As life insurers know, customers have changed considerably over the past few years. They are more empowered, have higher expectations, are more prone to switching providers, are more connected — to companies and to each other — and are more diverse, both regionally and globally.
Yet, many life insurers still operate within a “one size fits all” sales and service model that prevents them from responding effectively to this rapid evolution in customer needs and behaviors.
Through the annual large-scale Accenture Consumer Pulse study, we have developed a portrait of what we call the Nonstop Customer. This individual finds it frustrating to be unable to use their channels of choice when researching a purchase. Only 25 percent of respondents consider themselves loyal to their providers, and a third said they would shop around for alternative providers. There is a premium on authenticity, with 63 percent of respondents saying they are extremely frustrated when a company does not deliver on its promises. And 78 percent say broken promises would cause them to consider switching providers.
The non-stop customer does not progress through the established consumer life cycle (awareness, consideration, evaluation, purchase and use) via a single channel in a linear fashion. Rather he or she is continuously “in the channel,” demonstrating radically changed behavior.
Our term for this new type of consumer is the Nonstop Customer. When compared to the traditional customer, it is clear that the Nonstop Customer’s journey or life cycle has fundamentally changed in three significant dimensions:
- The customer’s journey is now dynamic. Enabled by technology, customers expect to control and vary the channels they use and the steps of the process. The days of linear progression down a “sales funnel” are over.
- The journey is more open to influences. With free access to content from the company and beyond, customers are influenced by multiple sources.
- The journey is continuous. Because the touch points to which customers are exposed are always on, evaluation and not the purchase is now the focal point of the process.
The new rule of thumb is that companies should clearly excel in at least one of these dimensions, and be proficient in the remainder. Anything less and the chance to achieve differentiation from competitors will evaporate.
The evolution of the Nonstop Customer will, we believe, have a particularly strong impact on the life insurance industry. For example, while a majority of respondents (54 percent) have done business with only one life insurance provider over the last two years, 36 percent are using more than one provider.
Complete switching is on the rise, as is partial switching. In fact, 18 percent of respondents said they would consider doing business with other providers, and 67 percent feel more inclined to re-evaluate their current providers. Life insurance customers have relatively low involvement with their providers. And, among industries surveyed, satisfaction, intention to buy and advocacy are lowest in life insurance.