Digitalization and the emergence of the digital enterprise are unfolding as some of the greatest disruptions of all industries, including insurance. Many insurers indicate they are on the strategic journey to becoming a digital insurer, a key characteristic of the next-gen insurer, with investments in new websites, smartphone apps, or a social media presence. Unfortunately, many of these approaches are siloed and tactical, lacking a strategic framework to bring together a unified digital strategy and an omni-channel capability to drive consistent, connected customer experiences, regardless of the channel. 

Current distribution demands and expectations are in a state of continuous, unstoppable change. Galvanizing this change is customer empowerment. Traditionally, insurers or agents shaped the customer experience. Today, it is shaped by the rest of the world, by companies like Apple, Zappos, Amazon, Google, Nike, and others. And as customers gain market power and increase their use of technology, their influence will expand and demand choice and collaboration … anytime, anywhere, anyhow, via any channel. 

A unified digital strategy recognizes that all channels and technologies touch the customer in some way, and that the one-size-fits-all channel model is obsolete. Agents, brokers, prospects, customers, and partners all have different expectations on how they want to interact with insurers, but they have this in common: They all want a consistent, connected experience. In today’s new digital world, this means a serious commitment to providing real ease-of-doing-business based on customer expectations for every type of interaction, through any channel, via any device.

So how should insurers respond? 

First, create a multi-channel business strategy, mapping out existing channels against future channel demands from current and new customer segments. This should include emerging needs for shared and integrated interactions across channels, business processes, and technologies.   

Second, build a multi-channel technical framework that defines the technologies and integration points to drive a consistent, connected experience. This includes web to call center, agent, social media, or other channel integration to support online customers; online, real-time transaction processing capabilities across the value chain; and broadened customer relationship management (CRM) capabilities to capture and leverage new customer and interaction data.

Third, develop an enterprise data management strategy and roadmap to leverage the use of business intelligence, analytics, and the explosion of existing and new data from customers and channels — recognizing that data is the new currency in a digital world. As a part of this strategy, address the real and growing potential of customers owning and authorizing the use of their personal data, whether from traditional sources such as credit scores or new sources like chips, wearable devices, and more.  

Fourth, create a digital content strategy inclusive of technology-based solutions for customer communications management (CCM), enterprise content management (ECM), and business process management (BPM) to improve communications, document management, and ultimately the customer experience. Think more holistically about the integrated digital customer experience, from e-app to e-billing, e-service, e-claims, and more, rather than siloed or point solutions. 

Finally, transform modern core business solutions as the foundation to integrate, automate, manage, and create new business processes. These core solutions provide the framework and infrastructure to enable real-time data use, real-time customer interactions, and real-time multi-channel integration, and represent a customer-aligned digital business model: the Next-Gen Insurer. 

These critical components provide the strategic foundation to prepare for the next wave of digitalization. New product development through customer or channel collaboration; the use of wearable technologies with massive real-time data changing our views of products, pricing, underwriting, and service; customer product configuration to customize our own products; and much more is on the horizon, driven by customer experiences formed by other companies and industries.

We live in a world that is digitally charged and connected, growing exponentially as everything becomes more connected, and is driven by new technologies and customer experiences that together create an increased preference for digital. Insurers must transform their business models from siloed value chains and channels to an enterprise ecosystem of connected processes, channels, and data. Embrace the digitalization. Re-envision and change the business. But time is of the essence — your future depends on it.