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.
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.
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:
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.”
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.
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.
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.
Beginning on October 1st, US health insurance plans will be facing a big enrollment event when millions of Americans will be required to purchase health insurance. Where will many go to do research and shop? Health plan websites.
Forrester Research recently conducted an online wellness check to see just how prepared plan websites are to meet the crush of insurance plan shoppers. Through the second quarter of 2013, Forrester assessed the sales and service prowess reflected the public websites of seven US health plans. What did we learn?
Research help is hard to find or missing entirely. Product information, research help, and site search are weaknesses that needed to be addressed by all the plans we evaluated. What did we have in mind? Content that answered questions about plan features, plan comparison tools, and especially guided plan advisors. Two that caught our attention were David, Aetna’s Virtual Benefit Advisor and Blue Cross Blue Shield of Illinois’s plan helper. But while these were incredibly valuable aids, even these two stand-outs were hard to find on the websites.
In the face of the biggest industry disruption in memory, health plans are gearing up for big changes in their business models. From the implementation of healthcare reform teams, public and private exchange initiatives, dramatically different underwriting, and new user experiences modeled after Apple and Amazon, health care payers — and providers — are looking for answers and a view into the future of healthcare. So Forrester is looking for a Senior Analyst to help us expand our coverage of this incredibly dynamic area.
Here’s the important stuff in the job description:
The successful candidate will write for, present to, and advise eBusiness & Channel Strategy Professionals in the healthcare industry (including payers and providers) to help guide their direct-to-consumer strategies, through innovative research and advice delivered through written reports, consulting, client inquiries, and speeches. The ideal candidate possesses a strong understanding of the business and technology issues facing both healthcare and online and mobile commerce markets, plus an appetite for conducting and writing research to help clients stay abreast of the issues.
With the global economy thawing out after the long winter of the financial crisis, the small business market is on the rebound. And it's not just in the US. In markets extending from Canada to Australia, small business owners are starting up, borrowing to expand, and they’re hiring staff, all of which are driving the need for commercial insurance to protect assets and employees. And just where are these busy small business owners doing their research and, in many cases, shopping? Online. So with all this digital shopping and buying, just what changes will these digitally sophisticated small businesses drive for insurers? For starters:
Typical consumer online features are creeping into commercial insurance sites. In the US, small business owners are more likely to go online to research, renew, and service their policies than the average online consumer. What’s driving these small businesses to digital insurance? Business owners and their staffs bring their consumer experiences with them to work, prompting business insurers to rethink the content, usability, and functionality present on their business insurance sites. For example, Hiscox’s online site features not only simplified packaging that makes quoting easy but also the ratings and review functionality that we are used to seeing on direct personal insurer sites like Progressive Casualty Insurance’s site.