Digital Insurance – The Myth of the Online Buyer

The insurance industry is currently dealing with digital disruption, and by disruption I’m talking about the change in the consumer and the consumer habits, what I call The New Face of Insurance.

The myth that the insurance consumer is not ready for the digital world must be dispelled. According to The surprising facts about who shops online and on mobile (Business Insider 2015):

  • One in four shoppers is actually over the age of 55
  • Millennials make up the largest portion of online shoppers in terms of dollars spent and yet they earn the least

According to Gartner, 43% of our industry revenue will come directly from digital markets by 2020. Now think about that in our current captive and broker world.

LIMRA says that:

  • 74% of insurance customers want to do research online, educate themselves before they even think about talking to an agent
  • 25% of those people will even buy online, right there and then
  • Sadly, that’s really not available in our industry

We went from captive agents to independent agents and now we’re moving to more of a I-want-to-be-my-own-agent.

An example of this would be a UK company by the name of Beagle Street. They’re attacking the old ways that we do things, attacking the old financial advisers. And what they’re saying is “come and buy online.” So how do we go with this?

Digital Strategy and Digital Footprint website redesign. It’s way more than that. It’s about continually evolving to make it easier for consumers to do business with you. You need to go where your consumers are – you can no longer expect your consumers to come to you.

It’s looking at multi-channel distribution; embracing your agents, embracing online, and embracing the education that people are looking for. Just think about the customer service improvements t by being able to reach out to them through social media when there is a catastrophe.

We’ve been invited to speak on this topic at insurance conferences a lot recently, and we’ve done a short video as well. If you’d like to learn more, contact us.

How Life Insurance Companies Can Use the PMO to Improve Outcomes of Agile Projects

The Agile approach used in software development helps projects respond to unpredictability.

What? Unpredictability?

Life insurance companies are founded on predictability! How can Agile work at insurance companies, the reigning rulers of predictability?

In an informal examination of multiple large life insurance provider websites, the following key words were found (multiple times/places):

  • Preserve
  • Long tradition
  • Security
  • Base for building
  • Permanent
  • Fixed
  • Deeply committed
  • Dependable

So how can we, as project managers and program managers, fuse the “traditional” insurance corporate cultures with Agile projects that are based on evolving, iterating and changing?

A PMO initiative can help manage the point where predictability has to meet unpredictability, and blend as peacefully as possible in the project world:

  • Work with project teams and vendors to ensure agile terms, practices and goals are understood and met
  • Instill a level of commitment for agile projects that meet and align with overall project goals
  • Help set up or enhance proper Agile governance for projects and vendors
  • Assure that all integration points between multiple projects are identified, efficient and manageable
  • Perform ongoing scope analysis while adhering to the Agile philosophy of shifting and reprioritizing as necessary
  • Initiate risk analysis and align with the Agile methodology
  • Provide long term, short term or interim leadership in overall project work and Agile core competencies
  • Supplement resources to help with project and business area gaps
  • Guide project managers, sponsors and stakeholders throughout the agile process and provide ownership and stability with this methodology
  • Keep a balance of traditional project reporting and documentation while managing everyday Agile shifts and changes

As daunting as it may be for “old school” companies, exposure to Agile projects is inevitable. Managing Agile in a predictable way allows insurance companies to understand what it will take to adapt to the Agile project mindset and advocate the change.

BPO hosting: Has the dark side finally been destroyed?

luke yodaWhen Luke Skywalker was being trained by Yoda did he ever think about Hosting vs BPO – well maybe he should have. Maybe there where bigger fish to fry than cutting his own Dad’s hand off, which felt a little cheesy.

So what are we talking about? Well, for years Carriers have sought a way not to spend multi-million dollars on infrastructure and to host or process outsource their core. Now if you have no CSR staff and do not wish to hire them, then process outsource was the only avenue, if you had CSRs but your enterprise infrastructure was poor you looked to a BPO to provide hosting. Breaking it down though, no BPO firm wants to host your policies, it is not in their business plan. Sure, they will but why do you think they will? Because their sales guy will constantly be trying to drip bleed you dry and move over to BPO “let us handle the excess claim volume next month”, “wow billing is such a simple area, we could take that off your hands and your valued staff could be moving into bigger things” – it is all the “camel’s nose under the tent” – you do not notice the nose and soon enough, the whole camel is in.

So where is this going, seeing as there are limited offerings… the world has changed and at last large Policy Admin vendors are looking to the Cloud. With harnessing new models in a way to offer their products the costing and security can seem great benefit, to the big and the small alike. Only last week I sat with a PAS vendor who took me through how they could, cost effectively, host several small carriers on one hosted instance, spreading the cost and achieving a way for everyone to access the latest and greatest software out there. Of course, people have laid claim to this before but no one has ever seemed to make it a realistic business model, until now.

The good news is, it is out there – finally we can see costing and hardware sizing where they should be — which is the best of what you want, when you need it. No longer do you need to size for your month-aversary and no longer does the end of year CPU crunch need to worry you…you can have the best of the Admin Systems and you can strap on power when you need it. I, for one, finally feel that really Insurance Admin in the Cloud is here and it is here to stay.

Admin vendors can worry about their product enhancements; Cloud providers focus solely on the security and fail over (they are the best at it after all); carriers can focus on customer service and product. Amen, we are all where we should be. And what about us integrators? Well that is simple, with any move like this comes a need to not only have your Cloud strategy in place but also the ideal time to review your Enterprise Architecture as a whole. PAS is just one thing, what about Office 365 in the Cloud? The list goes on and on – it is time to see if the Cloud has an avenue for your organization and time to stop letting others control your destiny. Cloud vs BPO hosting /services – a no brainer decision.

Little innovations lead to big change

When carriers think about innovation and achieving competitive advantage, most focus on big changes: introducing new products like Usage Based Insurance, redesigning business processes, deploying major technology initiatives like customer and agent portals or new policy administration systems. They think of trends like social media, predictive analytics, and big data.

But innovation and competitive advantage can be achieved by making smaller improvements in everyday processes. For example, understanding and keeping current with ISO changes is critical to most carriers. Consider ISO’s recent Commercial Lines updates. Per their October briefing, ISO CL Update, the Commercial Automobile Program alone included a new auto dealers program and 26 new optional endorsements.

datagrailFor most carriers, hearing that major updates are coming raises shudders. Carriers know that analyzing ISO updates, comparing them to the current version of rates and forms in use, and identifying changes is a challenge. It takes significant time and knowledge to pour through the various ISO materials and determine what has changed and how the changes impact the carrier’s book of business. Since so many carriers already have too much on their plate, they often let ISO updates slide, failing to adopt them in a timely manner. Thus they miss the small innovations that can improve their product offerings and improve their bottom line. When they do choose to catch-up, it is often a daunting effort to jump several versions in one leap, introducing massive change to their systems, processes, and books of business.

Applying automation to the comparison of ISO changes could improve the efficiency of the analysis process, allowing carriers to more quickly determine the impact of adopting or not adopting ISO changes. This targeted solution is not a major system implementation, but it is an innovation that would allow you to best leverage your investment in ISO content, and improve a cumbersome process. It is a small innovation that would allow a carrier to dramatically improve its ability to analyze and react to ISO changes. A small innovation with a big payoff in more efficient internal processes that can translate to improved products, product pricing, and the bottom line.

A solution already exists. Edgewater Consulting has leveraged its deep industry and technical knowledge and long-standing ISO relationship to develop a cloud-based solution to address this critical business need. The solution compares ISO rate books and quickly identifies what has changed, and presents results in Microsoft Excel, a familiar yet powerful analytical tool.

We will be hosting a webinar with ISO to demonstrate the tool, using it to analyze ISO’s commercial auto changes released on October 1. If you’re interested in attending, register here.

Product Innovation vs Product Complication: The “one minute strategy” syndrome

When is product innovation a hindrance?

jackalopeWhen it is innovation for innovation sake?

Let’s look at a company known for innovation and great products –Google; they have it right – or do they? It seems to me that product companies have teams that create wonderful new products, (Gmail, Google Maps) and you eagerly await the next one…what is the issue with that you say? The issue is these teams seem to stay with a product and tweak it and tweak it and feature enrich it until it ends up worse with each release. The age old maintainability and reliability over complication leads to poor usability.

These days, more often than not your hear the street complaining about the latest version-“Why did they remove select all?”; ”The search on the new version is awful, where is my old search?”; “Why are they auto filtering my email? If I wanted it in that folder I would have set a rule up…” – all complaints due to playing with the old rather than innovating the new.

Let’s look for a moment to the Insurance market – remember years ago when “time to market” was big? What did they do? Tweak the PAS systems to the point you can set up a new product in three days – to what gain? You cannot create and file a product in that time so why be able to get the PAS updated so fast? And why do they continue to invest in that feature?

Tweaking an old PAS leads to less reliability and increased maintenance; shortening the lifespan and forcing large injections of capital to replace – Why? Why not invest the short term dollars in enabling your enterprise to grow, facilitate change. The new breed of PAS systems are built on real components, with disconnected services and messaging – the Component Architecture.

More and more vendors are building tools based on such an architecture, removing the heavy integration and allowing the evolution of an enterprise component by component. No more breaking the old by adding the new, instead a simpler, proven method of extending or replacing the old without the integration and conversion nightmares of the past.

Why do I say product extension and feature tweaking is a “one minute strategy”? Because just like most Enterprise Roadmaps we see today, this development and innovation model lack thought and lacks a strategic vision. Instead of taking a moment to right the ship and steer a course into calmer water, these strategies propagate tactical solutions that never reach to the nub of the issue. We do not all have $50M to spend to keep replacing so we need an alternative, a different mode and that mode is to embrace the new architecture, get ready for it and then be able to accelerate change.

So next time you look at your product or your enterprise, try to think out of the box and stop trying to make a steering wheel better – it is round and it works…..look for ways to integrate it better….allowing future growth and expansion without the growing pains.

Usage Based Insurance and Big Data – What is a Carrier to Do?

sma ubi tableThere is little doubt that Usage Based Insurance (UBI) (a.k.a. Telematics) is a hot topic in the U.S. Insurance Market. A recent survey from Strategy Meets Action found that while only 18 P&C insurers have an active UBI program in more than 1 state, 70% of insurers surveyed are in some stage of planning, piloting, or implementing UBI programs.

A carrier cannot venture into this space without considering the data implications. Usage Based Insurance, whatever its flavor, involves placing a device in a vehicle and recording information about driving behavior. Typical data points collected include: vehicle identifier, time of day, acceleration, deceleration (i.e. braking), cornering, location, and miles driven. This data can then be paired with publicly available data to identify road type and weather conditions.

Now consider, a 20 mile morning commute to work that takes the driver 35 minutes. If the data points noted above (9) are collected every minute, that 20 mile commute would generate 315 data points (about 16 data points per mile driven). If the average vehicle is driven 1000 miles in a month, it would generate 16,000 data points each month or 192,000 data points each year. Now consider what happens if a carrier enrolls even 1000 vehicles in a pilot UBI program. Within a year, the carrier must accommodate the transmission and storage of over 190 million data points. Progressive Insurance, the leader in UBI in the U.S. market, has been gathering data for 15 years and has collected over 5 Billion miles of driving data.

Even more critically, the carrier must find a way to interpret and derive meaningful information from this raw driving data. The UBI device won’t magically spit out a result that tells the carrier whether the driving behavior is risky or not. The carrier must take this raw data and develop a model that will allow the carrier to score the driving behavior in some way. That score can then be applied within rating algorithms to reward drivers who demonstrate safe driving behaviors. As with all modeling exercises, the more data used to construct the model, the more reliable the results.

While data transmission and storage costs are relatively inexpensive, these are still daunting numbers, especially for small and mid-sized carriers. How can they embrace the changes that UBI is bringing to the market?

From a pragmatic perspective, these smaller carriers will need to partner with experts in data management and predictive modeling. They will need to leverage external expertise to help them successfully gather and integrate UBI data into their organizations’ decision making processes.

In the longer term, credible 3rd party solutions are likely to emerge, allowing a carrier to purchase an individual’s driving score in much the same way that credit score is purchased today. Until then, carriers need to make smart investments, leveraging the capabilities of trusted partners to allow them to keep pace with market changes.

Usage Based Insurance – What Systems Implications does a Carrier Face When Implementing a Program?

usage based insuranceUsage Based Insurance (UBI) (a.k.a. Telematics) is gaining traction in the U.S. Market.   At least 18 states have four or more Personal Auto programs implemented, and 49 states have at least 1 program.

As mid-sized and smaller carriers venture into this space, they need to consider the system implications that accompany a program implementation. While the specifics will vary depending on the type of program implemented, there are several areas that will be impacted.

First, Policy Quoting and Issuance: Assuming that the carrier utilizes some type of on-line portal to support the quoting process, the carrier must update the portal to accommodate enrollment into the UBI program on a per vehicle basis. Rules may be needed to limit those who are eligible for the program or to encourage certain individuals to join the program. If introductory premium discounts will be given just for joining the program, these discounts must be accommodated within the new-business rating algorithms. Additional data may need to be gathered about individuals joining a UBI program, such as email address, a field not commonly maintained in legacy systems. If the carrier makes rating available through a comparative rater, the carrier will need to decide if and how the comparative rating site will reflect the UBI program. Policy Declarations will also require alterations to reflect the new program. Finally, upon issuance of the policy, a new workflow will need to be triggered in order to issue a UBI device and installation instructions to the insured.

Second, Administration Systems: Once the policy is issued, various back-end systems and processes need to be altered to accommodate the UBI program as well. Policy Administration and Renewal Processes will need to incorporate the data gained from the UBI device, typically in the form of a driving score. Billing System changes may be needed if the carrier decides to charge drivers for lost or damaged UBI devices. Customer Service systems need to be updated so that service representatives know which customers are participating in the UBI program and can answer their questions related to the devices and driving discounts. The carrier may consider special telephone routing so that UBI program participants are handled by specialized customer service representatives. Claim System changes may also be needed if the carrier wants to ensure that Claims Adjusters are made aware that a vehicle is part of a UBI program.  For carriers who rely on independent agents, Agency Download should also be updated to reflect the new program. Finally, back-end data warehouse and management reporting systems will need to incorporate UBI related data and develop new analyses to support the program.

Third, Workflow and System Capabilities: First, the carrier must manage an inventory of UBI devices, tracking which have been issued and associating issued devices to specific vehicles. The carrier must also develop a number of communication protocols in partnership with their Telecommunications Services Provider. For example, if an issued UBI device stops communicating, the carrier will need to communicate with the insured. The timing and format of these communications requires some forethought. If a UBI device goes silent for a day or two, it could mean that the vehicle is temporarily out of range, perhaps in a remote vacation spot, or the device was removed while the vehicle is in the shop. On the other hand, the device could have been unplugged for routine service and accidentally left unplugged. If the carrier reacts too quickly, they could easily annoy the insured and appear like “Big Brother”; if they wait too long to react, they could lose valuable data. Changes are also needed to accommodate drivers who want to add, remove, or change vehicles within the UBI program during a policy period; this may require a separate management system altogether and could impact the scoring algorithms created. Thus, establishing the right communication protocols is critical to the program’s success.

Similarly, the carrier needs to determine how they will receive and model the driving data collected by the UBI device.  Will they gather the detailed data, transform it into meaningful information, and develop predictive models based on that data that can be applied within renewal rating algorithms. Or will they partner with an expert who can manage data collection and manipulation for them, providing them with some type of a score to apply within their rating algorithms. In either case, the carrier needs to understand the data that they will be receiving and establish systems for managing and utilizing that data.

Finally, the carrier must establish a means to provide feedback to the drivers participating in the program. Typically this is accomplished via a web-site where the driver can view his/her driving history, compare that history to some type of benchmark, and view tips to improve driving behaviors.  Again, the carrier may be able to partner with the Telecommunications Services Provider to deploy this functionality, but the carrier must work with the provider to define what data will be presented, and the carrier must be prepared to answer questions that their insureds will have about the data presented.

In closing, successfully implementing a UBI program has ripple effects across a wide swath of an insurance carrier’s infrastructure.  Before embarking on this journey, a carrier must give thought to both the initial launch and ongoing support of the program, making decisions about how to best integrate the program into its underlying systems and processes. Strong partners, both those with specific UBI expertise and those with more generic system, process, and project management expertise, can ease implementation and speed time to market.

Usage Based Insurance – What Value Can Carriers Offer Customers Beyond A Premium Discount?

usage based insuranceWithin the U.S. market, Usage Based Insurance (UBI) (a.k.a. Telematics) is primarily marketed as a means of lowering premium.  As discussed in a previous post on Usage Based Insurance, a driver allows the insurer to monitor his/her driving behavior, and in exchange for safe driving habits, the driver receives a discounted premium.   But these programs also offer an opportunity for a carrier to provide value-added services to their customers, an opportunity to craft a product rather than to offer the lowest price on what is often seen as a commodity.  Depending on the device chosen and the data collected, a wealth of services can be offered that allow for additional touch points between the carrier and the insured, beyond bill paying and claims settlement.

For example, safety related services could form the foundation for an offering.  The UBI device could be used to monitor, and proactively report to the driver, information about needed car maintenance items.  It could also be used to offer road-side and accident assistance, to remotely unlock a vehicle, or to locate a lost or stolen vehicle.   For a driver who is searching for his/her car in a large, dark parking lot, this last ability could be both a major convenience and a huge safety feature.

Teen or Elderly driver monitoring services could be the basis of another offering. For example, the UBI device could send text messages when a vehicle arrived, as expected, at a certain destination (e.g. when a student arrived home from school each day).  Similarly, the device could issue an alert when driven outside certain preset geographic boundaries, speed limits, or curfews (e.g. when an elderly driver operated the vehicle at rush hour). The device could also be used to provide mapping, showing where a vehicle was driven or locating a vehicle/family member at any given time.

Innovative gaming techniques and feedback mechanisms could be used to provide driver guidance. These tools would allow each driver in the household to profile and compare his/her habits to others in the household and to the “average” driver. The integration of gaming into current feedback loops would better engage drivers. By comparing driving profiles over time and by competing to improve their profiles, drivers would also improve their driving habits.

While many of these services are available through various venues, a carrier can use a telematics offering to craft a product that provides both value and service to its customers. It can attract and retain customers by providing a unique blend of tools that provide benefit on a daily basis rather than a basic promise of service when an accident occurs. By carefully considering its target market and by focusing on services of benefit to that market, a carrier can differentiate itself within an increasingly commoditized field. As UBI programs permeate the market, smart carriers will leverage their capabilities for far more than another way to compete on price.

How did you find Nemo?

nemoThe blizzard of ’13 hit the northeast pretty hard this past week.  Communities still reeling from Sandy now have to deal with feet of snow too.  Power outages and downed communication lines make it extremely difficult for people to contact utility providers to report problems, as well as to receive information regarding service restoration.  Many providers are turning to social networks and to text messaging to help them get the word out and to keep their customers informed.  Others are leveraging mobile apps to assist customers, allowing them to report problems and follow repair progress.  Some utility companies are doing both.  Utility companies have to provide service 24/7; but, while insurance carriers will accept claim reports outside the regular work week, their work really begins on Monday.

Like the utility companies, many insurance organizations, carriers and agents, communicate via their social network accounts and some communicate with mobile apps.  Customers may have already reported the tree limbs falling on their cars, collisions from sliding on the roads, or restaurant food spoilage when refrigeration goes out, and now they need to know when they will hear from the claims representative or damage appraiser to move things along as quickly as possible.  If the power and phone lines are still out, your smartphone becomes your only window to the world.  This is where the carriers that have embraced and leveraged smartphone technology shine, and those that are still dependent solely upon on web sites and telephone communication fall behind, and lose customers.

Thousands of customers could be trying to contact you via your phone lines, and find the never ending phone tree wildly frustrating.  When that becomes exasperating, maybe there’s a mobile app to download, but all you can do with that is pay your premium.  Next, look at Facebook for updates, but that’s just a Hall of Fame for charitable acts and follower counts, nothing on the company’s efforts to reach out to customers about the storm.  How about Twitter?  Maybe the company is broadcasting where mobile claim centers are being set up, tips on how to minimize damage, or special phone numbers that have been arranged?  What about the agent?  They may be without power and communication as well, but they may still be able to provide support taking reports and providing information for claims – if they can get it.

This is the time when the rubber meets the road for insurance, and if you can’t keep in touch with your customers and help them when they need it most, they’ll solve the problem for you – they’ll find out about the companies that do, and they won’t be your customers for much longer.  Now is a good time to rethink and update strategy for carriers who aren’t where they should be.

Customer Intelligence – Analyzing and Acting on the Data

bubble cloudsPart one of this topic addressed leveraging social media to improve customer satisfaction.  This is the initial step towards a broader goal to create a robust Customer Intelligence framework that allows P/C insurers to listen, connect, analyze, respond and market to customers in a much more proactive and targeted way.

Customer Intelligence is the process of collecting relevant and timely information about customers and prospects, consolidating the data from all the different sources into a cohesive structure, and providing the sales, service and marketing functions with tools that can leverage this intelligence.  The sources of this data not only include the obvious ones such as a carrier’s Customer Service Center, and Policy or Claims Admin system, but should also originate from the Agent, Marketing Surveys, Telematics, and Social Media, including Twitter and Facebook – all mashed up to produce a Balanced Scorecard and Predictive Analytics.

Most CRM systems need to be updated to include new columns in their user profile for data in addition to email and phone number such as Facebook name, Twitter Handle, etc. With the social listening and response management connected to your CRM, a social inquiry can be viewed in context and the activity recorded for future interactions, available to Customer Service Reps or even Agency personnel. This level of social customer intelligence is going to differentiate companies that do it right, becoming a key element of a carrier’s business strategy.

A fully integrated Customer Intelligence platform provides benefits such as:

  • A single integrated interface to many social media outlets
  • The ability to manage multiple writing companies
  • Create and track cases, contacts, accounts, and leads from real-time conversations
  • Manage marketing campaigns and track social media marketing ROI
  • Cue CSR’s on upsell and cross sell opportunities

A carrier should determine the Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) that matter most to their business goals, then view the appropriate data in graphical dashboards to track effectiveness of their efforts.  It’s important to tie those KPIs to their influence on customer behaviors such as loyalty and increased sales.  But carriers must also be aware to not look at positive or negative changes in the wrong way and fully understand the reasons for success or failure.  Reacting to success by following up with more online advertising in certain media outlets, may not produce the desired results, when in fact the reason for an increase in sales is due to the upsell and cross sell efforts of CSRs.