Think about how you surf the Internet and what you do on your personal social media profiles. If you’re considering a purchase, maybe you look up the product online to get its specifications, pricing and, most importantly, to read the user-generated reviews before going to the brick-and-mortar store. Or you might look for the Facebook, Twitter or Yelp pages of the product or the company that makes it before making a buying decision.
At a very early stage, your opinion is being formed about the product you’re going to purchase. This is one of the many ways the Internet has changed the way we shop.
For us in insurance — an industry built on both products and services — Internet reviews and social media word-of-mouth play an integral part in credibility, too. Potential clients, especially millennials, trust advice from friends, family and even strangers on social media about the best insurance products or carriers, according to Accenture’s latest report, “The digital insurer: Unleashing the potential of social media in insurance.”
“Nearly half (48 percent) of the 6,000 insurance customers from 11 countries participating in Accenture’s 2013 Consumer-Driven Innovation Survey said they would consider comments on social media in making their insurance-buying decisions,” states the report. This is reason enough to pursue a social presence. In addition, social media is also a great place to find information about consumers, including their behaviors and possessions.
Here are other findings from the survey, along with some recommendations on how to launch a successful social media campaign and keep innovating in the digital world.
1. Create better communication between brokers and customers.
Social media channels might present a new way for advisors, brokers and insurers to communicate with clients. The study found that 92 percent of respondents saw risk management advice as either a “good” or “critical” service desired from their insurance provider. “Given the relative infrequency of contact between consumer, agent and insurer through traditional channels, social media data can help fill in the gaps,” says the study.
2. Stay tuned in to clients’ important life events.
According to the report, a whopping 80 percent of respondents saw personalized advice from their insurance carrier as either “somewhat” or “very” important. Another important aspect to keep in mind is that social data is rich with life events and “other information that can aid agents and insurers in providing more personalized and relevant experiences and offers.” And, right now, it’s all about creating a great online experience for clients.
3. Unleash brand rejuvenation.
The report found that most carriers use social media for marketing purposes, public relations or servicing, while they keep working to build trust and rejuvenate their brands. They also design and execute marketing campaigns, for example, by using brand icons like Progressive’s Flo, Allstate’s Mayhem and New York Life’s Keep Good Going campaign. Each of these campaigns or characters have specific pages on Facebook, often referred to as “passion pages.”
Another great example of making a brand relevant and visible to the consumer is how Farmers Insurance “sells” virtual insurance for farmers against crop withering in the popular Farmville Facebook game.
4. Reveal new products to the world.
More than half of respondents (55 percent) said that they would use one or more of a variety of prospective insurance services offered through social media. And some insurers are beginning to use social media to introduce innovative products, combining social media and mobile.
5. Discover social care (aka social media customer service).
Major carriers already provide customer service via social media channel in a process often called “social care,” says the report. It also found that, “Consumers that have a positive social care experience are nearly three times more likely to recommend a brand to others and nearly 40 percent of companies experience a 10 percent reduction in support costs from implementing social care, with greater customer satisfaction.”
6. Use social media as a claims management tool, too!
Social media can also serve as claims management tool, where carriers can interact with customers around a claim and help to accelerate the recovery process. Nearly one-third of respondents said they are using or plan to use social media related to claims in the next two years; 44 percent would switch carriers if their preferred digital channels were not available during the claims process.
Try the following exercise: Log in to your policy with your carrier and try to make a one-time online payment. See how difficult or easy it is to make. Nothing makes a policy owner more annoyed than trying to make a payment online and not being able to because of a lack of a user-friendly paying platform or unclear instructions on how to do so.
7. Identify potential fraudsters.
Many special investigation units are using social media data to fight potential fraud in workers compensation and disability claims. This is also a tool that law enforcement is currently using, thanks to some brilliant criminals who have posted photos on their personal Facebook bragging about clothes they stole, for example.
8. Recognize that social media usually “matures” in four stages.
Accenture’s study cautions that, “Insurers will do well to act quickly to mature their social media capability, both as a natural extension of their core business and as a catalyst for new, disruptive business models.” It also found that social media “matures” in four phases:
- Listening: When organizations employ tools and services to monitor, capture, analyze and respond to public information available from social media to assess current customer sentiment and identify sources of significant influence on customer decision-making.
- Engaging: Companies engage with customers in a systematic fashion, seeking to establish and build a presence, audit and report on activities.
- Optimizing: Customer relationship management programs are linked to social media channels to track the progress and returns of specific campaigns and identify effective social channels.
- Transforming: IT-enabled social tools are integrated with other business systems to reinvent the traditional model or create new disruptive business models.
9. Ultimately, your social media success will depend on:
- Executive support for enterprise-wide social media: Successful companies allocate the appropriate executive support and attention to social media efforts.
- Social media strategy: Create a strategic vision of how social media can be incorporated into the fabric of the business. It is also critical to impart clear direction to the organization. A sound strategy must take into consideration the challenges of data privacy and address these through a business-driven compliant approach.
- Resource commitment: Maintaining focus on social media programs is challenging and requires full-time commitment.
- Social media innovation lab: Creating a lab where new technologies are tested and their business application is explored in a fast, efficient and safe fashion is critical for success.
- Willingness to experiment quickly and inexpensively: Establishing a test-and-learn philosophy — where the outcome of an unsuccessful experiment is not penalized but accepted as learning — is critical to pushing the limits of what’s possible and challenging conventional wisdom.