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Zurich’s Global Head of Customer Experience on emerging mobile technologies in insurance

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Photo credit:

Min-chang Kim

No one loves buying insurance, so making the process painless is vital for insurance companies. Monika Schulze tells Hot Topics how Zurich is using mobile tech to do exactly that.

The world’s biggest insurance companies are centuries old. And for nearly all of that time, their business has stayed broadly the same. If there have been innovations, they have centered on product types. The way they sell – and we buy – policies has barely changed. Now, emerging mobile technologies are tearing all that up.

Consumers are growing impatient. In the leisure arena, Amazon, Netflix and Uber are showing them they can have what they want now. Increasingly, they expect the same in all areas of their lives. Including insurance.

“Today’s customers don’t want to wait two weeks for a policy or four months for a claim,” says Monika Schulze, Global Head of Digital Experience at Zurich Insurance.

“We have to be quick. Everyone is using Amazon one-click to get what they want. Insurance has to do the same thing.”

In recent years, tech-focused start-ups have used emerging mobile technologies to challenge the incumbents.

Needless to say, Zurich is responding.

For example, it recently launched a pilot in the UK, which uses artificial intelligence to ‘read’ medical reports. The aim was to speed up injury claims. The results were drastic. The average time needed to read a report went from 58 minutes to five seconds.

Another of the emerging mobile technologies the company has experimented with is augmented reality. In a different trial, it gave its risk engineers AR-enabled smart glasses that present overlaid checklists and site plans. The tech was a big improvement on tablets, giving the engineers the ability to work hands-free in tight spaces.

Of course, all these innovations are only possible because of the drastic acceleration of processing power, and the democratisation of technology.

Mobile is at the heart of this change. When everyone effectively has a supercomputer in his or her pocket, drastic change becomes possible. Take, for example, the basic interface between customer and company. For years, that process took place in a physical location (maybe a phone call) with a human agent during office hours.

Now, thanks to emerging mobile technologies, it’s possible to make those conversations possible wherever the customer is – any time of day or night.

How? With bots.

For Schulze, this is all about removing friction from customer journeys. “You have to decide where are the pain points, where do we have to use different techniques and how do we answer customer needs,” she says.

“For instance you can use chat bots to answer a question quicker than you can with humans because chat bots can be deployed 24/7.”

Schulze believes bots will inevitably work alongside human agents, providing powerful data processing to complement human intuition and empathy.

And it seems that this is what people want. Earlier this year a study by Accenture revealed that, for insurance advice, 71 per cent of respondents said they would be open to robo-advisors helping them decide which coverage to purchase.

The rise of mobile as a channel is also shaping the marketing decisions of Zurich. Schulze says mobile’s limitations (in terms of screen size and so on) have forced the company to simplify and focus its messaging. She believes this is a good thing.

“One of the big topics for us is the ‘protection gap’ – and we have a tendency in this industry to be very complex in our communication…you need strong storytelling today around your brand. Mobile forces you to be focused with short text and messages, which I think is very helpful,” she says.

Mobile marketing also provides real-time feedback in a way that more traditional media promotions cannot. This is another big boost for brands like Zurich. Schulze says the company combines a global view provided by Net Promoter Scores with local insight powered by the real-time results it gains from their emerging mobile technologies.

“You have to learn from your data and then optimize. The difference between mobile and TV for example is that with mobile you don’t analyze campaigns after six months and then have a big report. Mobile is about today. It is about using data in real-time and optimizing on the go. That’s where mobile makes a big difference.”