The Digital Journey | Episode 7
Insurers have been on a long and winding digital journey since customer self-service channels became must-haves during and after the pandemic. Although most insurers moved quickly to implement these platforms, many are not using digital interaction as their go-to method of customer communication. What does this say about the insurance industry’s digital future, and how will the impact of AI and generational change in the advisor landscape play a part? Listen as host Patrick Nobbs, Sapiens’ Regional Marketing Director, EMEA & APAC discusses the digital journey with guest Bjoern Eickmann, Senior Director, Digital Practice and Site Manager, Sapiens Germany.
Patrick Nobbs: Hello, welcome to the Sapiens Insurance 360 podcast. I’m your host, Patrick Nobbs, Sapiens Marketing Director for EMEA and APAC, and I’m glad that you are out there listening. This is where we discuss the latest news, trends, and issues from across the insurance solutions and technology spectrum. We have a great guest for today’s program, Sapiens’ own Bjoern Eickmann, Senior Director, Digital Practice and Site Manager, Sapiens Germany. Bjoern has over 15 years of experience in digital insurance and transformation, strategy development, international business, sales, and marketing. He is [a] champion of engaging digital experience and enabling customer centricity through transparent, fast end-to-end processes in sales offerings. Before joining Sapiens Germany, which was formerly sum.cumo, where he was instrumental in developing the low-code, cloud-native skip sales platform, Bjoern was associate director at Arkwright Consulting, a boutique strategy consultancy with an international footprint when it comes to digital transformation, the financial services sector, and specifically, in insurance.
So today, we’ll be discussing the digital journey. And Bjoern, welcome to the program.
Bjoern Eickmann: Thanks for having me, Patrick. Happy to be here today.
Patrick Nobbs: So let’s drive straight in. An infinite amount of articles, blogs, and even conferences have been devoted to the subject of digital experience in today’s insurance industry. Momentum for this topic has been building since before the pandemic and the public lockdowns that ensued made digital self-service and customer-centric platforms imperative throughout the insurance ecosystem. But considering where we are now post-pandemic, how important do you think digital and more specifically, digital interactions and services, are in today’s insurance business?
Bjoern Eickmann: So Patrick, I think it really depends on who we’re looking at. So the vast majority of insurance companies are still not using digital interaction and services as their go-to channel. It’s one of many channels that they use and that they play with. For me personally, I’m not really happy with that development, but we see it true every day with our existing customers, potential customers, and also at conferences that we attend. What’s clear is that a digital engagement platform today is not a ‘nice-to-have’ anymore, but it’s certainly something that everybody is aware of and needs to have, but it’s clearly considered an asset for the future and not key for the current business model, in many cases.
Patrick Nobbs: Excellent, thanks. So let’s just move on to a different note. What is the takeaway from the digital wave that has been going through the market, but hasn’t been really successful, or resonated with target audiences?
Bjoern Eickmann: Well, insurers over the past decade or two really haven’t found the right balance between the complexity of the insurance business that it certainly has and the need for simplicity in the digital channel. And a lot of money has been spent on both extremes, with some just exposing the full complexity to their users, others trying to make sure the insurance business is as simple as selling socks. I think both extremes don’t work in the end. A lot of money was not spent well and hopefully the parties have learned from that. So for the future, there’s certainly some challenges ahead. Only very few companies have felt the right balance to manage the complexity of business in a way that really serves the users and leads to ongoing engagement and real digital business interactions with the customers.
Patrick Nobbs: Excellent. I think that is a really interesting insight. Thanks. So the term ‘digital’ often refers to D to C, but digital solutions for agents and brokers are also incredibly important as the market continues to grow. Can you elaborate a bit more on this?
Bjoern Eickmann: Agents and brokers are absolutely key still in most insurance business models, and they need to adapt to using digital tools as their key tool for their daily business. It should help the way that they work, and I think the generational change in the advisor landscape is really going to help in that sense. Many experienced agents are retiring in the coming years and they’ll take lots of knowledge about products, customers, and relationships with them. They can’t transfer all of that knowledge to the next generation. So in order to onboard younger agents in a successful way, digital channels will be absolutely key to have the right tools, help them get a faster route to productivity by having more guided processes in the sales and services, but also leveraging self-service channels in the right way and not seeing it as a competition to their own interaction with the customer. So I think the generational change is really an opportunity to push technology a bit more. And of course, I think the customer is going to be driving part of this trend as well. So agents and brokers, without digital communication, without some digital support to what they’re telling the customer won’t be as strong anymore in the future. So there’s a clear customer expectation that agents will know how to leverage digital channels and tools as well.
Patrick Nobbs: That’s a very interesting insight and I also think we should expand there. So continuing in that vein, what do you think makes digital solutions so important for the future?
Bjoern Eickmann: Well, there’s a lot of talk these days on all channels about leveraging data using generative AI and things like that, but all of this is of course very complex and it kind of happens in the background. And the deciding factor of the success of these kinds of things is always if you find the right user interface, engaging user interface that will make these offerings available to the customer. So within a couple of examples, really turning database recommendations into actionable tasks for agents or customers is going to be very challenging, because it only works if you develop the right interface to get the customer or agent interested in what you’re recommending. Really understanding customer needs based on data that you get from the digital interaction is going to be a huge opportunity in the future, if we understand how to leverage all of this in the right way. And of course, it’s also important for insurance companies to remain the owner of the customer touchpoints, and that’s only going to work if we manage to create engaging customer interfaces that are connected to our brands and really let us own the customer touchpoints in the future.
Patrick Nobbs: Excellent. That makes total sense, Bjoern, thanks. So looking forward to the digital future, what are some takeaways for insurers, brokers, and agents that will be critical to ongoing success?
Bjoern Eickmann: So again, for me it’s all about the right balance of the offering. So great user experience for all the different user personas that you mentioned needs to become a commodity in all the interaction channels that the insurance company has for all of these groups, really ease of use is the only way to let them embrace the digital channels, to let them see a value in using those, and that still remains a big challenge for many insurance companies. At the same time, for the business model of insurance companies, really leveraging the digital channel to improve the operating model, use the digital channel to improve end-to-end workflows is going to be imperative for the future, as has a huge potential for operational efficiency if you’re using and connecting the digital channel in the right way. But of course, it’s not only about using that solution in the right way on the front end, but it’s also about how you create these solutions. So being able to create sustainable solutions in a way that you don’t have too much effort with every time you want to change something in the channel is going to be extremely important. So efficiency in building and maintaining channels, changing some things for specific offerings is really key. And by choosing the right technology at the right time, you can really gain a competitive advantage. You always have to remember that digital is really an ever-changing organism basically, and user experience and expectations change all the time. So you have to be very flexible and able to provide changes at low cost if you want to remain at the top of the game.
Patrick Nobbs: Wow. Thank you, Bjoern, for unpacking such an important topic that so many sources have discussed and will no doubt continue to revisit as the industry involves. It’s been great having you with us today.
Bjoern Eickmann: My pleasure, Patrick.
Patrick Nobbs: So to everyone listening, thank you so much for spending time with us here today. We love hearing from you. So if you have comments or would like to follow us on social media or sign up to the podcast using your preferred channel, please reach out to us. We’ve got so many great topics and fantastic content ahead, so be sure to tune in the next time on Sapiens Insurance 360.