Tag Archives: digital behavior

The Misconceptions About Millennials

When it comes to successfully engaging with a new generation of customers (and employees), there’s very little doubt that insurers have their work cut out for them. There can be very little doubt that members of the Millennial generation generally consider insurance to be boring and that reputation of insurance brands among this group is low. So how can insurance companies bridge this gap and find a way to meet the challenges that this new generation of customer present?

Perhaps the first thing to do is to challenge existing preconceptions of this group. Many insurers may well be oversimplifying and mythologizing the digital and financial behavior and attitudes of Millennials. Indeed, contrary to popular opinion, the vast majority of Millennials are not technology geeks. What this means for insurers is that developing and offering an app isn’t going to have the impact expected among this group. Technology for technology’s sake will not interest Millennials; they have to see clear value.

More broadly speaking, insurers still have much to do when it comes to connecting Millennials and insurance companies. It’s clear that younger customers view insurance brands as solid, safe and staid, guarantors when something goes wrong. However, they also see insurers as faceless organizations that have little understanding of their needs. The successful insurance brands of the future will be those that can provide the established, safe reputation that Millennials have come to expect from insurers, alongside an understanding of their lifestyles, which aligns with the way they interact with one another.

It’s also interesting to consider, in this context, how Millennials make strategic decisions about financial management and, specifically, around how they buy insurance. What many insurers may not realize is that many are using word-of-mouth recommendations and advice from family and friends, which can bring the reputation and brand of the insurer to the fore. For this reason, establishing brand reputation and using word-of-mouth campaigns will be key.

Because the customer journey of the Millennial is less certain, it will also be increasingly important for insurers to invest in a sound omni-channel strategy. Because they are dealing with customers – or at the very least, potential customers – who are savvy across a diverse range of channels, and who will dip in and out of them at regular intervals before they make a purchasing decision, it can be almost impossible for insurers to know exactly which channel they will use or prefer.

What is particularly striking, however, is how small a part social media plays for Millennials when it comes to how they experience customer service. Contrary to popular belief, most seem to have fenced off social media interaction into their personal world and are not convinced that this is where they’ll engage with insurers on customer service issues. Perhaps we should give greater credit to Millennials’ understanding of how social media attacks can backfire and public castigation is a waste of energy.

In any case, when it comes to complaints, insurers should consider that Millennials are probably no different than any other generation. They ask for efficient and effective response to direct complaints. While less concern should be given to Millennials causing reputational damage via social media “flaming,” they are likely to take decisive action earlier, with a third willing to switch immediately.

It’s important to remember that Millennials aren’t looking for digital-only channels, and that they place great value on personalization and self-service. Millennials want just-in-time advice and support, delivered right at the moment they need it. They do not want to get “just in case” advice and support that is delivered at some inappropriate moment (and through an inappropriate channel) and that may not be the right content (which they will have forgotten by the time they need to apply it anyway).

Perhaps the most significant consideration is the extent to which Millennials might be willing to share personal data in exchange for a discount or a reduced premium. This seems to justify experiments in telematics and may be the basis for insurers to innovate around newer technologies like wearables. All of this should strongly influence technology choices for how insurers make sure their businesses are responsive to customers. Systems that embed consistent best practice every time, as part of every interaction, to give the absolute optimum outcome for both the insurer and the customer as an individual are critical.

In summary, while not all Millennials are the same, they all share similar traits – namely, that they what they want, when they want it (just in time), and they want all of it. With this in mind, there seems very little doubt that the most successful insurers when it comes to dealing with Millennials will be those that are authentic and trustworthy and that are able to offer pricing at the “right” level. Those insurers that can incorporate all of these facets into a personalized service, which sees and leverages every previous interaction and anticipates their next requirement “like magic,” will be those that bridge the generational insurance gap and get ahead.

Stop Muzzling Important Voices

Are there “muzzlers” in your company? People who stifle the flow of valuable information or use their influence to create secrecy, increase political advantage or reduce transparency?

When valuable and timely information cannot flow freely within and external to an organization, not only is the company’s innovation, collaboration and talent development dampened, but its external relationship ecosystem suffers, as well. What I call “muzzlers” are cancer cells lurking inside your enterprise. Their destructive behavior is almost certainly damaging the brand you’ve worked hard to build. And yet, like a cancer that hasn’t yet manifested symptoms, you may be completely unaware of the danger.

Information muzzlers believe information is on a “need to know” basis — and you don’t need to know. Too many initiatives become massive secrets; too few function as test beds whose results are disseminated in useful ways. I believe information muzzlers are an unintended byproduct of scarce resources. More and more, departments and functions have to compete for resources. This has created an internal competitive force, with jockeying for mindshare and internal wallet share. Scarcity creates a fear-driven culture that causes information muzzlers to multiply.

The cost of information muzzling is huge. It prevents collaboration and wastes resources. Worse yet, it inhibits leveraging the collective intelligence of the organization. Like cancer, information-muzzling spreads and begins to affect the entire culture. Just one example: I go to a conference, I learn something really cool, but because we have an information-muzzling culture, I don’t tell anybody anything about it. Now that best practice isn’t documented, shared or spread throughout the company, and the value of sending me to the conference is a tenth of what it might have been. Down this path lies higher operating costs and lost competitive advantage.

Influence muzzlers can be just as costly to an organization. Influence is about strategic relationships within a professional network. Any time we’re faced with a challenge or an opportunity, we tend to think about what we should do and how we should do it. We seldom think about who— who we need, who we know or how we might connect the dots from the relationships we have to the relationships we need.

Insurance is typically sold through brokerage firms — a vast, strategic, relationship network. Yet influence muzzlers don’t see its utility. Who in that network really understands high-net-worth individuals? Who in that network knows exactly how to value priceless artwork? Who in one of these agencies “gets” Millennials and their digital behavior? Making those connections is good for all concerned, but influence muzzlers don’t want to share. Fundamentally, they are undermining the value in the organization’s biggest asset, which is its portfolio of relationships.

So far, we’ve talked about inside the organization. But muzzling, of information, influence or both, is just as harmful outside an enterprise. External resources are a huge asset to any organization: the advisers, consultants, coaches, speakers and others who bring cross-industry knowledge and an independent lens.

As an outside adviser and a professional speaker, I run across muzzlers when I am engaged by an organization. Their passive-aggressive behavior signals that they want others to think they have more information or influence than they do. As a mentor drove into me years ago, “Real power doesn’t corrupt; powerlessness corrupts!” These people don’t have real power, so they use muzzling instead. Their behavior, whether fueled by lack of self-esteem of self-confidence, or political jockeying, or ambition, comes down to 1980s tactics of information hoarding and Rolodex hiding. They make everyone else’s job more difficult, but that’s just one small aspect of their cancerous qualities.

One of the promises I made to myself when I started consulting and speaking professionally more than a decade ago was that I wasn’t going to be a “pull-string” expert for hire — the kind who takes any stage, you pull the string, and you hear the same canned recommendation or speech over and over again. I prefer to bring a unique, contextually relevant perspective to every engagement. Above and beyond interviewing the CEO or the board who hired me, I dig around to learn more about the real challenges or opportunities within the organization. I reach out through contacts on LinkedIn. I ask for interviews with key leaders down to front-line contributors. I read industry articles or analyst reports. If the firm has physical locations, I may go visit some of them to really understand the customer experience and how the value is delivered. I’m not seeking access to confidential information that should clearly be kept as such, but for inputs that will allow me to integrate the key challenges and opportunities into my content. It’s this kind of outreach that occasionally brings me in contact with an information or influence muzzler.

As an independent outsider, I’m in a unique position to see that destructive behavior and call it out. If I encounter one muzzler, it causes me to wonder whether this is actually a cancer that is spreading within this organization. And, crucially, does the CEO or the board know of this person’s behavior? Would they consciously choose a muzzler to be an ambassador of their brand? It makes me ask what other cancerous behaviors are going around this company.

If you are a senior leader, the legacy you leave in your organization is in large part the bench you have developed, through your intentional actions. Every time a senior executive moves on, the next generation of leaders steps up. Will an information or influence muzzler get promoted even higher up? If that is the culture you built, it dilutes not only your legacy but endangers the entire organization. You have not just tolerated but encouraged cancer to grow.

Consider how we deal with cancer: Either radiation to keep it from growing, or surgery to remove it completely. That’s exactly what you have to do with information or influence muzzlers — either call them out on their behavior and take explicit steps to fix it, or cut them out. Otherwise their dangerous behavior permeates the rest of the organization.

To avoid the organizational cancer spread by information or influence muzzlers, I recommend three actions for senior leaders:

  1. Build a culture that’s unafraid of retribution, where you can highlight and celebrate “non-muzzler” behaviors.
  2. Build feedback loops so that your internal and external relationships can inform you if they encounter a muzzler on your team.
  3. Never stop improving your bench, because the legacy you leave in your organization is the team and culture created on your watch. You want knowledge curating and influence sharing to be your mark, not hoarding and hiding.

Takeaways

  1. Like a silent cancer, information and influence muzzlers act in destructive ways that senior leaders may not know about.
  2. The presence of a muzzler indicates a cultural norm that may be a cancer — and it’s probably spreading.
  3. Safeguard your legacy: Constantly improve your bench by cutting out any cancer — including muzzlers.