'It’s Life, Jim, but Not As We Know It' (Part 2)

Can you make buying insurance something that customers actively engage in? Yes, if you understand how they think.

The article below has been based on a keynote presentation delivered at the Euro Events Life Insurance and Pensions Conference in Amsterdam on Nov. 16 2017. This is part 2. Part 1 can be found here. Summary of Part 1 Most customers do not buy insurance because they like it. They buy it because they have to. This makes it difficult for providers to develop engaged and happy clients. The question is: Can you make the process of buying insurance something that customers actively engage in? Can investing in a pension become an urgent, relevant, integral part of our daily life? Can long-term financial planning become as quick and easy as shopping online? The answer is yes, but…. there are some important changes for insurers to make. Insurers need to offer a broader, more relevant solution--with insurance as a component. Examples included integrated solutions for risk management and safety, health, housing, mobility or personal financial planning. In this scenario, insurers can become participants in an extended customer and supplier ecosystem and offer integrated solutions with higher customer engagement. Part 2: Reconnecting with your customers In this second part, we focus on the challenge of how to reconnect with your customers – a key to transforming insurance into an urgent, relevant and sexy product. After the 2015 pension liberation in the U.K., some retirees could not handle their new financial freedom. There are even some reports that retirees were taking their newly available pension savings straight to the casino! Obviously, this was not the intended consequence of giving people more freedom in spending their pension money. See also: This Is Not Your Father’s Life Insurance   So how can you avoid these kinds of unwanted scenarios? How can you help your customers with highly complex financial products that may be not immediately relevant and often are without a direct benefit? It is not about giving freedom; it is about helping your customers make smart choices. Unfortunately, that is not as easy as it sounds. There is still a big engagement gap between insurers and their clients. What are the key challenges we have to overcome to close this gap and reconnect with our customers? We are going to take a psychological view on this and touch on a number of key concepts. The Theory of Planned Behavior Helping customers make smart decisions is not an easy job. How do we know if our campaigns and communications work? How do we respond to our customers' needs? The theory of planned behavior can help answer these questions by predicting and understanding how customers act. According to the theory, a person’s behavior is predicted by his or her intention, which is in turn predicted by the attitude toward that behavior. This theory can be used to evaluate customers’ general attitudes, their feelings about social norm pressure and their difficulty in achieving the desired behaviors. This theory is used in a wide variety of areas and can be particularly useful when the desired behavior doesn’t result in immediate benefits. One such example is the Dutch government's campaign to stimulate better health behaviors of young adults toward smoking. By using the slogan "Maar ik rook niet!" (at least I don’t smoke!) the government hoped to change general attitudes and social norms to drive more healthy behaviors. There may be similar benefits for financial planning. This task can often lack urgency, resulting in customers procrastinating over their decisions. However, providers can respond by creating better customer awareness and positive attitudes toward their financial planning products. Although this theory is already used in numerous fields, it surprised us that we couldn’t find clear-cut examples of its application in financial or pension planning. We are interested in exploring this is more detail and welcome you to share examples with us. The Dynamics of Inertia In psychology and economics, inertia refers to the tendency to remain passive, even in the presence of good reasons to become active. Several companies are well aware of this tendency: That is why we get the first two months for free at our internet provider and we pay 50 euros a month for a gym we never go to. These providers are very well aware that our inertia will prevent us from canceling the subscription. When you translate this thinking to retirement savings, there has been extensive research on the mechanisms underlying inertia/underlying mechanisms of inertia. Life and pensions insurance requires you to make long-term decisions under changing and uncertain conditions that do not result in an immediate state of happiness or fulfillment. This causes people to avoid or postpone retirement preparations for as long as possible. So even if you do understand and appreciate the long-term benefits of taking action, it is much easier to remain passive. So how do you beat it, this inertia? Aegon started in 2016 with its Future Fit Strategy. The purpose is to become the “customer-based company of the future" by enabling people to make self-conscious decisions on their financial future. For the organization, this means doing the right things in the best possible way for their customers. Alternatively, you can try to provide immediate incentives by addressing the individual. For instance, Nationale-Nederlanden challenges you to create an image of the future you and explains that to achieve the goals you’ve set for later you have to get moving now. The company effectively asks you to think about how you WANT your future life to look like, and what can you do about it NOW to reach those life goals. Financial anxiety The top source of anxiety, according to the Stress in America Survey, is money, followed closely by work and the economy. These three factors clearly are causes of financial anxiety. People who experience financial anxiety have a bias in processing information and are more likely to use avoidance mechanisms. See also: Thought Experiment on Life Insurance   One way to cope with financial anxiety is gamification. Gamification moves away from conventional enterprise communications toward personalized, easy and playful interactions. As an example, Mint.com is a tool that aims to demystify financials and future planning by incorporating simple and more entertaining elements to decision making. These include goal trackers, visual breakdowns on spending habits and budget allocation and simple charts displaying the same data as spreadsheets but in a much more appealing and easily accessible manner. This makes it simpler to understand exactly where your money is going every month. Another way to address financial anxiety has been created by U.K. pension communications agency Pension Geeks. The company started with an annual Pension Awareness Day, including a bus being driven across the country to inform and support the public with their financial planning. The company is using several techniques to make it fun and understandable with video’s animation, games and apps to make pensions accessible for all. Conclusion The second approach to turn insurance into a product customers actually want to buy is to reconnect with your customers. There’s still a big engagement gap between insurers and their clients. When trying to change people’s behavior, the most important thing is to understand people's needs, to listen to what they want and to respond to their current behavior. Then, you have a chance to  overcome the dynamics of inertia and financial anxiety. The third part of this series to change insurance into a product customers actually want to buy will bring the insights of Part 1 and Part 2 together.

Onno Bloemers

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Onno Bloemers

Onno Bloemers is one of the founding partners at First Day Advisory Group. He has longstanding experience in delivering organizational change and scalable innovation in complex environments.


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