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13th November 2011

Global survey reveals insurers could improve services to customers

While the majority of insurers (91%) believe future growth depends on providing a special customer experience, most of them do not currently see themselves as providing differentiated products and levels of service, according to findings of a global survey of 119 insurers by Accenture.
The survey reveals that more than three-fourths of respondents (79%) rated themselves as “average” or “among the weakest in the industry” in their ability to provide their customers with multi-channel access to their services, including through mobile devices. More than two-thirds (70%) rated themselves as “average” or “weak” in their ability to tailor products and services to customers’ needs and almost two-thirds (64%) gave themselves similar ratings in their ability to provide innovative products and services.
“To pursue profitable growth, insurers need to achieve the kind of differentiation that allows organisations like Apple to charge a premium while building customer loyalty,” said Thomas Meyer, managing director of Accenture's Insurance practice for Europe, Africa and Latin America. “And as Apple has shown, the answer is consumer-driven innovation that creates an exceptional user experience.”
Also according to the survey:
-More than two-thirds (68%) of insurers said they will increase spending on analytics capabilities over the next three years, up from an average of $21m (per insurer) over the past three years.
-Only half (50%) of the respondents leverage data about customers’ lifestyles (such as hobbies and interests) to analyze their needs and expectations, and just 37% of them leverage usage patterns, such as driving habits and personal needs, to do so.
-Only 16% of insurers use external data such as social media “to a great extent” to supplement customer information available internally.
-The most critical challenge for insurers is to access relevant and up-to-date customer data, mentioned by 95% of respondents.
“Most of the large amounts of demographic and transactional data that insurers have about their customers are used to answer the question: ‘what happened?’,” said John Del Santo, global managing director of Accenture's Insurance practice. “Our survey reveals that insurers realize that improvement is required and additional investment is needed to enhance their analytics capabilities and better anticipate customers’ needs. Access to new sources of data, for instance from social media, and improvements in data consistency, allow for much richer insights and help insurers answer questions such as ‘how will my customer behave, what are his or her interests, and what will happen?”
The survey also found that:
-More than four-fifths (81%) of insurers said they will increase their investment in mobile applications over the next three years, up from an average of $9mn (per insurer) over the past three years.
-Only 15% of insurers, on average, provide services geared for mobile devices, such as information about products sold, quotations and account management, while more than half (54%) offer these services online.
-More than half (58 percent) of respondents, on average, said they will offer these services through mobile devices in the next three years.
-Developing functional, technical and people skills, as well as addressing customers’ concerns regarding security, are the most important issues insurers have to address to develop mobile capabilities, with 38% and 36% of respondents, respectively, saying these were very important challenges.
“To approach the mobile opportunity, insurers should look beyond what their competitors are doing, and evaluate the innovations of other leading ecosystem players—such as banks, mobile operating system vendors and emerging start-ups that reshape entire industries through mobile computing,” said Meyer. “They should also explore the possibilities that a mobile ecosystem offers. By partnering with other key players, such as a bank or online payment service, a retailer, or a telecommunication operator, the insurer becomes part of a mobile initiative that gains wide adoption more quickly, offers greater functionality, and opens doors to large numbers of new customers.”
Accenture commissioned a survey of 119 major insurance companies around the world–equally divided between life and property and casualty carriers–in 24 countries. The survey was designed by Accenture and was conducted by Kadence Ltd. from February through May.
The 119 insurance executives included 39 from the Americas, of which 27 were from the United States, 6 from Canada, 5 from Brazil, and 1 from Mexico; 54 from Europe, of which 9 were from the United Kingdom, 7 from Spain, 6 each from France, Italy and the Nordics, 4 each from Austria and Germany, 3 from Belgium, 2 each from the Netherlands, Russia and Switzerland, 1 each from Czech Republic, Poland and Turkey; 22 from Asia Pacific, of which 6 each from India and South Korea, 4 each from China and Singapore and 2 from Australia; and 4 were from South Africa.