Articles - Flexibility is vital for sales channels

Those old enough to watch TV in the in the 1970’s will remember the Martini advert with the tag-line “Anytime, Anyplace, Anywhere…”. Although the phrase was somewhat weakened by the tautology, the idea was clear - The customer could consume the product on their own terms rather than be dictated to by others. Whilst the idea was a tad dramatic for a drink commercial, there is no doubt that for any consumer, being able to control the transaction on their own terms rather than being dictated to by the vendor is an important feature.

 By Tom Murray, Head of Product Strategy for LifePlus Solutions at Majesco.

 The move to digital is reinforcing that desire among consumers to have full control over their interaction with all companies, including life and pension companies. The engagement must be as and when the customer wants it. In order to facilitate this, providers can no longer have completely separate sales channels but must allow consumers to move between the different channels at will, using digital portals or engaging via phone, text or face to face meeting depending upon their needs.

 This approach also fits with the fact that significant numbers of consumers – 24% according to a recent McKinsey report - still wish to deal with their life and pension providers in the traditional way. They want to meet with agents and brokers directly, rather than interfacing via the Internet. As a result, a 100% online strategy is not sufficient for life and pension providers to reach the whole market.

 Given these facts, the move to digital channels will have to complement rather than replace the traditional face to face or phone channels used heretofore. And it is not sufficient for these channels to just co-exist; they must interact, allowing consumers to switch as required when they need assistance rather than abandon the process.

 The flexibility demanded by consumers extends not just to how they interact with insurers but when. They want to be able to engage at a time that suits them, rather than being restricted by the office hours the company has decided upon. Rather than adjust to the needs of a business, they want it to adjust to their needs by being available outside of traditional office hours.

 The important factor will be to keep the customer journey as easy and intuitive as possible. That means making sure that people can switch across from channel to channel on demand – preferably without having to re-enter or explain any information that has already been given. It mean enabling them to engage with a chatbot or an agent to cover a particular query and then resume an online journey. It mean making it possible to complete a lot of the basics of a fact-find online prior to meeting an agent, thereby making the meeting more efficient by pre-empting routine information gathering. Without these features, the life and pension company will be unable to meet the demands of the customer-centric marketplace that is emerging as the new normal.

 The provision of these flexible distribution strategies can only be achieved efficiently if life insurers use cloud platforms to support all their channels. By using a centralised, secure platform, the insurer can manage any interaction between them that the customer demands on a 24/7 basis. Use of cloud-based platforms to provide real-time interaction around the clock to customers is becoming ubiquitous across all business sectors and life assurers cannot ignore the trend.

 Centralising channels and using a common platform for services brings other benefits as well. By utilising a single platform for all their channels the company is able to track customer journeys and identify bottlenecks and key points where potential customers pause or abandon the sales process. Getting the most out of the platform means that it must have powerful capacity to analyse how customers use the systems and where they need help or encouragement to proceed to closure.

 Without this level of flexibility, life and pension providers will be left stranded as the rest of the world adapts to the digitally driven, customer centricity of the post-pandemic world. Any digital strategy that involves abandoning sectors of the market is doomed to failure. The trick is to unify the provision of services for all channels and make them work seamlessly together. Undoubtedly, this is a hard trick to pull off but it is vital to do so in a world that prioritises flexibility for the consumer and consumer needs.

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