The Age Of The Customer Drives Four Insurance eBusiness Mega-Trends In 2012

This year, North American insurers overall are pretty darn happy. For starters, there clear signs that the economy is finally starting to gain steam, premiums are on the rise, the market’s firming, and the political will may well shift enough to revisit past regulatory reforms, particularly those that impact health insurers.  And these factors are coalescing into the new strategies for 2012.  In our “Trends 2012: North American Insurance eBusiness And Channel Strategy”, we discuss what factors are driving insurance ebusiness teams to:

  1. Become obsessed about their customers
  2. Get serious about how to collaborate better with their agents
  3. Focus on the infrastructure that supports the digital business
  4. Refine their thinking about what eBusiness means to the insurance ecosystem
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Insurance eBusiness Initiatives And IT Priorities And Spending Closely Aligned For 2012

The insurance industry is in the midst of some big changes. Those changes introduce very new pressures, priorities, and uncertainties into an industry whose business depends on stability. In these dynamic times, carriers hang their hat on what they do for their customers, even if how it gets done and who does it might be changing. Our report, "Tech Opportunities In The North American Insurance Industry",  outlines the top business priorities and supporting technology investment plans of North American insurers.  In this year's study (our fourth) it turns out that:

Industry’s business outlook turns strongly positive with select IT spending following along. Even with a record number of disasters that have translated into record economic losses, more US and Canadian insurers have positive outlooks when compared with last year. What’s behind these buoyant outlooks? By all indications, it looks like insurers will be competing on something other than price, as the market condition changes to “firm” and even “hard” for some lines. This year’s top initiative remains growing the business, with ebusiness teams playing a starring role.

Technology’s value shifts to sales, service, and support, not simply cost-savings. Five years ago, the IT’s fundamental value proposition was as a means to take cost out of the insurance equation. While still important, virtually all the insurers we surveyed told us that technology was critical to how they serviced and supported their customers, and 80% told us that technology was essential in the insurance distribution and sales model.

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The Whats Of Insurance Gets Some New Hows

One of the things that people like about the insurance industry is that the business of insurance doesn't change much.  Insurance carriers have pretty much done the same thing:  rate risk, issue policies, settle claims, sell through agents, and invest our premiums, all the stuff that makes them insurance companies.  We’ve talked a lot about this idea of “business capabilities” here are Forrester, essentially the notion of what an industry does.  These capabilities change very slowly, if at all.  Capability changes are usually the result of some big structural economic change--think of the now-modern and booming Russian insurance industry growing after the collapse of the former Communist state.  Of course, the way in which those capabilities get executed in a mature insurance market is influenced by what’s going on outside the four walls of carrier and can change very quickly.  

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The Spotty Record For Insurance Online Cross Selling

When it comes to the top business strategies for North American insurance carriers (and agents), selling more to the same customer is a top initiative. Because, what's a better way to grow revenue and profit in a tough market than to sell more insurance to your proven customers? And thanks to big media budgets, it’s easy to see lots of these cross-selling campaigns in action, from the practical take of Allstate’s Shop Less, Get More campaign to more humorous approaches with Progressive’s Flo and Nationwide’s World’s Greatest Spokesman (among others), duking it out over insurance bundles and multi-product discounts. 

With all this enthusiasm, just how successful are insurance ebusiness at cross-selling?  In our report, “Making Online Insurance Cross-Sell Initiatives Work”,  that went live on the Forrester website today, it turn out that sales performance varies wildly between the ten US insurance companies evaluated, with the best cross-sellers sharing four key characteristics. And it’s not just the best performing carriers that share traits—consumers likely to purchase multiple insurance coverages from a single carrier have their own set of common characteristics around income, age, and even where they live in the US.   

So, what can insurance ebusiness teams do to improve their cross-selling performance?  We outline nine tactics such as including leveraging opportunities to promote insurance when using interactive tools to when and how the cross-sale offer is made during the online experience. Along with auditing internal practices against our checklist, a roadmap for the remainder of 2011 is offered that, if followed, will let insurance providers start 2012 with an effective cross selling strategy.

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Mobile Insurance Seeding New (And Surprising) Business Alliances

In the interviews we just wrapped up with insurance thought leaders, one thing’s certain: Mobile is going to play a BIG role in the future of insurance. Alongside another topic (about which you’ll hear more later), mobile, and its role in enabling policyholders along with underwriters, agents, commercial underwriters, and the claim supply chain, animated virtually every conversation we had. One area in particular — mobile partnerships — spurred some great discussion on the outlook for new mobile products and collaborations that might be in the offing.

Alongside Tokio Marine’s intriguing mobile one-time insurance for sporting events and travel, we uncovered a unique life insurance purchasing model in South Africa. What was it that caught our attention? Econet Wireless and First Mutual Life in South Africa have teamed up to produce Ecolife, a life insurance product purchased by prepaid subscribers using mobile airtime. The customer only has to purchase US$3 to receive coverage, and the amount of coverage increases with every additional dollar (up to $10,000 coverage). First Mutual Life’s attempt to reach the sizable population of South Africans without a traditional bank account has seen rampant successthus far.

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Allstate’s Acquisition Of esurance: The Start Of Something Bigger For Ebiz Teams?

I got jolt this morning, and it wasn’t from my coffee.  The headlines in my morning insurance news push were all about  last night's announcement that Allstate was acquiring esurance and an agency sibling, Answer Financial for $1 billion (http://www.bloomberg.com/news/2011-05-18/allstate-to-buy-esurance-in-1-b...).  Along with the fact that esurance itself has gone to market with what every ebusiness executive has stated as the big strategy over the near-term—giving the customer the choice in how they want to engage with its new “Technology When You Want It, People When You Don’t”  tagline—this deal could well be the start of a more interesting trend:  a bigger wave of M&A among Tier 1 carriers.

This news was especially tantalizing because we just wrapped up a series of interviews with insurance thought leaders to get a perspective for how the insurance industry was going to look in 2020.   We wanted to understand how these changes were going to impact the jobs of ebiz executives in insurance.  This is what we heard: 

Enabled by “big data”, carriers are going to:

  • Shed and acquire business lines to be more specialized and obviously more profitable
  • Make some splashy acquisitions (like this one),
  • Launch new and innovative business models (like a “lights out” insurer that, in exchange for low premiums, policyholders would have to do more for themselves)
  • Challenged by new market entrants who “get” data

All of which have big implications for what insurance ebusiness teams will be challenged to do.  Look for our thoughts on what 2020 is going to mean later this quarter.

Clamoring For Answers Around Your Insurance Claims Strategy? You’re Not Alone

Without a doubt, the hottest inquiry category for insurance ebusiness and channel execs (and insurance IT, for that matter) has been anything to do with claims.  And why not, since as one insurance ebiz executive we talked with pointed out, isn’t claim handling the real business of insurance?   We also saw the big interest in both customer experience and claims processing when we surveyed 75 or so US and Canadian insurers a little less than a year ago, with both appearing in the top three insurance business priorities into 2011.

The claim is the real moment of truth in the insurer-policyholder relationship, and that experience is a big factor in whether that policyholder decides to stick around when the claim gets settled.  Just what’s on the minds of insurance roles when it comes to claims this year?   For starters, here’s a sampling of claim-related inquiry topics I’ve fielded:

  • What’s the business value of claims concierge services?  (and check this out—three inquiries about claims concierge services in two days!)
  • Why do policyholders still want to file claims with their agents?
  • How is document scanning and imaging being used for claims?
  • What role is streaming video playing in claims?
  • What’s the state of mobile claims applications for field adjusters?
  • And many, many questions on the vendor landscape for claims applications, including an interesting one on  integrating legal matter management into the claims system for asbestos-related workers’ comp claims

I’m just wrapping up a report on how carriers can tame the claims beast, but in the meantime, if you’d like to learn our thinking and what else is simmering around the topic of claims, that’s just an inquiry away.

The Lone Cry for Growth In Insurance?

Yee Hah! The worst recession since the Great Depression was declared officially over in June of 2009. We should be feeling great, since all things considered, the insurance industry fared pretty well when it came to how it emerged from that dark tunnel. But except for one notable role voice, insurers, unlike their banking peers, are still holding back from growing the business. How do we know? We took a look at nearly 5,000 inquiries that Forrester answered for insurers, bankers, and securities firms in the wake of failure of Lehman Brothers to just after this May’s Flash Crash.

What was on the minds of insurers during these six quarters? For starters, insurers:

  • Asked more questions than their financial services peers. Of the three segments we looked at, insurers asked half of the inquiries we fielded—2,500 versus nearly 1,600 and 600 for banks and securities firms, respectively.
  • Framed more than half of those questions around risk. Insurers didn’t veer away from what got them through the recession intact (indeed, from the very nature of their business)—managing risk. Even questions about application development strategies were framed as a risk question, with most insurers seeking validation that they were following in the well-worn grooves of others in insurance (and other industries) before them.
  • Posed too few questions about growing the business. Unlike their banking and securities siblings who asked questions about growing the business through new product launches, up-selling and cross-selling, or luring new customers away from competitors, insurers, with one big role-based exception, did notreflect that Q2 2009 economic inflection point.
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Life Post-Meltdown: Insurance eBiz Pros Are Evolving Their Strategies (And They’re Asking Questions Of Forrester)

I recently sorted through just shy of 2,000 inquiries that Forrester analysts completed from insurance industry clients, from a grim Q1 2009 through the cautious optimism at the end of Q1 2010. Along with the insurance inquiries, I also looked at what was on the minds of bankers and the Global 500 segment during the same period. 

What jumped out was how different the character of questions from insurers was from the other two segments and how differently each segment (and role!) of the financial services market navigated the economy over these five quarters. So what’s the Reader’s Digest version? 

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Outsourced AR Isn't Making The Connection To Their Sales Enablement Value

A lot of emerging companies think they've "arrived" when they've launched their first analyst briefing "tour." Oftentimes, these start-ups have very small to no marketing function internally, instead turning to outside agencies for public relations, marketing communications, and of course, the debut to the analyst influencers. These small firms feel confident that once they've placed themselves in the hands of the seemingly capable agencies, they'll get all the ink and influence needed to execute the hockey-stick growth curve they've presented to their board and investors. The agency then scurries off, schedules a bunch of analyst briefings, and gives themselves a big pat on the back: mission accomplished! The appointed briefing time comes, the firm's show dog delivers the pitch, and then. . . the promise of a successful briefing fizzles.

Earlier this week, I had a briefing with just such a start-up. The agency dutifully sent me the slides in advance and, as analysts are inclined to do, I took a look. . . and was left wondering just what value this agency was providing to this client. Why? The slide deck, while short, did nothing to sell this company to me, the analyst. Here's the start-up's value proposition:

To this end, Company X seeks to design a system leveraging the latest technologies and utilizing a common processing engine and user interface to provide an integrated, easy-to-use, cost effective solution for financial institution.

Huh?

The start-up's strategic direction?

Our goal is to provide a product that:

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