16th Feb 2017
For most people, insurance is a cost they simply have to pay, hoping they’ll never need to claim, because if they do, it means something has gone wrong.
Yet if the worst does happen, they at least want things to go smoothly. That’s why, when stories emerge of insurers trying to wriggle out of their responsibilities, a negative reaction follows. Such stories are part of the reason why so many people are reluctant to buy insurance.
How, then, can the insurance industry make insurance both relevant and appealing to customers? It’s a question that Leigh Calton, head of R&D at Ageas UK, is determined to answer.
Calton, who has a background in marketing, explains: “My job specifically involves linking the research and insight we see today, to enable us to look at what we need to do in the future,” he says. “Although we clearly believe insurance has a vital place in the world, it’s up to us to make insurance relevant and more responsive to the needs of different consumers – particularly millennials.”
After analysing trends, Calton reports his “horizon scanning” directly to the board. “We just can’t wait and talk about innovation once a year,” he emphasises. “It’s a regular conversation.” Trends identified by Ageas UK as being of growing importance to insurers and their customers range from driverless cars to demand for greater personalisation.
Such analysis helps the company's staff show customers that they're human, adds Calton. “We try to come with the mindset that thinks ‘what does the customer want?’ rather than ‘this is our process and we’re going to force it on you’,” he says.
Upload and insure
It’s a mindset that has seen Ageas UK steal a march on many of its rivals. Last summer, it launched an app-based service called “Back Me Up”, based on the insight it has gleaned into the customer expectations of younger people.
With research finding that people are more worried about losing their mobile phones than anything else, the insurer created a product with no annual contract, or penalty fees, which allows customers to take pictures of the three things they treasure the most and upload them. These items are then insured.
The company’s innovative and refreshing approach to serving customers has seen it scoop a number of customer service gongs, including being named winner in the 2016 UK Customer Satisfaction Awards.
These successes also reflect a willingness among Aegis UK’s staff to out customers’ needs first. “The mindset we ask everyone to demonstrate is to want to deliver the best customer service to all,” says Calton.
Continually delivering what customers want means moving with the times, but that's easier said than done in the current economic and political climate – particularly with Brexit looming large.
Just what the UK’s decision to leave the European Union (EU) means for insurers is still being explored and defined. Until very recently, the EU has played a significant role in shaping the lives of insurance companies, including ruling on how customers can claim for holiday flight cancellations. But now, there are worries that travel insurance to Europe will be affected, particularly if the European Health Insurance Card initiative falls away.
What we can be sure of is that Brexit appears on the list of changes Calton has identified as ones Aegis UK needs to plan for. “There are cycles where we talk about the future more than others,” he says. “We need to tread the fine line of responding to customer demands, but also predicting where we think there will be real customer need in the future.”