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August 28, 2014

Today’s Digital Customer: It’s Me

Summary:

I've had to send faxes, repeat my member ID over and over in the same conversation and not know how a policy change will affect my bill. Not good.

Photo Courtesy of Thomas Angermann

I’m a child of the ’80s —  to be specific, 1983. Some might say I’m a Generation Xer; some might say I’m from Generation Y; others might describe me as a Millennial. Regardless of what you call me, if you’re going to sell me something, it better involve technology. You see, my life revolves around technology. I grew up with computers, just as a previous generation grew up with TV. I use a branchless bank. I stream my television content. I use social media to communicate with my friends. I don’t like paper. Technology makes my life easier. So you can imagine, as I looked at career possibilities, I never saw myself working for the insurance industry. I hardly knew anything about it, actually, except that it didn’t seem like an industry that was very innovative or technologically advanced. I remembered:

  • sitting at my insurance agent’s desk watching him use an application that looked like it belonged on the Oregon Trail.
  • having to send faxes to make policy changes.
  • being directed to call the insurer’s corporate headquarters to file a claim, and in the process repeat my member ID over and over during the same conversation.
  • not being able to know the impact that a change to my policy would have on my bill.

I’ve watched over the last several years as an entire industry has reevaluated itself and rethought how it does business and markets itself — a member of the next generation of consumers. But there’s still a long way to go. I’d like to see:

  • tremendous investment in modern technology and the delivery of useful, self-service capabilities.
  • companies embracing more forward-thinking mobile and social media trends, meeting customers like me where we are.
  • Investigation and implementation of innovative technologies involving telematics and other tools for consumers.
  • a more intimate relationship between customers and the carrier, which will leverage advancements in analytics, business intelligence and predictive modeling.
  • the industry be able to attract young, top IT talent so insurers can continue to innovate.

For me and my generation, these will be welcome developments for a couple of reasons. First, we’re digital natives. There aren’t too many facets of our lives that haven’t gone electronic. For me, my church-giving and insurance may be all that remains offline. Second, now that the industry has begun to reverse course and is upping its technology game, my generation has another employment option, which we most likely would not have considered otherwise.  No, it’s not true that we all want to work at Apple or Google, but we do want to invest our considerable talents in an industry that has interesting problems to solve and, more importantly, an environment that shares our enthusiasm and trust for technology. Although insurance has been a bit slow on the uptake, it’s truly gratifying to see an entire industry take my generation seriously, incorporate our needs into overall strategies accommodate our lifestyles and view us as something worth investing in. I look forward to watching technology shape insurance innovation. Who knows—maybe this is the year experiments like usage-based insurance will become a reality. The battle for the hearts of my generation is on. Only the tech-savvy carriers and agents will triumph.

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About the Author

David Ollila is responsible for client development at X by 2, an application and data architecture consultancy, in Farmington Hills, MI, specializing in insurance technology transformation and modernization.

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