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June 12, 2015

Are We Finally Getting Close to a Single View of the Customer?

Summary:

A single view of the customer is now paramount. Three questions must be addressed.

Photo Courtesy of Scott Maxwell

The concept of the single view of the customer has been around for ages. I remember some significant single-view projects of insurers from the early 1990s. Many insurers have continued to strive toward this elusive goal. Now that the customer experience is front and center in insurers’ strategies, it’s time to revisit the single view, aka the 360-degree view of the customer.

Three questions must be addressed: 1) What is single view anyway? 2) How does it relate to the customer experience? 3) What is the state of the industry?

What is a single view anyway?

Having a single view of the customer means that the insurer and any front-line individual dealing with the customer understand the full context of the relationship. This normally includes information such as the customer’s personally identifiable information (PII), products currently owned, relationship history and the named agent/producer (if applicable). Ideally, this is summarized for a quick snapshot of the relationship.

Creating a single view is complicated by two main factors. First, the complexity and often siloed natures of IT systems make it difficult to have a common view. The evolution of channel options and technologies makes it a constant challenge to coordinate across the different systems. The second challenge relates to any company using independent agents, financial advisers, brokers or other producers. The producer does not typically share all the customer information with the insurer. Usually, the producer just passes along the minimum information needed for underwriting and servicing the customer. In addition, the producer may place insurance coverages for a customer with multiple insurance companies. The producer may have more of a single view of the customer’s insurance and financial services products and needs than the insurer has.

How does single view relate to the customer experience?

As challenging as it is, creating as complete a picture of the customer relationship as possible is essential today. Improving the customer experience is an SMA 2015 Imperative and a top strategic initiative for many companies and a key driver of business and IT strategies. Any touch point, whether human or digital, should be informed by the context of the customer relationship. An agent, customer service rep or adjuster should understand the value of the policyholder. While everyone is entitled to fair service that satisfies the contractual obligations, the level of attention and expertise applied might vary for an individual or business with a 20-year history and multiple policies vs. a new customer with just one small policy.

A related question is, “Does the customer have a single view of the insurer?” Customers do not want to repeat information, experience delays in service, be presented with incorrect information or find that their favorite mode of interaction is not available or current. This is causing insurers to move toward providing an omni-channel environment, enabling policyholders to interact using whatever devices and channels they want at any time — and making the transactions and interactions transfer across channels in real time. Ultimately, providing a world class customer experience requires the insurer to have a single view of the customer and vice versa.

What is the state of single view in insurance?

How many insurers have actually achieved this single view? According to SMA research, 35% say they have assembled a single view, but only 8% can present that view in real time to the individuals interacting with a policyholder. Another 46% do not have single view today but are working on it. There are also significant differences based on the size of the insurer. More insurers with less than $1 billion in premium actually have a full single view in real time than do their counterparts with more than $1 billion. This is likely because the smaller companies’ product and distribution environment is less complicated than that of the larger companies. On the other hand, virtually all insurers with more than $1 billion are at least working on achieving a single view, whereas 30% of the smaller companies have no plans.

Single view and improving the customer experience are inextricably linked. Business and IT strategies and plans should always consider the implications for both of these objectives.

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About the Author

Mark Breading is a partner at Strategy Meets Action, which helps insurers develop and validate their IT strategies and plans, better understand how their investments measure up in today’s highly competitive environment and gain clarity on solution options and vendor selection.

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