In competitive market, carriers must go above and beyond

Have you ever wondered where the center of the United States is? It seems pretty straightforward, but the answer depends on your interpretation of the question. If you’re factoring in the geographic area of all 50 states, it’s a spot in South Dakota. If you just consider the continental U.S., the answer is Kansas. And if you take a figurative approach, as in the most populated area of the country, the answer is New York City.

What does this have to do with insurance? A lot, actually.

As an industry, insurance carriers are focused on serving the needs of our “customer.” When pressed, however, we often have trouble defining who that customer actually is. Is it the employee, employer, broker or even the beneficiary? My answer is all of the above, and it’s critical to keep this idea top-of-mind in order to enhance the customer experience. To move the needle, we have to meet the expectations of all our customers, at each interaction point on the continuums of sales, onboarding, claims and fulfillment.

Let’s zero in on employers. One might maintain that our first interaction with an employer is when we receive a proposal request, but I would argue it precedes this date. A carrier’s overall reputation among industry peers and the general public is critically important. Organizations known for their commitment to service, responsiveness and integrity will likely be on an employer’s shortlist when requesting a proposal, even if the request is initiated by a broker.

Assuming a carrier has a strong enough reputation in the market to warrant being included, the proposal process is the next opportunity to meet, and hopefully exceed expectations. It’s important for carriers to ask themselves if their proposals meet the specific requests of the employer, and if a higher level of customization could be provided by digging a bit deeper regarding the employee population. Is there a predominant age, region and lifestyle? What is the employer’s benefits philosophy? Are there opportunities to round out or complement existing benefits? As part of this information-gathering process, carriers must decide what level of detail they should provide to their prospective client, and how often to communicate. As the employer refines his or her plan offering, it’s also imperative to communicate how changes in the proposal will affect rates, so there are no surprises further down the road.

Once a carrier is selected, implementation brings with it a new set of questions. How should data be shared? What technology may be involved? Who should be “in the room” – from the broker and employer – when important decisions are made? Many employers will find themselves overwhelmed by options during the implementation phase. Carriers can draw from previous experience and add value by providing a framework for decisions regarding products and process. For example, the carrier might suggest a way for the employer to consolidate billing or file feeds, or simplify the employee on-boarding or off-boarding experience.

Like finding the center of the United States, you need context and information to understand your customer. A true customer mindset involves a problem-solving approach where operating efficiency is carefully balanced with customer outcomes and satisfaction. This thoughtful, measured approach to customer service results in better results for both carrier and client.

For reprint and licensing requests for this article, click here.