By James Hall, Commercial Director, Striata
Insurers today face a host of challenges they wouldn’t have been able to imagine a decade ago. Quite apart from the pandemic related events of the past two years, which have seen them pay out hundreds of millions of pounds to businesses and families, the business environment around them has completely changed. A host of technology-centric startups, for example, are determined to eat into their customer bases.
At the same time, those customers expect increasingly sophisticated experiences, guided by their interactions with companies in other aspects of their lives. In a world where customers can get products and services on demand, why would they expect anything different from their insurers? In fact, research shows that 84% of customers say the experience a company provides is as important as its products or services. Additionally, people are willing to pay more for a great customer experience and will share those experiences with other people, effectively taking on an evangelical role for your organisation.
Unfortunately, customer experience optimisation is not something that insurers have always excelled at. Take customer communication, for example. It’s an important pillar of customer experience but until recently, the only time most people had any contact with their insurer was when they had to make a claim or add something to their policy. It shouldn’t be surprising then that a 2021 poll revealed that nearly half (46%) of UK policyholders were looking to change providers within the next 12 months.
It’s therefore critical that insurers improve their customer experiences. Customer communication is a particularly good place to start on that front. After all, 95% of customers are looking for some degree of proactive communication from the companies with which they do business. Luckily, insurers aren’t on their own when it comes to improving customer communication. A Customer Communication Management (CCM) platform can be especially useful.
What a CCM platform is
Simply put, CCM platforms are integrated suites of software that allow organisations to send messages to customers that are tailored to their individual needs and specific platforms (web, email, SMS, print) and devices (mobile, laptop, tablet, PC) rather than being generic.
They also allow organisations to send out messages that don’t only provide the necessary information but the wider context of the interaction, which includes customer profile (e.g. lifestyle and life-stage needs), history of online activity, and personal preferences. Ultimately, this allows insurers to provide a more personalised experience.
For insurers, that can be incredibly valuable. Here’s how:
1. Engage with customers on the right channels at the right time
The chances of any contemporary customer engaging with an insurer on a single channel are very slim. People change channels depending where they are, what time of the day it is, and what device they’re on.
A CCM platform allows insurers to provide a consistent experience to their customers through print, PDF, HTML, email, text, and a variety of other online channels. This kind of cross-channel consistency is key to building great customer experiences and makes it a great deal simpler for customers to switch between channels without compromising their progress around a specific query or task.
2. Generate and deliver documents through a single provider
The insurance space is incredibly document-heavy. There are policies, bills, statements, claim forms and various other customer documents that form a critical part of any customer’s relationship with their insurer. While it’s inevitable that some of these documents will remain physical for a while to come, others are ideal targets for digitalisation.
A CCM platform allows organisations to achieve this blend of digital and physical documents through a single provider, while also meeting regulatory requirements. In the UK, these regulations include GDPR as well as the Data Protection Act of 2018 and the Privacy and Electronic Communications Regulations (PECR)
3. Store documents securely online and enable customers to self-serve
Those regulatory requirements, along with the damage that can occur as the result of a breach, also make the secure storage of documents essential. A CCM platform can help provide a repository for those documents. Additionally, it means that customers don’t have to try and keep documents themselves and makes it easier for customer service agents to locate documents (stored digitally, rather than in hard copy).
4. Gather and utilise customer data to continually improve communications
Today, data is crucial to the operations of any organisation. Insurers are no exception. After all, you can’t provide customers with tailored messaging if you don’t know enough about them. But, as is the case with many industries, insurers often battle with legacy enterprise systems that silo data, preventing them from having a single view of the customer.
With a CCM platform, insurers can help bring together data from across the organisation to properly enable the organisation to use the available data and generate customised messaging in line with their customers’ specific needs and the point they’re at in their lifecycle.
5. Encourage customers and brokers to adopt digital channels for communication
There is already a clear impetus for insurers to make the shift to digital communication in the insurance space. Research from Accenture shows that more than 50% of customers in the sector prefer using digital channels when they’re looking for product information or updating personal information with their insurer. The shift to digital also comes with significant cost reductions, which can be passed on to the customer. At a time when many households are facing increases in living costs thanks to inflation, that can be a critical point of differentiation.
Because of the customisation offered by CCMs, they can help organisations bring people towards those digital channels with personalised nudges and suggestions.
The best place to start
Of course, a CCM platform shouldn’t be the entirety of an insurer’s digital transformation and customer engagement efforts. But, given the importance of customer communication to the overall customer experience, there can be no doubt that it’s a very good place to start. Not only does it reduce costs, it also improves service levels, and increases overall levels of customer satisfaction. With customer experience being the big differentiating factor it is, it’s imperative that insurers give themselves as big an edge as possible, as soon as possible.
How FS organisations can utilise data to boost customer experience
Charles Southwood, Regional VP and GM – Northern Europe and Africa at Denodo
We’ve all heard the age-old adage “the customer is always right”. It insinuates that, in any sector, the needs and desires of those buying a brand’s product or services should be paramount. However, today’s customer has new standards and it is becoming harder than ever for businesses to meet and exceed them.
This is certainly the case in the financial services (FS) sector where getting customer experience right used to be relatively simple. The human touch was traditionally delivered as a bi-product of in-store, transactional interactions. Perhaps, as a result of this, few people ever considered changing their provider and the traditional, established banks ruled the space.
However, with the dawn of online banking and the introduction of new, exciting challenger banks as well as the UK’s unique Current Account Switching Service, the balance of power between the consumer and the bank is changing. Consumers no longer feel locked in. If their needs aren’t being met, they aren’t afraid to look elsewhere and switch their allegiance to other companies. In other words, loyalty is far from guaranteed and customer acquisition is only half the battle.
Retention relies upon delivering strong, unique customer experiences that beat down the competition. In order to achieve this, FS organisations will need to be able to leverage data. Its insights could be the differentiator that enables them to stand out. The positive news is that, in our online world, there is a constant stream of data being produced. However, having access to all this data doesn’t necessarily mean that a brand knows how to effectively analyse and utilise it.
Ensuring data provides insight
The rapid growth in digital technologies and services across the sector has left many FS organisations juggling an unimaginable amount of data. This data is both complex and much of it is lacking in quality. Structured, semi-structured and unstructured, it is stored in many different places – whether that’s in data lakes, on premise or in multi-cloud environments. Before FS organisations can even think about using it to inform customer experience strategies, they need to be able to find it and understand it.
This is where modern technologies – such as data virtualization – can help. Through a single, logical view data virtualization boosts visibility and real-time availability of all data across an organisation. Unlike traditional extract, transform and load (ETL) solutions, it does not move and copy data. Instead it leaves it in the source systems. In other words, instead of just replicating data, data virtualization reveals an integrated view to those trying to find it.
For FS organisations this provides several important benefits. For example, it helps when data sovereignty issues arise and the movement and replication of data outside certain countries is illegal. Data virtualization solutions can also assist in terms of financial reporting by fetching data in real time from underlying source systems – applying the necessary security and obfuscation whilst delivering the performance, the agility and the accuracy needed through the seamless connection of data.
FS organisations that adopt data virtualization, are likely to see an improvement in the overall performance and efficiencies of their business operations. Overheads will be reduced, as will the length of project times. Above all, data virtualization will rapidly strengthen the customer experience by supporting business leaders to think strategically and make decisions based on real-time insights. But don’t just take my word for it.
The proof is in the pudding: How Landsbankinn is delivering on the CX promise
Landsbankinn is just one of the many financial services institutions that has already successfully embraced data virtualization and its benefits. Despite being the largest financial institution in Iceland – with around 40% of the retail and 33% of the corporate banking market share – Landsbankinn used to face several issues when it came to data sharing and analytics.
Over 45 siloed data sources – including Oracle databases, data warehouses and APIs from internal and external sources – made finding and accessing the right data at the right time extremely difficult. Without real-time data to fuel informed decision making, customer experience and operational efficiency were suffering. As a result, Landsbankinn was in need of a data overhaul to streamline and integrate its infrastructure.
To bring together its complex data landscape and collect data in real-time, Landsbankinn implemented the Denodo Platform – a data integration and data management solution built on data virtualization – to build a logical data warehouse. As a result, the team can now aggregate data from multiple data sources, transform that data based on the applied business rules, and then make it available to consuming applications. Ultimately, this means that, throughout the organisation, the data can be utilised by a wealth of employees, even those who are not particularly IT savvy. It also means that the business leaders can use data insights to make well-versed decisions and provide a plethora of services to Landsbankinn customers both quickly and efficiently.
In recent years, customer retention has become the key to successfully growing a business. This cannot happen without an effective customer experience strategy. The ability to convert data into insight is priceless in an economic landscape where the line between a business thriving, surviving and failing is so thin. Those operating in financial services must harness modern technologies – like data virtualization – to stay at the top of their game and ahead of the competition.
The Evolution of SoftPoS in 2023
By Brad Hyett, CEO of phos
Contactless payments and digital wallets have surged in popularity in recent years. Part of this stems from the digital boom that occurred during COVID-19 but it’s also thanks to the ease of use that contactless offers customers. This has helped accelerate Software Point of Sale or ‘SoftPoS’ adoption amongst SMEs and enterprise retailers, with a total of 6 million merchants taking advantage of the technology in 2022 according to Juniper Research.
SoftPoS or ‘Tap to Pay’ technology – is a software solution that allows vendors to turn their phones or mobile devices into contactless payment points. This has made life for small businesses easier, as they no longer have to fork out large sums of money for traditional Point of Sale (POS) terminals, i.e. card readers, or ‘make do’ with outdated payment software.
In light of Apple’s announcement to allow third-party SoftPoS providers to deploy their technology on iPhone last year, adoption is expected to increase further. By 2027, it’s forecast that there will be up to 34.5 million merchants by 2027 – nearly a 500% increase from today. With more payment giants like Paypal and Venmo announcing they will support contactless transactions through their iOS apps in the months ahead, what else is in store for SoftPoS in 2023?
Apple’s role in market consolidation within SoftPoS
Apple’s move to integrate the technology with iOS devices will expand SoftPoS’ usability across mobile operating systems – significantly boosting the size of the addressable market for vendors. For the first time, Apple users will be able to offer Tap-to-Pay solutions which have traditionally been limited to Android devices only.
This will ultimately bring greater awareness and adoption of SoftPoS as we see increased familiarity with Tap-to-Pay solutions among businesses and consumers alike – as they’re no longer bound by the constraints of the type of phone they use.
While the SoftPoS on iPhone rollout currently only applies to the US market, it’s fair to assume this will expand internationally at some point – aiding the normalisation of ‘Tap to Pay’ solutions en masse in the months and years ahead.
The next wave of solopreneurs
The events of the last year will also continue to have a ripple effect over the next 12 months. For example, we’ve seen the tech industry undergo mass layoffs due to a challenging economic environment and rising global inflation.
With large numbers of highly skilled talent out of work, the phenomenon of solo entrepreneurship is likely to see an uplift – as it did during the pandemic – over the next 12 months. Born in a digital-native environment, individuals from this released workforce can now set up their own businesses and run them on mobile devices, as opposed to legacy infrastructures.
This could prove another sizable opportunity for SoftPoS vendors in the coming year, as we predict to see more small businesses sprout as a result of ongoing redundancies.
The growing importance of SoftPoS orchestration
As the market rapidly develops, so too does the choice and ease of onboarding. Financial institutions and retail technology providers can now use a SoftPoS orchestrator to help them deploy Tap-to-Pay solutions quickly and easily for their merchant customers, instead of having to create their own mobile solutions. This saves them time and money – both crucial resources for any business and especially in a challenging economy.
Partnering with a SoftPoS orchestrator is a cost-effective way of providing mobile payment solutions without having to worry about waiting on new software and security updates. With an orchestrator, this is done automatically – making this a much lighter lift with no requirement for technological know-how.
As SoftPos orchestrators are acquirer agnostic, this means they can help businesses provide a SoftPos solution to their own retail customers, regardless of the existing acquirer that they’re already using.
An additional benefit here is that a wider pool of merchants are able to benefit from the technology – growing the overall size of the SoftPoS market. Orchestrators, then, have the ability to drive wider adoption of the technology globally, reaching a bigger audience of end users and advancing the mobile payments industry in emerging markets across the world.
The increased popularity of digital and contactless payment options has driven exponential growth in the SoftPoS market in recent years. The next 12 months will see the technology enter the mainstream, as Apple starts to allow more third-party SoftPoS providers to deploy their solutions on iPhones.
The timing coincides with several emerging opportunities for the technology, including a potential uptick in the number of solopreneurs and mobile-first businesses. This combination of factors will see more financial institutions and legacy technology players work with SoftPoS orchestrators to bring Tap-to-Pay solutions to market in 2023 if they want to stay ahead of the competition and keep up with ever evolving customer demands.
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