Fintech & Finance News Feature: How Insurers Can Build a Deeper Relationship with Customers on the Mantle of New-Gen Tech

NewsFeb 17, 2022
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Our UK Head of Provocation & Strategy, Deborah Stafford-Watson, spoke to Fintech & Finance News about the rise of major life and health insurers making wellness a priority in their offerings, with a strong emphasis on proactive physical and mental health.

This article originally appeared on the Fintech & Finance News.

Global health insurance is predicted to be a $650 billion business by 2025 – but the parameters of this booming sector are in constant flux, writes Deborah Stafford-Watson, Head of Provocation & Strategy at Elmwood. According to a global survey by RGA, 85% of major life and health insurers are now making wellness a priority in their offerings, with a strong emphasis on proactive physical and mental health. The surge in virtual, on-demand healthcare sparked by the pandemic, along with an emerging wave of wearable tech, are the undercurrents driving this trend. In a self-service economy, consumers are increasingly taking command of their own healthcare journeys – but this doesn’t mean insurers get to take a back seat.

To the contrary, as the digital healthcare landscape evolves, market-leading providers have an opportunity to carve out more meaningful relationships with their customers.

This will require insurers – both incumbents and challengers – to radically rethink what their brands are about, moving away from a linear, one-dimensional model of insurance to a proposition which positions them side-by-side with their customers.

Personalised tech – the cornerstone of connection?

Ironically, it’s the artificial world of tech that’s allowing insurers to build a closer connection with consumers – in a way that supports their everyday lives and routines. For example, UnitedHealthcare, the world’s largest health insurance company, has an app that helps people track their steps, set personal goals and earn rewards when they reach daily walking targets. French insurer Groupama goes one step further. Groupama’s Noe tele-assistance system uses a fall-detection wristband to identify an emergency and alerts a helpline service and designated caregiver.

Yet, real-time tracking – however incisive – is not enough to cement a lasting sense of brand resonance between provider and customer. To bridge that gap, and craft the foundations of deeper brand loyalty, insurers need the human touch on their side.

In order to achieve this, insurers can design simple hallmarks into the brand, which make customers feel like more than just a number. Pet insurance provider Waggel, for example, personalises its approach by using the name of a customer’s pet as their policy number.

Meanwhile, life insurance provider Polly is aimed at mum and uses fun illustrations and snappy copy to give it a human character – a world away from the traditional corporate spiel of the insurance industry.

Trust me, I’m your insurer 

This type of humanisation is an important part of bringing insurers and the customers they serve closer together – but it’s not the only element. Brands also have a big role to play in how to re-frame the issue of trust. Healthcare data, after all, is inherently private; and insurance firms must also grapple with an underlying current of consumer distrust that has long troubled the industry.

Research suggests the cynicism is driven by poor customer engagement; so a fast, efficient and personalised service – facilitated by seamless tech – will go some way to rebalancing the scales. The best companies, however, will reach further in their attempts to create a trustworthy brand.

Take Daniel Schreiber and Shai Wininger, co-founders of insurance challenger Lemonade. Together, the pair are on a mission to transform a market bogged down in clinical bureaucracy. Combining ethics with innovation, Lemonade has seen huge growth on the back of a Certified B Corporation and public benefit framework that enables customers to choose nonprofits that benefit from a portion of underwriting profits. Their vision is to “reinvent such an unloved sector that had gone untouched by innovation, and do it through a mix of values and technology.”

Customer empowerment

Providing lots of useful content is another powerful way that insurers can build clarity and transparency into their brand. Online broker Anorak’s website is packed with informative guides to help customers make the right decision about the type of policy they need. The idea is that by picking a policy themselves, the customer is empowered: they feel as if they are making a choice, rather than being sold something. This sort of curated, personal healthcare experience encourages lasting loyalty.

Strategic partnerships between like-minded brands can also provide a route into customer-centricity. For instance, Vitality medical insurance offers discounts on a range of fitness trackers as a fun incentive when its customers attain certain activity levels, while UnitedHealthcare gives its customers free access to Apple Fitness+.

These collaborations focus on general wellbeing, but insurers could delve even further into the realm of early disease detection and prevention via the mantle of game-changing tech. For example, if an insurer could team up with a company that offers voice analysis for the detection of Parkinson’s disease, or other sensory devices to identify chronic health conditions, the implications could be huge.

Reframing the debate

Digitisation, along with a new generation of challenger brands, is bringing tectonic change to the insurance industry – the opportunities, and challengers, are now bigger than ever. Yet, amid the cut and thrust of this competitive backdrop, brands should not lose sight of what really matters.

Yes, trends such as wearable tech and AI carry huge potential, with the ability to upend how insurers interact with their customers on a daily basis. It’s a far cry from the transitional type of cover that has governed the sector in years gone by. Still, those looking to break ahead should be wary of getting waylaid by the dizzying range of options on offer. No matter how clever tech gets, there are no quick fixes. Above all, virtual innovation is a means to an end. The “end” in the case of insurance players is to build a brand and product proposition that secures a lasting, trust-based connection with audiences; an anchor to help support them through a lifetime of proactive wellbeing and disease prevention.

Tech, paired with empowering content, smart collaborations and a vital human touch, can help fuel this sense of belonging: for a new, open relationship that truly stands the test of time.