, MassMutual, and Transamerica.

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Why Usage-Based Car Insurers Need Don Draper

Don’t you hate when a company advertises a product but fails to make it easy to find and buy?

Mad Men’s Don Draper, who, in the 1960’s could have been as likely to work in insurance as advertising (but the story would have been not nearly so interesting), would have a field day with the findings from Forrester’s just published report, “The Next Act For Usage-Based Car Insurance”, the first in a four-report series addressing the UBI landscape in the US, Canada,and Europe and the future of UBI. 

Smart devices, smartphones, and smart cars are converging to create what should be a smart insurance choice for safe drivers and their insurers. The report examines American consumer interest and adoption of usage-based car insurance and the obstacles to purchase, many of which point directly to insurance eBusiness failings.

When Forrester last looked at the UBI market in 2008 (then termed “Pay As You Drive” or PAYD), consumers couldn’t get it because of a big distribution problem:  It was offered by few insurers in just a few states.  A couple of months ago, we decided to see just what had changed over the past five or so years when it came to consumer interest and purchase.  What did we learn?

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As US Health Plans Shift From Acquisition-Ready To Retention-Ready, It’s Time To Pay Attention To Digital Billing And Payments

One word describes the state of US health plan digital strategists at the end of 2013: exhausted! The October 1, 2013 open enrollment milestone for the public exchanges became not an event but an epic saga. Integration failures, wobbly deadlines, and substandard policies that became the walking dead stymied large numbers of potential plan buyers, who either gave up or stood on the sidelines. But through a lot of persistence, 8 million Americans had managed to enroll in the public exchanges by mid-April 2014.

But with the enrollment process behind them, these tired digital strategists can’t rest. It’s time to shift attention from getting customers to keeping them. And not surprisingly, what matters to consumers when it comes to picking health plans is whether their doctors are “in-network”. But other practical aspects of the health insurance experience also matter, like:

  1. Ease of resolving problems. When it comes to handling the nit-natty issues of plan maintenance issues like claims and payments, consumers want easy. That means that health plans have to make it easy for them to view their payment history, get their individual plan bills paid, monitor claims status, and access statements and tax documents online and increasingly through a plan’s mobile site, especially for that critical “young and healthy” segment.  
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Usage-Based Insurance Onboarding: It's All In The Packaging

Alright, I admit it.  I'm not necessarily the most loyal insurance customer.  I like mixing things up to test out different experiences, which means that if you're my insurance company, I'm going to talk about you in my job...a lot.  

Back in 2012 when I was writing the US Secure Auto  Insurance Site Rankings report, I changed my car insurance to Progressive (so underwhelmed was I by their predecessor, I can't remember the name of the insurer, just that I got from my agent).  And I not only changed to Progressive, I also switched from a traditional auto policy to the company's usage-based insurance coverage, SnapShot.  

A few days after signing up, I was surprised to get this box in the mail--note the SnapShot logo on the packaging tape (and trust me that there's a Progressive logo on both ends of the box).  Best of all, there was a compelling call to action on the box:  "Plug In Today!"

                                                                    

And inside the shipping container?  This smaller box, about the size of...the box an engagement ring might come in.  Oh my!  I felt like I was about to go with Flo on a Thelma and Louise-like adventure, assuming that we'd be safer drivers than they were, at least when the movie ended. 

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The Age Of The Customer Drives North American Insurers To Take Five Customer Actions In 2014

Once upon a time, insurers sat in the power seat when it came to their interactions with policyholders.  The insurers understood the magic behind how insurance was sold, how premiums were calculated, and how claims were adjudicated. Those days are gone. In the Age Of The Customer, consumers are changing the rules and who wield the power. Thanks to all things digital, consumers have shifted from being passive sideliners and are willing — and able — to play more active and demanding roles across the insurance business. That means that digital must now be a core underpinning of an insurer’s customer experience philosophy, not an endpoint.

Just what are the factors propelling North American insurer agendas this year? For starters, it’s about:

  • Booming growth in revenues and profits. 2013 was a very good year for most North American insurers --the best since the financial crisis. Many are sitting on hefty policyholder surpluses and capital.
  • The fallout from HealthCare.gov. Balancing political winds with project management reality heaped more pressure on already stressed health plans, thanks to shifting deadlines, relaxed employer mandates, and zombie health plans. And as a result, trust across the broad healthcare ecosystem was undermined.
  • The risk of emerging insurers to meet the needs of digitally empowered consumers. Consumers are getting being trained to expect even more from their digital interactions. New insurers are coming to market offering new digital experiences that simplify, personalize, empower, and reassure customers.
  • Extreme weather. US and Canadian insurers have shifted to a posture of adaptation, and are looking to arm policyholders with new tools to better protect them from natural hazard risks.
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Differentiating On The Claims Experience: Why Better Claims Handling Results In Higher Customer Loyalty And Lower Costs

For consumers, there are two key insurance moments:  when coverage is bought and then when it’s used, with hopefully a long span of time between the two.  And if there is a claim, then it’s up to the insurer to react to help the claimant recover.  But too often, the claims experience spurs policyholders to consider changing insurers, especially among policyholders who’ve been customers longer (and have been paying premiums longer).[i]  What else happens when there’s a policyholder unhappy about a claim?  Claimants readily take to social bully pulpits with their claims grievances, effectively using Twitter and Facebook to “regulate” insurers into action. 

In addition, they also file complaints with state insurance regulators, an activity that about 34,000 US consumers did in 2013.What’s their biggest gripe?  A look at the National Association of Insurance Commissioners (NAIC) stats reveals that 56% of consumer complaints filed in 2013 were issues related to claims handling, with the biggest chunk, 24%, because of perceived delays. And that’s not counting delays associated with getting referrals, pre-authorizations, and finding willing providers.[ii]

Over the past year, I’ve been involved in a variety of client advisories focused on the claims experience for both consumers as well as insurer work teams responsible for getting claims paid.   Why is the claim experience so easy to go off track?  For starters:

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Plan The Best Routes To Guide You On Your Mobile Insurance Journey

It’s one thing to say where you want to go, but you still have to know how to get there.  If it’s a physical journey like a quick trip to the local store, a meandering trek across Europe, or a digital or business technology initiative that your company is after, getting to the destination or end state demands a road map.    Maps show all the options to get a traveler to the destination; routes are a subset of options to get the mobile traveler there In a hurry?  You’ll take the efficient and direct interstate.  Want to explore and learn?  Your route will take you on back and scenic roads. 

We wanted to learn just how mobile insurance executives took to the mobile road after their strategic plans were approved.  Throughout Q4 2013,   we talked to insurance executives in the US, UK, France, Italy, Israel, the Netherlands, and Turkey who were responsible for turning that mobile strategy into solutions that engaged with consumers and agents.   Crafting a roadmap to guide the mobile journey, stood out as especially key because mobile initiatives are hampered if the execution teams fail to consider the myriad internal and external factors that impact delivery time lines. 

One European carrier we spoke with put it best:  “There’s lack of vision, a lack of focus, and too many people are playing around the edges. That’s giving mobile a bad name in terms of costing money and not giving any benefit for it. List out and create a road map, so you’re clear about what you’re focused on and why.”

Effective Road Maps Embody Three Elements

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Forrester Research Takes Six US Mobile Auto Insurance Apps Out For A Test Drive

What We Did And Why

Insurance carriers are pulling out the stops when it comes to their mobile strategies. It’s now rarer to find an insurer that doesn’t offer at least one app plus a mobile site. But just how effective are all these mobile insurance apps and sites at meeting the needs of auto insurance customers? At the end of the summer, we decided to check out the mobile sales and service functionality that leading US auto insurers – Allstate, Farmers, Geico, Liberty Mutual, Progressive, and State Farm – were offering to their customers. We reported what we learned in our just-published 2013 US Mobile Auto Insurance Functionality Rankings report.

Our approach followed these steps:

  • Define a user scenario. We defined a target persona: Ryan and his wife Nicole live in Chicago and are in the market for a new car and will need to change the vehicle on their policy. Their mobile goals are to research and apply for insurance, pay their bill, see how easy it is to file and manage claims, get help on the road, and see what other help they can get through their insurer on a mobile phone.
  • Score mobile functionality based on user criteria. Forrester’s mobile functionality benchmark methodology examines 26 individual criteria that measure how well an auto insurance app helps customers achieve their goals. Each criterion has a potential score ranging from -2 to +2.
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Is This The New Face Of Consumer Health Insurance? Say Hi To Oscar

In just a few short days — six, to be precise — the Affordable Care Act’s Individual Mandate will kick in to high gear as the doors swing wide into the public exchanges for open enrollment. And if Americans were only dimly aware that healthcare reform was indeed happening, a lot more are paying attention now, thanks to splashy efforts to hold the stop-gap spending bill hostage to language de-funding the ACA. Further fueling awareness is all the ongoing news about employers that will now no longer cover spouses eligible for insurance through their own employers, and large group employers like Walgreens that will push employees to a private exchange, essentially getting out of the business of health insurance.  

So, if there’s one word that describes the emotion among health plans and group and voluntary benefits insurers, it’s “uncertainty.” That uncertainly extends to what the customer experience will be like on the public and private exchanges. And as I called out in a recent blog, if the website experience we recently scored is any indication, there will be some pretty unhappy shoppers, because the exchanges and health plan websites haven’t made the shopping and buying journey easy.

 But while a consumer in 2013 might suck it up because they just gotta have health insurance this year, they won’t put up with it at renewal time. We expect a  lot of churn, especially among the customers the plans most want to retain. Of course, we’re talking about the:

  • Good — healthy and wellness-minded, and very likely younger.
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By The Numbers: What Are The Mobile Insurance Metrics That Really Matter?

The insurance industry is in the midst of a mobile gold rush. Carriers across all business lines have jumped on the mobile bandwagon, rolling out mobile functionality to their policyholders and agents. Many carriers have relied on a single, basic metric to quantify mobile success: app downloads. But as insurers’ mobile strategies are maturing, so too is the demand for more sophisticated proof of mobile’s business impact. But few digital insurance teams possess more than the basics.   In our latest Mobile Insurance playbook report, we explore the numbers that can make mobile insurance business plans hum.

Earlier this year, we talked to a number of insurance mobile strategists so we could better understand why so many insurers were behind when it came to mobile measurement.  We learned that mobile initiatives have been:

  • Random. Early mobile apps were cheap to build, meaning that business process owners like marketing, sales, agency management, claims, and others rushed to get them into iTunes and Google Play without always considering what they wanted the functionality to do for the business.
  • Complicated.The business of insurance is messy. Multiline carriers want customers to buy bundles, but haphazard mobile execution often means that mobile functionality is uneven across products lines and processes. Add in an expansive ecosystem of agents, brokers, and service providers ranging from body shops to physicians, and carriers could be drowning in mobile data, but still be thirsty for the one mobile metric that could justify a critical investment.
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