|Increased site traffic does little good if customer data is not coordinated across channels. The first insurance companies to integrate internal systems with external channels will reap huge rewards.|
Increased site traffic does little good if Web-generated customer data cannot move to other channels, or if customers cannot easily speak directly with an agent or buy an annuity offline. Insurers need to integrate their internal systems and external channels so information flows across them. Internally, integration means that companies can collect and analyze all relevant customer details and share them among marketing, underwriting, and customer service departments. Externally, it means that customers will find that every company representative has the relevant details on hand during every contact.
But integration is hard. Only 15 percent of respondents said they can track a customer's activities across channels. A little more than half of the insurers have tied their Web sites into their back-office systems, a requirement for online sales and servicing.
To harmonize the Web with other channels, insurers should focus on three areas, in this order:
- Customers. Find out what your customers want. They may prefer one channel over another for specific types of transactions, or for stages of a single transaction. This is typical behavior when people buy financial products. For instance, most customers for financial planning services want to start the relationship with an in-person meeting, whereas follow-up communication involves e-mail, phone, and face-to-face contacts, according to a 2000 Booz-Allen survey.
- Profitability. Use the profit potential of customers to guide your decisions about how and when to offer particular features. Aim the most costly services at the customers with the greatest profit potential. For example, profitable customers, with several life insurance policies and mutual-fund investments, could be offered free in-person meetings with a financial planner. Less profitable customers, with a single life-insurance policy, may only be offered access to an online planning calculator.
- Technology. Once you understand customers' needs and economic value, then tie together your current and developing IT systems so they work across divisions, alliances, products, and channels.
Insurers should bring their sites and systems in line with those of leading financial-services companies. The effort will pay off because the first companies to get integration right will reap huge financial rewards. Real integration may take five years to happen, but it is coming. Insurers who build and integrate useful sites will give visitors a reason to stop and stay, rather than move on to a more attractive destination.
The authors would like to acknowledge the participation of Giridhar Rao and Christina Casanova in this project.
Gil Irwin, firstname.lastname@example.org
Gil Irwin is a vice president with Booz-Allen & Hamilton's Health and Insurance Group. He specializes in the management and strategic use of information technology within the financial-services industry. His clients include large organizations using IT as part of transformational change.
Paul Lockmiller, email@example.com
Paul Lockmiller is a principal with Booz-Allen & Hamilton's Health and Insurance Group. He specializes in e-business strategy and implementation for insurance companies and other financial-services clients.
Larry Altman, firstname.lastname@example.org
Larry Altman is a vice president with Booz-Allen & Hamilton's Health and Insurance Group. He focuses on developing business strategies for insurance clients, helping them drive growth through improved distribution performance, stronger marketing capabilities, entry into new markets, acquisitions, and joint ventures.