Innovation at the Point of the Customer

Innovation must focus on claimants, who deal with all sorts of requirements while going through perhaps the worst time of their lives.

What is transformation? Industry leaders and consultants throw out many, many ideas about how to integrate technology into business processes, make it seamless for the customer, etc. The best definition I’ve come across is from a philosopher, Sadhguru, who wrote:

“When we say ‘transformation,’ it means that nothing of the old has remained. Something totally new has flowered within you. Now you look at a rose plant that is full of thorns. Springtime came, and rose flowers burst out — it is a transformation. The thorns are still there — there are more thorns than flowers — but we do not call it a thorn plant. We call it a rose plant because of that single rose. Everyone's attention goes more toward that single rose than a hundred thorns that are on the plant, isn't it? So all the thorns in you, maybe you cannot remove them right now, but if one rose flower blossoms, everyone is willing to overlook those things.”

Sadhguru was talking about transforming oneself, but doesn’t this same philosophy hold true when we look at enterprise-level transformations? Amid thorns – a.k.a legacy systems – what could be the rose? Some would say, “It is modernizing the core.” Others may say, “It’s leveraging an AI engine” to solve x, y, or z. I will argue that the rose is the customer. Who are we really doing transformation for?  

What does innovation at the point of the customer mean? It means the customer is the focus of how we approach solving problems. For example, at Benekiva, an SaaS platform for life, annuity and health, our claims and servicing modules offer carriers a 100% digital process – end to end. Our focus is the beneficiaries. Why? They are the ones having to deal with all the various requirements while possibly going through the worst time of their lives.  

As you innovate at the point of the customer, other “customers” appear, such as your claims associates. As you peel the onion, you find out the claim lands in an associate’s hands. What is their experience? Where does the beautiful, digital-first experience go? How many systems are they touching to process a claim? What happens if I need additional information from the beneficiary? 

Innovation at the point of customer doesn’t stop at the end-user – that is just the starting point. As you start working backward, you keep innovating and evolving. You don’t stop because “this is just back-office.” You push the pedal to accelerate. Why? Because your customers don’t just expect an Amazon-like experience – they demand it! Any piece that causes friction gets noticed and hurts the experience, which ultimately hurts the brand.

See also: Different Flavors of Transformation

How does one go about innovating at the point of the customer? There are three areas to consider:

  • Your team: When I look at hiring people in my product development team, I have come up with a triple-threat model. I look for solutions-focused individuals who love solving problems and are curious by nature. I look for technologists – individuals who have worked in technology and have a deep understanding of various integrations and the architecture landscape. Finally, I look for project management -- individuals who have led enterprise-wide initiatives and can help organizations with change management.    
  • Your approach to innovation: We follow a fail-fast and learn-fast model, which allows us to look at how and what we innovate in an MVP (minimum viable product) mindset. We don’t allow perfectionism to get in the way of innovation. The faster we deliver, the quicker we get feedback that allows us to keep iterating or throw a feature out, as it won’t fit. The voice of the customer keeps us grounded to ensure we focus on the near-term needs. For the long term, looking at a customer as a whole and at the macro trends that may shape the customer allows us to keep an eye out for the future.    
  • Your partner network: Whether you are a Tier 1 carrier or an up-and-coming insurtech, we all have constraints. Have you ever seen a home builder lay the foundation on their own, build their own cabinets and do all the electrical and plumbing work? Homebuilders are masters at having a partner network – they have an electrical guy/gal, windows person, etc. To innovate with the customer in mind, you must be surrounded by partners that elevate the pieces of the customer journey. At Benekiva, our gateway architecture allows our partner network to integrate admin systems, document management solutions and external data sources to provide a seamless process for the claimant and the associates.  

As Sadhguru shares: “Everyone's attention goes more toward that single rose than a hundred thorns that are on the plant, isn't it?” When you place your innovation focus on the customer, “thorns” still exist but aren't the focus.

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