Tag Archives: salesforce.com

‘Alexa, What Is My Deductible?’

When it comes to adoption of technology, simple is most often better than complex. Steve Jobs and Apple went to great lengths to make their products simple. Without user adoption, products fail. Current technology trends continue the move toward simplicity with the advent of artificial intelligence and personal assistant tools like Amazon’s Echo and the Google Home. Before you know it, these tools will enter the benefits world. The question is, who is going to be first and best? And if I am a benefits broker, how does this affect my business?

While many brokers are aware of the vendors that call on them or have booths at industry conferences, I believe the benefits technology race is going to heat up, with new competition entering the market. These new competitors see the market opportunity to automate large segments of our economy, including health insurance and healthcare. You may have heard of some of these companies, like Microsoft, Google, Salesforce.com and Apple. This would be in addition to current leaders such as ADP and Paychex. The stakes of the game will change, and the price of entry, from an investment standpoint, is in the hundreds of millions of dollars. Those with the capital will quickly outpace those with less capital.

Don’t be surprised when you start to see major mergers and acquisitions in the HR and benefits space. Could Microsoft buy Ultimate Software? Why not? Microsoft already purchased LinkedIn and recently hinted at getting deeper into the HR space.

See also: Could Alexa Testify Against You?  

When I look at products like the Amazon Echo and Google Home, I see products that have very quickly grabbed market share, with high rates of adoption. My wife, who is not an early adopter of technology, quickly became a user of Google Home. Why? Because it is easy. Would she have a better understanding of her health insurance if she could simply ask Google? Absolutely!

Benefits technology, on the other hand, has not had broad adoption by employees. Yes, employers have bought systems or brokers have given them away, but when you look at utilization on the employee side it is abysmal. I believe the reason for this is because there is not enough value as a stand-alone solution to generate broad adoption. Keep in mind that the majority of people hardly use their healthcare in a given year, so there is little need to access such a system. I don’t know about you, but I can hardly remember the login to my computer, never mind something I may not use for six months.

The next generation of technology in the HR and benefits area is going to have broader and “everyday” value, while being much easier to use. Market-leading vendors, especially those with a great deal of capital, will invest in the latest technologies to try to win the technology race and gain more customers. And before you know it, you will be saying the following:

“Alexa, is Dr. John Smith from Boston in the Blue Cross network?”

“Ok, Google, request Friday off from work.”

“Hey, Siri, how much does the average office visit cost?”

“Alexa, what is the balance of my 401k?”

“Ok, Google, transfer $500 from my savings to checking.”

The advancement of technology and artificial intelligence has enabled many to have more personalized user experiences. Your Amazon Echo will “get to know you.” Maybe in the near future your doctor will get to know you a little better, too.

Many benefits brokers have chosen some technology vendor with a mission of putting as many clients on the system as possible. This is a risky position competitively as more advanced solutions from highly capitalized companies come along. I don’t know many sales people or business owners in any industry who like running around with the eighth best product. Even more so when it is not necessary. The market and your customers do not care if you have invested thousands of dollars on some technology that may quickly fall out of favor.

One should take the advice of Jack Welch, ex- CEO of General Electric, who once said,

“If the rate of change on the outside exceeds the rate of change on the inside, the end is near.”

For those who have purchased the Amazon Echo or Google Home, you don’t have to look far to see that the outside world is changing faster than the inside. The health insurance and healthcare industries often feel like they are moving at a snail’s pace. Private exchanges were lauded as change, when they really are a reincarnation of cafeteria plans from the ’80s.

See also: Why 2017 Is the Year of the Bot  

With the Trump administration, changes in health insurance legislation may create a shift that empowers the consumer. The industry may need an army of people on the front lines to help the industry move to a whole new paradigm. The vendors will need help and the employers, and employees will need it, too. The technology is there. Alexa is ready. Are you?

Firms Must Redefine Cyber Perimeter

The rising business use of cloud services and mobile devices has opened a Pandora’s box of security exposures.

Software as a service (SaaS) tools such as Salesforce.com, Gmail, Office 365 and Dropbox, as well as social media sites such as Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter, are all being heavily leveraged by companies to boost productivity and collaboration. This SaaS trend also has opened up a whole new matrix of access points for malicious attackers to get deep inside company networks.

Wall Street recognizes that all organizations will have to acknowledge and make decisions on how to mitigate new business risks introduced by cloud services. And big bets are being placed on new technologies to help companies get a handle on these fresh exposures.

See also: The Need for a Security Mindset

ThirdCertainty recently sat down with David Baker, chief security officer at Okta, a cloud identity management vendor that’s one of dozens of security vendors developing cloud security systems. A $75 million round of private investment last fall pushed Okta’s market valuation to more than a billion dollars, vaulting it into so-called “unicorn” status.

Okta’s backers include a who’s who of venture-capital firms that are placing big bets on cybersecurity plays: Andreessen Horowitz, Greylock Partners, Sequoia Capital, Khosla Ventures, Altimeter and Glynn Capital, among others.

Baker talked to us about this particular big bet on cybersecurity tech. The text is edited for clarity and length.

3C: Congratulations on achieving unicorn status.

Baker: Thank you. We have a lot of work to do as a company to continue growing. The problem that we solve is really about enabling companies —  enterprises, as well as small, medium and big companies — to adopt the cloud.

3C: How would you frame the big challenge?

Baker: The problem for companies now is that the things I need to access in the cloud bring a whole host of security concerns. I have users working within my four walls, and they have to authenticate into these applications where I have critical business data. It could be information about my company’s source code, or email or all of the files we share. So what’s needed is a secure way of authenticating users into all of those systems.

It also is a challenge to provision that identity into the downstream applications and, just as importantly, to de-provision users. So when a user eventually is transferred to a different group or is terminated, their access has to be disabled. So it’s about managing that identity and also managing the access of that identity to these cloud services.

3C: Lots of employees set up their own Gmail or Dropbox account to be more productive. It sounds like they shouldn’t be doing that?

Baker: Correct. The security piece is knowing what set of tools you want your employees using, and then making sure you have an authentication mechanism in place to enable them to go securely into those cloud-based applications.

See also: Cyber, Tech Security Start to Merge

3C: The company sets the rules, and its employees should use only the company-sanctioned versions?

Baker: Correct. Users get exactly the version of Dropbox the company wants them to use, not their own personal account. Okta creates a secure connection to that version. The IT administrator can give the employees access to hundreds of apps. Right now, we have connectors to well over 4,000 different applications across the internet.

3C: Seems like we’re extending the traditional network perimeter. It’s not just the on-premises servers and clients that companies have to be concerned with, it’s everything out in the internet cloud that employees might try to use.

Baker: I’ll do you even one better. The perimeter really exists with respect to identity. When I’m sitting at home or in the coffee shop and using my cellphone to get access into an application, I am now the perimeter. So that’s why we like to say, really, identity is the new perimeter.

This article first appeared at Third Certainty.

More stories related to cloud security:
Be selective about what data you store and access from the cloud
Cloud apps routinely expose sensitive data
SOC-2 compliance crucial for keeping data safe in the cloud

How to Captivate Customers (Part 1)

ITL Editor-in-Chief Paul Carroll recently hosted a webinar on “Captivating Customers With All-Channel Experiences,” featuring experts from Capgemini and Salesforce.com and the former chief customer experience officer at AIG. To view or listen to the webinar, click here. For the slides, click here

While insurers have focused on meeting the increasing demands of their customers and invested in customer-facing operations, they are continually losing ground. The World Insurance Report 2015 by Capgemini and Efma reveals that positive customer experience ratings declined at an alarming rate in the past year, from an already low 33% in 2013 to 29% in 2014.

This should be a wake-up call to the industry.

Insurers urgently need to accelerate their ability to deliver exceptional experiences and captivate customers — or risk losing them.

Of the 30 countries surveyed in the World Insurance Report 2015, 80% recorded a decline in the percentage of customers with positive experiences. Ten countries experienced a drop of more than five percentage points. They include the U.S., which dropped 8.3 points, marking the largest decline of all countries surveyed.

Although the trend is clearly toward digital interactions with customers, the agent channel remains the preferred channel overall. It delivered positive experience levels that were almost double those of digital channels.

But the digital/analog division has become a false one. The fact is that all channels have to fit together seamlessly to captivate customers.

Customers have to be able to start a conversation in any way – face to face with an agent, on the phone with an agent, online with the agent, online at the carrier, at a social media site  – and pick it up later in any channel, in mid-sentence.

Instead, at the moment, customers often wind up dropping partway through the process. They may begin a query online, get a rough idea of a premium and then go off to talk to their spouse or to do some research. Then they go back online to continue the process or call an agent, find they have to start over, get frustrated and stop.

We have to get to an omni-channel world, where everything is seamless and efficient from the customer’s point of view.

Falling customer experience ratings, coupled with a growing number of market disruptors (See exhibit  below), indicate that insurers need to take swift action to become truly customer-centric. They must improve their digital services and seamlessly connect the customer experience across mobile, social, digital and agent interactions. While doing so, they must ensure the important agent channel has the tools and full customer visibility to effectively sell to and service the customer in the digital world.


Yet many insurers will find it hard to move quickly. The World Insurance Report identified seven core capabilities that insurers need to develop to enhance customer experience and take advantage of opportunities created by disruptors. Yet we found most insurers’ maturity levels to be lagging in all seven core capabilities:


Insurers exhibited the lowest maturity levels across three essential areas:

  • Connecting elegantly: All channels, including social media, are fully integrated in real time for all interactions, so that customers always feel that the insurer knows them well and that the agent can have an informed dialogue with individual customers.
  • Engaging regularly: New content is continually created and published to the relevant customer segment through the right channels at the right time. Advanced content management and “gamification” platforms are put in place to take customer engagement to the next level. Agents have the tools to easily and frequently engage with customers via mobile channels, text messages and other digital means.
  • Seeing completely: The insurer has a comprehensive view of each customer and understands each customer’s relationships (e.g., family, businesses.). Accurate, real-time data supports predictive analytics, planning and delivery.

Raising insurers’ maturity in these three areas, along with having a fully integrated agent workforce, can accelerate the ability to deliver an exceptional customer experience across all channels.

Only by developing comprehensive plans for proficiency – including a comprehensive look at the technology that underpins each capability – can insurers hope to counteract the decline in customer experience ratings that threaten insurers’ growth and profitability.

This is the first in a series of four articles drawn from the white paper by Capgemini and Salesforce.com, “Cloud-Enabled Transformation in Insurance: Accelerating the Ability to Deliver Exceptional Customer Experiences.” For the full white paper, click here.