Effective customer engagement and advocacy

December 2, 2014 Jerry Hall

Most organisations engage customers by informing, stimulating, influencing and ultimately attracting them to do business. This is closely followed by servicing them effectively and ensuring they are satisfied and loyal advocates of the product or service.

With the unstoppable tide of the digital age offering more opportunities for customers to voice their feelings about a brand, providing the highest level of satisfaction is becoming increasingly important. However, insurers often miss such opportunities.

There are three common pitfalls tripping up insurers today:

  • a lack of understanding of the customer
  • poor service delivery
  • differentiation

In its latest Best Global Brand report (released in 2014), Interbrand named companies such as Apple, Google, Amazon and Facebook as the top risers of 2013 for acquiring legions of advocates whilst transforming the way we work, play and communicate. These companies are constantly evaluating their products, eliminating offerings that are no longer relevant or profitable and introducing new ones. This responsive approach shows they clearly pay attention to what their customers want and don’t want. This is an obvious reason why the overall brand appreciation is so high.

Unfortunately, over the last decade many businesses have disengaged with their customers by moving to lower-cost, self-service channels. Today the reality is that over 80% of customer service interactions no longer involve talking to a real person. Gartner forecasts that shifting customer support to online communities will drive down customer satisfaction in 70% of those businesses.

While there are financial and technological reasons to move customer service in this direction, if it’s not done correctly, or for the correct business segment rather than all segments, it can have an adverse effect through lack of the all-important customer advocacy.

So what mistakes are being made when delivering a customer engagement strategy that both meets customer expectations and delivers against other business objectives? These issues might seem obvious, but often companies are still making the same mistakes.

The first one is the largest – a lack of understanding. Identifying and defining each customer segment and understanding their wants and needs are vital.

There is now a host of tools to ensure customer segmentation is right from the beginning, including traditional profiling, customer insight data, advances in big data and information from social sources such as Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter. Once this is understood, it’s important to ensure the propositions are designed to match customers’ expectations.

If there is one thing that annoys customers it is being let down, even if the product or service is of deliverable quality. This is the second mistake insurers make, despite the availability of data intelligence to enable them to target profitable customer segments and build a customer journey to aid retention.

Leading organisations are now working on the concept of intent-driven customer processing. This concept employs advanced analytics and technologies to deliver customer journeys that match expectations and business profitability requirements.

Once the engagement process is underway, businesses then need to focus on the key moment of differentiation that can make or break the customer experience – and this is the third area where mistakes are often made.

Focusing engagement resources on differentiated customer touch-points and, in particular, key moments of truth enables an organisation to deliver the intended experience. This further strengthens the brand promise, customer lifetime value and loyalty.

Systems and customer processes must be optimised to deliver against each segment’s experience. An agile, flexible system is a pre-requisite for offering tailored, relevant products. Employees that directly interact with customers need a single view of each customer to ensure the delivery of a consistent and personalised experience.

The design and delivery of relevant customer engagements in insurance will require ongoing refinement in order to follow the leading brands mentioned earlier. But ensuring that what matters most to each customer group is identified, analysed and further developed upon is a step in the right direction.

This evaluation process is most effective when it takes into consideration customers’ emotional engagement. Data gurus know this can be sourced from social analytics taken from customer interactions, including telephone conversations, text and web actions. Whatever the source, the key is having that information and then acting on the customer feedback.

Attaining customer advocacy through customer engagement is not easy, but there’s no reason for organisations not to achieve this if the necessary steps are taken and the common pitfalls are avoided along the way.


About the Author

Jerry Hall

For the last 25 years, Jerry has been passionate about helping insurers’ change their operating models through the use of technology. He has held a number of senior positions within both insurance companies and technology providers. Following his time as General Manager at insurance IT firm Target Harlosh, he became Head of Enterprise Architecture at RACQ Insurance, before joining SSP in March 2013.

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