By Robert Dixon
Employing mobile strategies will be a key channel for sales success in the insurance industry in the near future. That's one of the key findings in the sixth annual World Insurance Report 2013 from global investment and consulting firm Capgemini and Efma (formerly the European Financial Management & Marketing Association). A large percentage of global insurance executives already see mobile and social media strategies as a major focus over the next two years, the just-released report found.
The findings from Capgemini and Efma differ from other industry studies in at least one key respect: they're based on the views of both customers and insurance industry personnel.
The report considers sales channel and other preferences of insurance customers by analyzing data from Capgemini’s Customer Experience Index (CEI), “which was developed to provide a granular view of how customers perceive the quality of their service interactions across three dimensions: products, networks/ channels and customer lifecycle." The CEI is built from data captured through a survey which queried more than 16,500 customers in 2012 on their satisfaction with their insurer, and also inquired about the importance of specific channels for executing different types of transactions, and for different types of products. It is also based on separate interviews with 114 global insurance executives in 41 countries.
The report also notes that insurance companies have worked since the global financial crisis to reduce operational costs, and improve effectiveness. “Those initiatives are now paying dividends, but market conditions remain tough, with few insurers able to raise rates as much as they would like, if at all, and investment income is still lagging,” according to the report’s authors. As parts of the world emerge from the economic slowdown, insurers are shifting their focus to boosting revenues, and “reducing acquisition costs—an expense that has remained stubbornly high,” the report’s authors acknowledge.
Future revenue growth will depend heavily on keeping existing customers and attracting new ones, preferably by utilizing low-cost direct-sales channels such as the Internet and mobile. These strategies can reduce the need for costly intermediaries. However, customers are not willing to let go of direct distribution networks and channels. They are also on the must-have list for insurance customers “who expect the same anytime/anywhere/any device service to which they are accustomed in other areas of their lives,” the customer study found.
The financial crisis forced many insurance companies to turn to far more conservative investment strategies than were previously used. Investments in securities remained at about the same levels in 2011 as in earlier years, even though investment profits declined.
The operational expense ratio of U.S. non-life insurers remained stable in 2011, as insurers were able to leverage technology investments designed to improve claims processing and policy administration, the report said.
U.S. insurers leveraged new channels such as the Internet and mobile applications to respond to customer requests quickly and in a cost-effective manner, resulting in enhanced customer experience and lower operational expense. “Nevertheless, the use of new channels had little impact on the acquisition ratio, which improved slightly in 2011,” according to the World Insurance Report 2013, “But it remains among the highest in the world.”
Copies of the report, available free of charge, can be downloaded at both Capgemini’s (www.capgemini.com) and Efma’s (www.efma.com) Web sites.
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