Zurich Financial Services is looking towards analytics, mobile services, cloud computing and APIs in a bid to win customer loyalty through improved, personalised services.
Speaking at an FST conference last week, Zurich enterprise architect Sid Sanyal described the challenge of winning and retaining customers to life insurance – a “discretionary buy”.
Sanyal urged his peers in the insurance industry to “become customer-driven” by focusing on “customer experience management” instead of customer relationship management (CRM).
Traditional, analytics-driven CRM processes were too focused on transactions and short-term gains, he said.
Instead, he called for insurance advisors to share experiences with their customers across social media and other channels and interact in ways that were “not just revenue-driven”.
Zurich plans to invest in big data analytics technology to extract value from structured and unstructured underwriting, claims, transactions, demographics, location data and correspondence.
Big data analytics platforms by NICTA and IBM are in development at the Commonwealth Bank and US financial services giant Citigroup.
For Zurich, Sanyal said the technology would provide insights into customer behaviour to identify the right communication channels, products, advisors or actions for particular customers.
Services could also be personalised to customers according to location, product, time and customer preferences, he said.
Sanyal highlighted a 2009 Accenture survey that found 26 percent of customers shopped around for insurance deals rather than being loyal to existing providers.
Some 75 percent of customers believed there was “no significant difference in the products and services offered by insurance companies”, he said, warning that for insurers, winning new customers cost “an order of magnitude” more than retaining them.
“The real challenge is that customers are becoming better informed,” Sanyal said.
“There are new modes of communication, [a demand for] customised products, new technologies and a personal connection.
“Don’t ignore the customer’s growing sphere of influence,” he added. “Social networks obviously make finding and sharing information really efficient.”
Cloud computing and APIs
Sanyal said enterprise IT should not only become service-oriented, but also feature integration points and the ability to expose enterprise services via APIs.
He said customer-facing, mobile applications were particularly well suited to cloud computing – an IT model that was also backed by other conference presenters.
For Zurich, Sanyal said agility and scalability were key benefits of cloud computing, so services could be quickly and easily scaled in accordance with customer demand.
On a separate panel, CGU Insurance chief information officer Ian Frew said organisations needed to embrace cloud solutions that addressed business needs.
But the low barrier to entry for cloud-based solutions posed a challenge to IT managers, Frew noted, since business units could deploy new systems without involving the organisation’s technologists.
“Often, the first implementation of [salesforce.com] is, from a technology point of view, a disaster,” he said, highlighting the difficulties that new cloud-based data stores would pose to organisations’ desire for a single source of truth.
“You’ve got to get that balance; if the business sees a need and it actually can deliver value, what you’ve got to do is without stifling that [cloud technologies], bring it under control.
“But I think that it’s a great thing; I think the more of it the better.”
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