Borrowing a line from James Carville’s presidential campaign advice, “It’s the economy, stupid,” we need to grasp the real source of sustained growth and say to ourselves, “It’s the customer experience, stupid.” Can we wake up and focus on the customer experience? Do we truly understand what they want? Do we understand that customer experience isn’t just about technology, transactions and 24/7 availability? Are we prepared to go beyond the processes and needs of the insurance company and look at insurance from the outside in?
As you may have noticed, we are increasingly living in an experience-driven culture as opposed to a possessions-focused culture. In May 2016, Groupon launched an ad campaign surrounding the “Haves and Have Dones.” It’s a funny lampoon of those people who seek luxurious things vs. those who are looking for adventures and experiences. This cultural focus on doing more and buying less isn’t new; it’s just gaining traction. The implication for insurance is that customer experience is more relevant than ever because great experiences are highly valued.
Insurers need to make their brand experiences into havens of ease, comfort and security that also fit into customers’ desired lifestyles. To dig deeper in understanding, insurers need to create customer personas and develop customer journey maps that will bring empathy into experience design.
Personas — Bridges to Empathy
Customer personas synthesize real-life examples into one, easy to understand picture of a common role or person. For example:
Roger Thompson is veterinarian. He works long hours and most of them aren’t at a desk with easy access to his laptop. He makes a good income, but he isn’t wealthy. He is forced to fit his paperwork into Sunday afternoons. He cares passionately about animals and is not so passionate about anything that adds administrative time to his already-packed schedule. If faced with a choice between price and convenience, he will almost always pick convenience —though he remains price-conscious.
This is just a slice of a persona. It instantly transports us into the shoes of that customer type, so that we can begin to see life from behind his eyes. If we know Roger’s motivations, worries and life pain points, we can better craft his customer journey.
Personas simplify business conversations. If we all understand Roger’s needs, we are far more likely to agree about what it will take to make his experiences better.
We can replicate this many times over with any type of role that is relevant to the insurance experience. Every time we do, we’ll get beyond our tendency to see customers as giant groups in order to capture an individual’s feelings during their moment by moment needs and choices.
Once the persona is created, a customer journey map can be developed. It is difficult to create the one without the other. The persona operates as the constant filter of feelings and issues that provide the real empathy while we consider what the journey looks like.
Customer Journey Maps — Paths to Understanding
Journey mapping is just what it sounds like — walking through the customer experience through the persona’s eyes and in the persona’s shoes. For example,
Reema Patel is a sales rep for a shoe manufacturer. She commutes with a company car. Most days her personal vehicle sits in the garage. She enjoys most of her interactions with her home/auto insurer, but every time she sees the insurance statement, she gets a little irritated that she pays to cover something that gets so little use.
Slicing the journey into common interaction and reaction points will help insurers see where the journey has hurdles. What aren’t we seeing in customer service surveys? What parts of the journey can we improve? Is there any part of life where the persona is prone to dislike their insurance experience?
This is where journey mapping pays off for insurers. Our goal is to give the customer a brand experience that exceeds their expectations, even if that experience requires less interaction and even if it changes the nature of our relationship. We simply need to be paying attention to what their experiences are and what they could be.
Tesla makes a great example of an organization translating customer personas into customer journeys and then into customer experience improvement. At some point, Tesla executives must have asked, “How can we improve auto ownership for Tesla customers?” The answer was to bundle the vehicle, its insurance and its maintenance (which it is actually experimenting with in Asia). In one step Tesla removed hundreds of transactions from the owner over the life of the vehicle, consolidating payments and creating a lower-stress experience. A person like Reema might like the idea that coverage and ownership are all-in-one.
How can insurers capitalize on customer journey mapping? Precisely by doing what Tesla did — using the maps to redesign the experience. You may insure small business owners. What does their day look like? What are their common risks? What happens when something goes wrong? Is there a way to move their brand experience from good to great?
Redesigned Experiences — “That brand fits me.”
It’s an experience, not a transaction. If insurers adopt the mindset that we are shifting from core transactional experiences to customer experiences, then they will instantly be able to brainstorm new ways of supporting the customer. These might fall outside of traditional insurance operations.
A high volume motorcycle insurer, for example, builds an online community for cycle enthusiasts. Anyone can join. They create an experience that moves from the road into the living room. The insurer may capitalize on their promotional opportunities to sell insurance, but they are also gaining a deep understanding of the motivations and experiences of those whom they insure. They will understand the many types of motorcycle riders. They won’t be creating products that are one-size fits all. Those who ride will ultimately see that the brand fits them. “This is the insurer that understands riders like me.”
It’s an experience, not a technology. If sensors in my basement notify my insurer that I have water damage and they schedule remediation without me making a claim, then my experience has improved and my loyalty has been assured. Likewise, if my auto insurer sends me a message to put my car in the garage because of an approaching hail storm, they are looking out for my welfare and they have improved my experience. These would be benchmark experiences for customers. They use new technology, but they are still focused on the experience.
When we focus on the customer experience, we peek into customer minds and feed our own opportunity list with inspirations based on their thoughts, actions and feelings. We introduce a loop of feedback and improvement that will provide sustainable growth. And, we unify our organizations behind a culture of empathy and action. A focus on customer experience will give customers brand love — and that’s about the best result we could ask for.