Key to Digitizing Customer Experience

You'd expect Disneyland to be the examplar, but it makes a common mistake: It doesn't think through the whole customer experience.


Every aspect of the way we interact with goods and service providers is becoming digitized, but it doesn't work to go partway. As insurers, we have to ask ourselves, “What does a complete digital experience for our customers and policyholders look like?”

In my travels over the last year, I have run into experiences with very large companies and enterprises that have excelled in customer service in the past, but today are falling short in the new digital experience realm. I’ll share some examples, and, insurers, lend an ear. There are valuable lessons to be learned here!

Earlier this year, I took my family to Disneyland. Disney, of course, is a leader in customer experience as well as digital transformation. Disney has gone out of its way to improve a customer’s access to park information. The company has digitized the ride process with fast pass and even offer a suite of apps to improve the customer experience. What I experienced though, in my view, was a fundamental failure to plan a digitally transformed end-to-end experience.

See also: Today’s Digital Customer: It’s Me  

Most people buy their Disney passes on-line. That’s great! That’s fast and easy. But the park entry process is still highly manual. Season pass holders are mixed in with day pass holders; check-in agents manually process the passes, check IDs and passports and take photos for multi-day pass holders. Meanwhile, day pass holders wait in a line of thousands of people all corralled into 20 lines, 100 people deep. This results in confusion, frustration and many children having meltdowns in the hot California sun. It took our family 45 minutes just to walk into the park.

The point is, digitization is great, but you have to think of the holistic experience – everything from buying a pass to getting customers into the park with an easy check in to getting them out again, and everything in between. Disney is one of the best, but even Disney can fall short. The reason is because digitization changes not only the front-end buying experience but the back-end processes, as well. Disney has access to immense amounts of data, including online ticket sales, and has the power to predict wait times and improve service at check in. The lesson here? When creating a digital experience, use all the tools available to you and don’t forget about the nuances of the experience. #disneyland

Of course, I have had some great and pleasantly surprising digital experiences over the last year, too. I took a ski trip and got to experience the Vail Resorts Epic Day Pass. Ski lift tickets have been replaced with RFID-enabled cards that are read without having to wait in line to be scanned. These Epic Day passes also synch to the Epic Mix app, which tracks your runs and your day on the mountain from a number of scanners placed on the lifts and throughout the mountain. The Epic Day pass also can load your credit card for use all over the mountain, so no need to carry a wallet. This is a great example of innovation and digitization with pure customer experience in mind from start to finish.

Just as surprising is what my daughter recently told me about the new online application to sign up my grandkids for swim lessons in her tiny New Hampshire town. Gone are the days of phone calls and paper applications. She says that, because of the online application, registrations are the highest ever!

Now, back to insurance. Did I mention that we recently renewed our professional liability policy? Every year, we are required to make a formal submission. Our agent was on top of it this year, we renewed early, and we actually received our quote and policy – all electronically! And then this happened: I just received a paper letter informing me that the expiring policy is not being renewed! Old, irrelevant and confusing. This automated paper form letter is disconnected with the renewal process and status. Unfortunately, there are still many cases like this happening in insurance.

See also: Customers’ Digital Expectations

These are just some thoughts from my travels about getting digitization right or missing the mark when it comes to the end-to-end customer experience. But insurers, take note: It is important to look at what outside companies are doing to see how they are digitizing their customer experience. If a tiny New Hampshire town can do it for preschool swim lessons, there is no reason insurers can’t make some significant steps to go digital.

Deb Smallwood

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Deb Smallwood

Deb Smallwood, the founder of Strategy Meets Action, is highly respected throughout the insurance industry for strategic thinking, thought-provoking research and advisory skills. Insurers and solution providers turn to Smallwood for insight and guidance on business and IT linkage, IT strategy, IT architecture and e-business.


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