Insurers are privileged to have vast amounts of customer information from online, mobile, telephone and face-to-face interactions. The insights that information can generate represent tremendous business benefits – as long as the insurer can pull that information together to create a comprehensive picture.

As today’s insurers move away from a transactional business model and refocus their strategies on differentiating customer engagement, it’s more important than ever for them to enable a full, rich picture of the customer’s relationship with the company. To achieve that, they need to provide workers with real-time information on the customer’s interactions, the products and services they’ve bought or shown interest in, and most importantly, who they are. That vision might seem to be a business basic, but it’s an area where some insurers struggle to compete. Disparate data sources and legacy siloed back-end systems, not to mention the challenges of a diverse and complex network of agents and intermediaries, can present challenges when it comes to providing a single, 360-degree view of the customer.

“Customer service suffers when carriers and their agents don’t have a single, comprehensive view of the customer,” says Dennis Vanderlip, industry solutions director for worldwide insurance at Microsoft. “Insurers work with a complex ecosystem of intermediaries and agents, and coordination between them is often not as strong as it should be, which can mean that insights about the end customer may be lost. The issue is compounded by the fact that customers want to interact with the insurer using any channel they choose. Not only do they expect to receive a consistent level of service at any time, on any channel; they also expect the person they’re dealing with to know exactly where they are in a conversation that might have started online or through social media. Any offering that falls short of their expectations can lead to disillusionment and, ultimately, lost sales.”

To give agents and intermediaries the insight that enables exceptional levels of service, insurers need to break down information silos across the organisation and establish the customer, not the product, as the focal point of their sales and marketing efforts. “Insurers need to provide everyone with the insight they need to increase sales and improve customer engagement,” says Vanderlip. “That means managing the performance of agencies and enabling agents and brokers to manage leads, improve sales effectiveness and leverage insight so they can upsell and cross-sell. It means empowering claims adjusters and field engineers to process claims faster and conduct comprehensive inspections, and giving call centre agents the insight they need to serve customers efficiently and cross-sell additional products.”

That’s all very well, but most insurers don’t have the budget or the time to commit to replacing the systems they’ve already invested in. Nor do they want to add yet another new system to the collection they already have. The answer, says Vanderlip, is to think outside the silos. “Insurers who are open to innovation are finding efficient, intelligent ways to bring together their siloed data and provide a 360-degree view of the customer for the people who need it,” he says. “For many, a modern customer insight system holds the key to operational excellence, great customer service and long-term success.”

By implementing an insight system, insurers can take interactions from the agent channel, the customer web and mobile channels, and from the service desk, as well as data from external sources, existing siloed back-end systems, marketing efforts and social activities, and bring them all together to form that 360-degree view of the customer. “There’s no need for complex engineering work to connect disparate systems, because people can now access the functionality and the information in their systems through an application programming interface,” explains Vanderlip. “So if an insurer wants to connect to an external weather data system to understand what the weather was like at the time of a particular accident claim, they can do that.”

Increasingly, insurers are turning to modern insight systems, powered by customer relationship management (CRM) solutions, to enable the experience that customers demand.

“Solutions like Dynamics CRM can provide a mechanism to capture information about those customer interactions that can be then used to drive insights,” says Erik Sandquist, managing director in Accenture’s Insurance practice and leader of the company’s Insurance Distribution and Marketing business service in North America. “In addition, they actually become the tool through which insights are presented to the producer or the contact centre representative, either at the point of customer interaction or to help drive campaigns and other marketing activities.” Recent research points to the role of these technologies in delivering the experience customers demand, as well as the insights employees need. In its 2014 report, ‘Insurance CRM: Keys to Implementation’, Celent found that 90 per cent of insurers are using the technology to drive the creation of omni-channel experiences for their customers.

“For insurance companies, an omni-channel strategy involves unifying their online, mobile and contact centre channels, and directly integrating these with their core insurance systems,” says Vanderlip. “All of this can be done through a modern insight system. From the customer’s point of view, this enables a consistent experience on any channel they choose. But key to providing that consistency is the system’s ability to give agents and intermediaries a single version of the truth about the customer they’re engaging with. By integrating an insight system with transaction, collaboration and productivity functionality through Office 365, agents and underwriters can gain a comprehensive view of the customer and their interactions across all channels – using it as a tool to gather information and centrally store it.”

For example, carriers can streamline the claims process by using solutions such as Microsoft Dynamics CRM, Unified Service Desk and Office 365 to deliver the insights staff need to assess, monitor and process claims quickly, provide automatic updates for the insured, find information and check progress against key performance indicators. By implementing an extended CRM system that is fed by customer interactions across contact centre, branch, customer portal, email and SMS, insurers can consolidate information to enable better insight, more effective marketing, improved sales and services, and higher levels of customer satisfaction.

“We’ve seen great results in the agent channels where both the producer and the insurer are able to align around a true single view of the customer from a product standpoint,” says Sandquist. “They can then drive insights by looking across their book of business to see what additional products or offers would be relevant to that particular insured and how specifically to message that customer, through what channel and at what point in time. Leading insurance companies have become increasingly sophisticated with respect to predictive modelling and micro segmentation. They can get down to very specific segments of the market that have distinct profiles in terms of needs, life stage, behaviours, customer value and so on.”

With the right technologies in place, insurers can harness data from a growing range of channels, devices and applications that are engaging customers and changing the way they do business. For example, telematics apps include gamification and assessment activities that attract existing and potential customers – and in doing so, they enable insurers to gather insights that can be used to develop new products and target audiences more effectively. “Telematics is essentially a different way for insurers to sell their products, based on actual behaviours in terms of driving, health and so on, rather than relying on traditional demographics,” says Tap Haley, insurance industry director at Hitachi Solutions. “Collecting all this great data into a system that can provide true insight enables insurers to more accurately segment and target their products to prospective buyers. In terms of how this impacts the distribution channel, the data and segmentation a carrier can capture through telematics can help them to better distribute the right prospects to the right agents.”

By integrating data from diverse sources such as core and supporting systems, customer interactions, social channels, mobile apps and marketing, insurers can generate insights, enable a 360-degree view of the customer and identify the leads that will help agents maximise their productivity.

Sandquist notes that enabling orchestration and cooperation between insurers and producers in the marketing domain can yield some great opportunities. “As CRM platforms have matured, a number of solution providers have really broadened their capability sets to include elements of marketing, sales and service,” he says. “They are bringing those distinct functions together in a way that enables them to be better integrated. Whether it’s a service event that leads to a crosssell opportunity or an intelligence gain from a sales interaction that then drives a future marketing-driven dialogue with that customer, these are great examples of technology enabling the leveraging of insights across what historically have been distinct functions within an organisation. This is vitally important because, while agents and brokers play a very important role in sales, many of them also drive some level of marketing activity. These producers are not just sales people; they are often small business owners who need to generate demand.”

The insights insurers deliver to their producers are the foundation of their future success. As increasingly sophisticated channels, technologies and apps generate richer customer interaction, it will be more important than ever to support producers with the insights that can help them achieve truly differentiating levels of sales, service and engagement.

“Having a 360-degree view of the customer is invaluable for boosting profitability and increasing productivity,” Vanderlip concludes. “With all the information they need at their fingertips, agents can communicate with customers more efficiently and effectively, price up policies more easily and identify upsell or cross-sell opportunities. At the same time, they have the opportunity to develop their business by generating and tracking leads, and creating tailored offers that will capture sales.”

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