Omnichannel: Customer centricity through a seamless customer journey
What do insurers and brick-and-mortar retailers have in common? Both are faced with the challenge of bridging the gap between the online and offline worlds in order to meet customer requirements and remain competitive with the efficiency gains promised by hybrid sales.
Trends such as self-scanning and click & collect can be observed in brick-and-mortar retail. Above all, these services save time for customers and give them the option of receiving personal advice from employees on site. Self-service checkouts have positive effects for brick-and-mortar retail, such as reducing the workload on employees and providing a wealth of data on customers’ shopping habits. Brick-and-mortar retailers can use this data to map their customers’ shopping baskets. They also have an opportunity to offer targeted individual product recommendations, vouchers and discounts.
Digital and personal are not mutually exclusive
The parallels with insurance are obvious. Here, too, customer demand is increasingly shifting towards taking out and viewing policies digitally and receiving digitally supported advice. The sales channel statistics of the German Insurance Association (GDV) show that the share of direct sales has increased slightly in recent years. In vehicle insurance, the share of direct sales was 19.4 per cent in 2021, making it the largest share across all lines of business. Personal advice, especially for advice-intensive products such as insurance, continues to play a key role.
In order to remain competitive in the future, however, both insurers and brick-and-mortar retailers need to break new ground. The younger generations in particular place new demands on insurers and differ greatly in terms of customer behaviour: they grew up with the Internet and social media and use these channels to obtain their information. Anyone who is not visible online today will not be visible to future customers either. The interesting thing is that trust is created by ratings such as likes, reviews or influencers. How can insurers now succeed in reaching this customer group and, ideally, inspiring them? To understand this, let’s look at a hypothetical omnichannel customer journey.
What an omnichannel customer journey might look like
Let us follow Jonas on his customer journey. He is 25 years old, has just completed his master’s degree in German philology and has been investing his savings in ETFs since the age of 16. You would think that someone who knows ETFs and has already built up considerable savings here would also know insurance – but that’s not the case. Until now, his parents have taken care of this for him, but now it is time for him to prepare himself for insurance matters, especially as he has just moved into his own home for the first time.
On a TikTok channel Jonas follows, the insurance expert who operates the channel emphasises that liability insurance is a really important policy. That sounds logical for Jonas, and he’s already researching the insurance product of his choice online. The result is that the Pfefferminzia product seems to be the right product for Jonas. In the first stage, Jonas receives detailed information from the Pepperminzia chatbot Mia about the Pepperminzia liability policy. But Jonas also wants to talk to a real person before deciding on an insurance policy. This is not a problem for Mia. She gives him three options:
- chat with a Pfefferminzia employee,
- start a phone call with a Pfefferminzia employee,
- start a video chat with a Pfefferminzia employee.
Jonas opts for a video chat and is connected to Simone, who works at the Pfefferminzia agency where he lives. Simone sees the data that Jonas has already shared with the chatbot Mia at a glance and answers the final questions.
Jonas is now convinced and wants to take out a policy. At Pfefferminzia, you’re spoilt for choice: take out a policy online, by post or over a cup of coffee in the office with Simone. Jonas opts for the straightforward process of taking out a policy online with paperless e-mail communication. This way, he not only receives his insurance policy, but also regular invitations to events at Simone’s agency. Six months after taking out the policy, he accepts one of the invitations and meets Simone for the first time in person at the FinanzLearningSnack ‘Uncertain and underinsured’. He learns there that occupational disability insurance is also a good idea for him. The TikToker said that too, Jonas remembers. He discusses the most important questions with Simone in person and can then take out the policy in peace at home, online of course. And since he has already taken out two insurance policies with Pfefferminzia, he downloads their app to his mobile phone, which he can use to view his policies and manage his personal data.
The story can keep on going at this point. Jonas is going on holiday (travel insurance), Jonas is renting an electric bike via the Pfefferminzia mobility platform (electric bike insurance), Jonas is moving into a new flat (household insurance) etc.
Do you see where this is going?
Spillover effects from the interlinked contact channels
Is a customer journey like the one experienced by our protagonist Jonas even possible? The answer is ‘yes’ and ‘no’ . The technological possibilities it takes to map Jonas’ journey in this way do exist. Insurance companies are already using chatbots and voice bots, and it is possible to take out policies entirely digitally thanks to technological solutions such as those from the start-up Nect – as the references from Huk, Nürnberger and Alte Leipziger show.
However, the technical aspects are only one side of the coin: insurance companies also face a number of legal hurdles, such as the German Insurance Contract Act (VVG), which has remained the same since 2008 and does not cover many of today’s use cases. As these general legal conditions are very comprehensive, we will take a look at them in a separate blog post.
In contrast, there is nothing standing in the way of the 360-degree customer view: it was only at the end of last year that Signal Iduna announced its intention to use a central platform for cross-segment customer support and link processes in order to obtain a 360-degree customer view. As part of its ‘Life Time Partner 24: Driving Growth’ strategy, Generali is working on innovations in order to achieve customer centricity at the point of sale. For example, in cooperation with the start-up riskine, the insurer has developed a solution that shows customers the individual risk at a glance, presents its own insurance cover transparently and offers individual product recommendations. However, all of these solutions depend on data that has to be collected and consolidated centrally. This requires the integration of online and offline in order to obtain knowledge of customers and be able to respond optimally to individual needs.
The hurdles to a realignment in favour of omnichannel are high, however, requiring companies to move away from channel optimisation towards customer centricity. In addition, agencies and direct sales must pull together and co-exist instead of competing.
The example of Gothaer shows how to overcome the hurdle of channel competition: as part of the insurer’s omnichannel model, the digital sales and digital visibility of Gothaer agencies are being strengthened. In addition, all customers acquired online are referred to an agency, which contributes to personal loyalty as well as up-selling and cross-selling. Carolin Jacobi, Head of Digital End Customer Sales at Gothaer Versicherungsbank VVaG, presented the model at this year’s insurance customer management exhibition ‘Kundenmanagement in Versicherungen’. She stressed the importance of bringing brick-and-mortar sales on board right from the start. In addition, it is important to understand the levers of digital visibility in order to be able to face the competition from comparison sites like Check24. According to the expert, you have to start with product design in order to remain digitally relevant and visible. ‘No matter where I take out a policy, the search starts online,’ she emphasised in her presentation, describing the steps taken by the insurer along the customer journey, from Google searches to comparison sites, the insurer’s website and the conclusion of a policy. The guiding principles are ‘data-based decisions, scalable software architecture and insights into behavioural economics,’ says Jacobi.
What it takes to realise the omnichannel customer journey
There are myriad reasons for a lack of omnichannel capability: a lack of data and no capture of the points of interaction, heterogeneous data and systems, a lack of infrastructure to synchronise and evaluate data in real time, and organisational silos, to name but a few.
- Data and technical infrastructure are needed
Too often, customer information at the touchpoints is still stored locally, if it is captured at all. A centralised customer database is needed in which information from different channels is brought together and where it is possible to identify reasons for interaction. It pays to invest in a sophisticated data strategy to improve the quality and availability of customer data. Now is not the time to cut back on investments in technical infrastructure. It should be put under the microscope in order to identify potential bottlenecks or outdated systems.
- What is needed is an overarching omnichannel structure and a customer-centric corporate culture
The success of the omnichannel customer journey also requires an overarching omnichannel structure in which employees from different departments work closely together and share information. Organisational work is not enough, however, because a rethink is also needed culturally. Without a customer-centric culture that values a seamless customer experience and involves employees in the design and implementation of an omnichannel strategy, the omnichannel project will not succeed. Regular training and management attention form the guiding principles of the customer journey.
A customer journey like Jonas experienced is already technically possible today, and in terms of what the next generation of customers expects, it must soon become a reality. Other sectors such as brick-and-mortar retail are leading the way – and insurers, too, as the examples have shown, are working on their own omnichannel vision. What this vision will take to realise is a customer-centric mindset, a centralised database that contributes to the 360-degree customer view, updates to the underlying legislation, an understanding of the need for digital visibility and the integration of online and offline in a way that benefits the customer.
Specialist blog for the insurance industry: #Insights:Sales management in insurance companies (versicherungsforen.net)