Tag Archives: customer relationship

Pursue Innovation or Transformation?

People often use “innovation” and “transformation” synonymously. Both words evoke thoughts of change and modernization. Both words are important outcomes of the change management life cycle. We know innovation is occurring all around us, as people find ways to improve things. Alternately, transformation is the result of moving from one state to another.

So, should we innovate, or should we transform? Should we do both? What’s the difference?

See Also: Does Your Culture Embrace Innovation?

I think the best way to answer is to explore the differences between innovation and transformation in insurance and break each down into definitions and examples. Then, you can determine where your company is in the change management life cycle and decide what will work best for your organization.

What SMA has found, as we work with insurers, is that innovation and transformation are not only distinct, but are decidedly different, and their impact on organizations is different, too.


Innovation is defined by SMA as rethinking, reimagining and reinventing the business of insurance. We have seen the results of innovation in business models, customer relationships, new products and new services and in how investments in technology are made. A perfect example of innovation is the focused improvements of customer experience.

Once, customers had to push paper and make phones calls back and forth with agents, but innovation has made these types of interactions a distant memory. Today, chat, apps, portals, mobile, etc. have started to create an innovated customer experience. It is different and (arguably) better. Similarly, in the data analytics arena, innovation in the ways we use and apply data has changed the way insurers operate, price policies, handle claims and compete in the market. Innovation makes something that once seemed impossible possible. It is rethinking the way of doing things, questioning the possibilities and turning them into action.


Transformation is the evolution or journey from a current level to a different and better state. SMA describes it as modernizing and optimizing. Like innovation, transformations produce an improved state, but we can also measure the journey as an outcome of the process. The journey of transformation is the tangible process, structure or building block for future success, even if a project fails or takes a different shape. Transformation can be seen in core system replacements, during which existing and necessary underwriting, billing and claims capabilities are shifted and moved into a better state through improved technology and processes. Transformations are evolutionary and occur over time.

Our recent research reveals that approximately 13% of insurers self-identify as innovating, while 45% identify as transforming. That’s a pretty sizable difference. The data suggests that transforming existing systems and processes is a necessary effort in today’s world. SMA predicts the percentages of both innovating and transforming insurers will continue to grow.

Most insurers need both!

How to Choose the Right CRM Package

Perhaps the most important thing an insurer can do to keep clients and brokers happy is to implement the right kind of customer relationship management system and process. CRM lets the insurer anticipate needs and communicate effectively. The most obvious benefits of a good CRM system are:

  • Accessible client information, with the ability to view it in multiple dimensions
  • An automated tool for reminders
  • The ability to document prospect and broker files

But those are just the baseline benefits. With a more comprehensive system, you get usability that exceeds these minimal expectations. It can bring an insurer to a whole new technological landscape that improves retention levels and increases efficiency.

Choosing the Right CRM

Before selecting CRM software, determine who’s considered a customer, because that will dictate the features the CRM software must have. Prospects and policyholders are certainly customers, but many insurers miss out when they neglect to recognize that brokers are customers, too. The CRM software chosen needs to serve them, as well.

For maximum efficiency, choose a CRM that has certain integration functions. It should connect with other sales technology systems that you and your brokers use often, because service is the key differentiator.

To take sales and service to the next level, the CRM system should allow for data to be entered once and then pushed out to other systems, including quoting and underwriting. Distribution channel and prospect information can then be populated into a sales and underwriting system. Not only is this a more streamlined way to conduct business, it also helps the process feel more personal and customized for each user. Every sales representative can have all her information immediately. It also provides for more effective self-service on the web.

One-time entry also makes selling much easier for brokers and sales offices of the insurance company, which will always have access to updated information. This, in turn, makes your products more accessible and appealing. An advanced CRM system will also make reporting and reviewing analytics easier, allowing insurers to identify issues more easily and respond to them more quickly.

Activity tracking is also an important feature. Having an accurate record of changes and updates is important in both relationship management and regulatory compliance. Regulators increasingly demand insurers be able to document compliance.

Finally, you want to make sure your CRM software has configuration options that will maximize its utility for your company and brokers. Every company is unique, and CRM software that forces you into its box isn’t useful. You should be able to tailor a CRM system to make it work more efficiently for you, not have to work around it.

CRM software isn’t just about tracking and storing information—it’s about creating a collaborative environment among product managers, brokers, carriers and clients. Let the data flow—in a well-organized, transparent way that treats every person as a distinct individual with her own needs and expectations.