In yesterday’s daily edition of National Underwriter, I covered some findings by Steven N. Weisbart, a senior vice president and chief economist for the Insurance Information Institute, who pointed out in no uncertain terms that the recovery from the 2007-2008 recession was different from any before it for the last few decades. Most importantly, we are going to feel the pain from this one for a few more years, it looks like, and the diminished spending power that’s inflicting upon consumers of all levels is going to ultimately end up hurting L&H sales too, especially for companies that cannot figure out how to adapt to new economic realities.
Weisbart went on to describe how the deluge of information drowning consumers was making it too hard for them to make a sound decision when it came to health insurance, life insurance and retirement planning. As a result, those who weren’t just throwing up their hands at it all were grousing to their local representatives, who in turn have been seeking regulatory action against the industry to make their client interactions easier to understand. Sound familiar?
To combat this, Weibsart noted a number of regulatory approaches, ranging from new SEC rules to make the expense charges on 401 (k)s more easy to understand to new mortgage rules from the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau to educate people who really know nothing about the mortgaging process. This initiative Weisbart bore monitoring, Weisbart said, as it didn’t take a big leap to go from people being unable to understand mortgages to people being understand insurance (which they generally don’t). He saw this as a possible avenue for regulators to impose their will on the insurance industry, all in the name of consumer clarity. He’s got a point.
What the industry needs to do, Weisbart said, was to capitalize on this trend and do a better job of presenting information. I wholeheartedly agree. Insurance is not a topic consumers are particularly keen to discuss, and so it tries very hard to make the products and the reasons for buying them simple and easy to understand. It might work for a commercial, which may get you to speak to a local agent, but when it comes down to actually considering a policy, the data before the consumer is both voluminous and unsexy.
That’s right. Unsexy.
The point here is that the insurance world needs compelling design throughout everything it does to engage consumers on a more subconscious level. I’m not talking about flashy or heartfelt advertisements, but engaging designers to really dissect what these products are all about and design compelling visual presentations for them that tell consumers the information they really want and need to hear, all while doing so in a format that doesn’t make it seem like work. This is all easier said than done, of course, but Weisbart stressed that without a stronger sense of design throughout the insurance industry, how can the industry hope to capture the imaginations of its consumers? Strong design is the industry’s way to say, “we understand what you need, so here are your choices, and here it is explained in a way that you understand.”