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Increasingly, there seems to be a mismatch between distant, impersonal insurance firms and ever-more demanding customers. Let’s look at how technology can help you to nurture strong, lasting relationships and provide a personalized service that delights customers just as much as – or even more than – in the “good old days.”

Familiarity breeds respect

There was a time when every neighborhood had its own insurance broker. As part of the community, the broker would become familiar with each customer’s situation and interests. And with “insider” knowledge about key life milestones such as getting married, buying a house, or the birth of a first child, he could offer relevant advice on a range of insurance products.

Long-established relationships built on familiarity and mutual respect meant that customers didn’t feel the need to shop around for their insurance, or switch to a different provider each year. They simply went to the man who knew their needs, and trusted him to find an insurance deal that would work best for them.

The distant insurance company

Jump forward to the present day and the situation couldn’t be more different.

Two decades of using technology to optimize processes has resulted in some key wins for insurance companies. By transferring many of its customer interactions to call centers, automatic telephone systems, and Web sites, insurance firms have undoubtedly improved efficiency and cut costs.

However, from a customer perspective, it’s arguable that service levels have never been so bad. In the absence of close personal relationships, there is now a disconnect between the customer and the insurance company.

Distant and “faceless” firms have no access to detailed information about the customer’s life such as what his priorities are and what life events are happening right now. So instead of approaching customers with appropriate offers that are tailored to their circumstances, companies all too often bombard people with impersonal and irrelevant marketing messages.

Rise of the demanding customer

Technological advances may have resulted in insurance companies distancing themselves from customers. However, in many industry sectors this has not been the case. The retail sector in particular has embraced technological tools and platforms that have enabled companies to become more intimate than ever with their customers. Some consumer goods companies even seem to know what you want to buy before you do.

In-depth profiling based on information gained from Internet usage and social media helps companies in other sectors to build trust and make relevant, personalized offers. Meanwhile, their customers have become accustomed to using the channel of their choice to interact with companies – be it by telephone, mobile app, or a Web site.

In short, customers now expect more – and if you don’t give them what they want, they’ll find someone who will.

Bridging the gap

The challenge for insurance companies is to rebuild the invaluable contextual information around each customer that has been lost in recent years. Innovations such as the SAP hybris Marketing solution support this process by helping you to observe people’s behavior online so you can build up an in-depth profile of each potential customer.

For example, if someone talks about buying a new car on Facebook, it is likely that they will need to purchase car insurance at some point soon. The SAP hybris Marketing solution gathers this intelligence so that you can then send information about an appropriate product to that individual. If they receive a relevant offer for car insurance at the right time, it’s much more likely that they will decide to purchase the product.

Seamless omnichannel service

The financial services accelerator of the SAP hybris Commerce solution helps ensure that any information previously provided by a potential customer is immediately accessible at every touch point. So, if they already provided certain details on an online form and then decide to speak to someone on the phone, they don’t need to provide this information again. The call center operative will see it on their screen and be able to refer to it in their conversation.

To compete in a market that is increasingly threatened by new players, it’s critical for insurance providers to deliver the wide choice of interaction channels that customers now demand. A seamless omnichannel service enabled by the financial services accelerator of SAP hybris Commerce offers this freedom of choice and makes it easier for people to do business with you.

A bright future

By deploying SAP solutions, insurance companies now have an opportunity to place the customer at the heart of their operations. Not only will this allow you to regain the close customer relationships of yesteryear, but you can also go further to provide a better service than ever before.

Deeper customer insights will enable you to provide personalized offers that are truly relevant to the individuals you target. Meanwhile, smooth omnichannel interaction will help you to offer service levels that delight the customer, providing a bright future for the industry.

To find out more about SAP solutions for the insurance sector, visit or connect with me on Twitter at @rolandbloesch.