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Talking about bread and butter issues

16 March 2017Jonathan Faurie

Clients are the bread and butter of any business. Large corporations spend copious amounts of money every year on campaigns to study their clients in order to gain insight into their thinking.

However, moving towards a client centric business may not be the easiest thing in the world. The reality of this is that the business will be challenged on a constant basis, and some business owners and managers are simply not comfortable surviving in state of constant change.

Asking pertinent questions

The first issue that we need to get past is the perfection bias. Insurer X (or Brokerage X) has been in existence for many years, and it has a solid client base, how then can it not be client centric?

However, we are not dealing with the same breed of clients. Speaking at the 3rd Annual African Insurance Forum – which was recently held in Johannesburg – Douglas Hoto, Group CEO of First Mutual Holdings, pointed out that today’s client has evolved and companies need to catch up with this evolution.

“The business world and its operating environment has evolved drastically from traditional channels to modern and swift solutions. It is imperative for companies to leave the sales and product centric strategy behind and stop thinking about the channel or product before the customer,” said Hoto.  

World trends

Technology has become a major enabler when it comes to client evolution. Access to information has improved which makes clients more educated about the product or service that you want to sell them. Because of this, brokers and advisers need to tailor their messages so that existing clients and potential clients do not feel like they are being spoken down to.

Technology has also created the sharing economy. Messages, positive or negative, are spread around the world instantaneously. When a client is happy, they tell three people about their experience. But when they are upset or hard done by, they tell the world. Imagine the impact this can have on your business.

A trend which is more beneficial to advisers and brokers is that technology has removed geographical locations. It is now possible for an adviser in South Africa to sell a life policy or retirement savings vehicle to a client in Saudi Arabia who is working there on a medium term contract but will be retiring in South Africa.

The final trend, and possibly the biggest opposition to traditional models, is the fact that technology has made barriers to entry extremely low. Companies like Uber, Airbnb and Alibaba have all challenged traditional thinking in their respective industries with their unconventional models.

In our own industry, Lemonade was started in the US last year and has become one of the fastest growing insurers in that market. This has inspired other peer-to-peer insurers to establish themselves, and we all know that the Americans have an affinity for start-ups... think Apple, Microsoft and Google who are all top listed companies in the world when it comes to revenue.

Challenge your thinking

This is not meant to be a demotivational challenge. Many businessmen have failed and then reinvented themselves into great success stories. We just need to establish how to turn failure into success.

“Brokers and advisers need to guide the conversation. The need to get close to the client, so close that they can tell the client what they need before the client knows it,” said Hoto.

Perhaps the next few statements are statements that brokers and advisers already know. However, it is worthwhile to repeat them so that they are front of mind as opposed to back of mind.

“Customer acquisition costs are high, there is a lot of administrative work that brokers and advisers have to do in order to get a new client. It is more difficult to gain a new client than it is to lose one, so the company’s processes need to be streamlined so that they can devote equal attention to new and existing clients alike,” said Hoto.

Change your ways

Brokers and advisers need to re-evaluate the way that they engage with their clients. If technology is an influencing factor in the industry, then engage with them across digital platforms where you will also broaden your client power and relevance.

Clients are also expecting real time communication on policy updates, changes, or new products in the marketplace. If you can’t compete with other brokers or advisers who are using this as a communication medium, then you will constantly find yourself on the back foot.

Finally, with technology, there is no sunset or time zones.  The broker and adviser are expected to be constantly turned on. 

Editor’s Thoughts:
Hoto ended his presentation by saying that brokers and advisers need to engage with their customers through the right channel, with the right message at the right time. The key to success is getting all of these elements right from the start. Please comment below, interact with us on Twitter at @fanews_online or email me your thoughts jonathan@fanews.co.za.

Comments

Added by Alan, 16 Mar 2017
Adding value to client's lives by helping them set up their insurance in line with what they need, rather than selling them a product, is already required by current legislation. Any company that doesn't operate with this as their highest priority, will always be seen as a "pesky insurance salesperson".
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