Thoughts, real-world observations, and anonymous examples – good and bad – regarding the use of Web/Social/Mobile technology in the insurance industry. Follow Mike Wise, President WebWisedom LLC, for the latest in Social Technologies.
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When it comes to insurance companies and large agencies, it’s common knowledge that, in general (yes, there are exceptions), there are three speeds of doing business: Slow, Really Slow, and Just Barely Moving. Sometimes these organizations move so slow that it’s like watching the progress meter of a 45-minute HD movie upload to YouTube. Kidding of course. You get the idea.
So one of the ways that Social Tech can be leveraged for ROI is by harnessing the power of the information flow to increase the velocity of the organization. Here are at least Nine Pathways to Increased Velocity. Without going into all the details, this will be skimming the tops of the waves. (Come to a Boot Camp, or schedule a private session, to drill into these.) Perhaps as you read this, others will come to your mind. I’d be curious what you think?
Part One, Number one, my personal favorite
1. Shortened Sales Cycles and Pathways to Revenue
Especially in this recessed/depressed economy, depending on what products you’re selling, sales cycles can stretch on for months. So it’s critical to cash flow to find any avenues to shrink those timeframes. For example, take the ‘check references’ stage of a sales process. Reference checking can take weeks as busy decision-makers play phone tag or exchange emails. And do people really trust them anyway? Enter Linkedin Recommendations. Not only can they provide immediate relief, but they are actually better in a few significant ways – clearly user generated content, click through to the source to see their credentials, etc. Heck, just starting your sales processes based on warm introductions from trusted sources rather than cold calls will shrink the sales cycle. By the way, did you know that because of Social, the old “6 Degrees of Separation” is now down to FOUR.
2. Research and Pathways to Advantage
Every enterprise, almost every job in an enterprise, especially in insurance, is knowledge-intensive. When the Web came along, research became somewhat easier. With search engines, Whoa! Mastering Google is now a skill in itself. Now with Social Tech, research can be automated. And so, as with anything, the better business leaders are at leveraging Social Tech for Research, the more likely they will drive their KPI’s in a positive direction. This applies to personnel, products, partners – you name it. As always, if you can efficiently research the data, you’re in a better position. The great thing about Social Tech is the incredible volume of guy-on-the-street data or User Generated Content. Yes, this puts more emphasis on Content Curation, but in reality, that’s always been there. And that can be automated as well.
3. Communication and Pathways to Nimbility
One thing’s for sure: I’ve observed countless insurance executives take WAY too much time to move information via their communication channels. This is not a function of how fast their brains move – quite the contrary. They are often extremely smart and savvy, just bogged down by simple technology. Windows-based laptops and desktops, Blackberry dumbphones, voice mail systems, no twitter, no text, and so forth, completely hamstring busy executives. If they only knew what they were missing. If I were to set-up an exec? Macbook Air 15”, iPad, Samsung Galaxy 4 for hardware, all synced together, Gmail Enterprise, and HootSuite for individual Social. The differences these simple technologies can make in the pace of communication flow is stunning. And when you increase the flow of communication, you become more nimble. Nimbility enables velocity.
4. Innovation and Pathways to Relevance
The twin brother of Research, Social Tech can definitely solve the Innovation conundrum. As I say in the Boot Camps, creativity is almost anathema to insurance. Creativity is driven out of insurance people at a very early age. “You know, we should have flavored coffee-mate in the lunch room.” “Hey, you can’t have those thoughts around HERE. We’re a conservative industry. Keep your wild ideas to yourself!” As a result, we not only lose the creative juices that inspire innovation, but we lose the people themselves. Our people, products, and processes then tend to stagnate, leading to irrelevance when it comes to insuring various risks in the lives of constituents in the dynamically changing world around us. But enter crowdsourcing “Ideation” via facebook, twitter, linkedin, pinterest, instagram, intranets, etc. – as one of many examples. Insurance peeps will find significant pent-up innovation if they start using Social Tech to tap it.
5. Customer Response and Pathways to Satisfaction
Let’s face it – we live in an instant-gratification culture. Social Tech feeds that beast. I carry a Smartphone (HTC S1) in my pocket constantly. Obviously I’m not alone in that. Just like anyone else, when I have a pleasant experience, I want to share it. When I’m upset, I want the issue resolved, or at least reconciled. So via Twitter, Facebook, Blogs, YouTube, etc., we now have access to Pathways that can lead to faster positive impacts and resolutions. It’s a sure thing. And that’s a good thing – we all know that festering problems only get worse. The faster we get to healing, the better. And since we all run in circles, good things can be spread faster and results gained more quickly as well.
Well, that’s all I have the time for now. Hope these concepts and simple examples are helpful. Velocity of doing business is critical as technology takes over. Like I say about Progressive in my home city of Cleveland – It’s a technology company doing insurance.
What are your thoughts? Drop a comment before you leave. We’ll all be richer for it. Please Like, Comment, and Share. Thanks.
Virtual Meetings and Pathways to Productivity
Education and Pathways to Competence
Recruiting and Pathways to Retention
Crowdsourcing and Pathways to Profit
First, remember the folks in NY/NJ. Donate to the ARC here.
All right. I’m going to let out a big secret. Ya’ ready?
The incredible thing for a sales person, really anyone, in the era of Social Tech is that people are sharing a close-up picture of their face in their Social Profiles. Linkedin, Facebook, Twitter – they all feature a headshot. Look beyond the surface. It’s stunning, amazing, and helpful if you know what to look for.
I can’t believe I just shared one of my best secrets.
That’s all I’m gunna say.
Happy to answer questions and share more insights if prompted. Better yet: Come to one of my Boot Camps. That alone is worth the price of admission.
Continuing the conversation from last week, (albeit a little one-sided for my taste), the question is how is Social Technology a Game-Changer in business? Here’s 5 more to consider…
The Next Five:
8. Reputation Management
Who hasn’t “Google’d” a person or brand that they were unfamiliar with? Most Boot Camp attendees I ask not only raise their hands,but further say they did it with ME! We all do it – often. So what do people find about you or your enterprise. Do you care? Absolutely. And what if there is a negative mention on the first page of your results? Can you use Social to knock that item down to page 2 of the results? Absolutely.
9. Environmental Influence
Here I’m not referring to the green movement. Instead, this is about impacting your personal sphere of influence. You see, once you have established the connections with your network, how to you leverage those for influence. For example, we’re seeing this in a big way on Social with the 2012 election in the US. We are also seeing it with “Frankenstorm” and Hurricane Sandy. One insurance agency that does a nice job with Social, The Murray Group in Albany, NY, is putting out some solid content right now on Hurricane preparedness. Obviously there are so many other ways to exert environmental influence – notable sales and marketing.
10. Work Spaces
Many thought-leading companies are starting to use virtual work spaces that leverage Social Tech in an effort to improve efficiencies with time, money, and real estate. Working ‘virtually’ from a home with ubiquitous broadband internet is a great way to improve productivity – of course depending on the home situation. But we’re starting to see more and more executive suites being used to distribute work spaces closer to the home so as to reduce travel time, expense, and drain on productivity. And I’m just touching on the surface here.
I tell you what – one of the greatest efficiency gains I’ve seen in recent times is the powerful HTC S1 droid I’ve been using. I can do SO much with this device, anytime, anywhere. I’d imagine the Samsung Galaxy 3 is similarly powerful. As I’m coaching busy executives, that’s the first thing I go after, especially if they are on a Blackberry. But iPad’s as well. And let me just tell ya – the Macbook I bought almost three years ago now has been nothing short of brilliant when it comes to speed and efficiencies. Technology is a big key – but also getting right to the point in communications. I think that’s another benefit of Twitter, blogging, public speaking – they force you to be extremely efficient with the written and spoken work – saving time and money.
12. Cost of Doing Business
We all know by now the story of Netflix and Blockbuster. While that was more of a pure technology versus real estate issue, it seems fair to say that Social definitely helped spread the word about Netflix faster than Blockbuster could unload its real estate and adapt. But clearly eWord-of-Mouth is reducing sales and marketing costs. Crowdsourcing is reducing IT development costs. Linkedin is reducing recruiting costs. We are only bound by our creativity here.
I will ask the questions again:
How is Social impacting your day-in-day-out activities?
What’s the next big thing?
What are your comments and questions, barriers and obstacle?
Perhaps I, or another reader, can help answer them.
OK, I haven’t used that line yet and I’ve been blogging for 7 years. Hey, everyone else uses it on me!…
Btw, “LinkedIn currently has more than 175 million members, with 50 million of those members joining the service in just the past year alone. To put that growth in perspective, in 2009, LinkedIn had just 32 million people.” – Mashable
I also read recently that the Social Web has reduced the classic “Six Degrees of Separation” to 4 (Can’t find the reference off-hand.)
In fact, I’d be curious what others have to say on the whole thing. Please Comment. Thanks in advance.
(Side note: I’d be curious to know if insurance companies and agencies are updating their internal Social Tech policies to accommodate this new feature.)
This is a really good article on the feature. Good Comments there as well.
“All men are caught in an inescapable network of mutuality, tied in a single garment of destiny. Whatever effects one directly affects all indirectly. I can never be what I ought to be until you are what you ought to be, and you can never be what you ought to be until I am what I ought to be.” – Martin Luther King, Jr. (from Strength to Love)
This quote jumped out at me as I read this book. I highly recommend this book, btw. Did you know that MLK was extremely conservative in his political/social views? His writings are spot on. Do you see the implications of the quote vis-a-vis Social Tech?
So much has happened since the Fairmont Boot Camp, the subject of the last post. It seems like that Social Tech Boot Camp, combined with the INN article that mentioned me, has pushed me to a new plateau professionally. And yet in the midst of that, I’m being used in new and different ways. It’s impossible to see where it’s all leading. But a good friend and industry associate said at SIIA 2012, “Mike, 2013 is going to be a very good year for you. Hang in there.” To be candid, I’m not sure why he said that. But it resonated. Word.
Speaking of SIIA12, that was an impressive conference. I think I’m going to get involved. It will likely mean shifting scarce resources from one of my other associations. But given the people, the markets, and the engagement of the attendees, it seems like it might be worth the focus in time and money. One interesting bit of innovation: An attendee who sat in the Fairmont Boot Camp had an inspiring thought. Liz Mariner with Re-Solutions, who’s on the Board of SIIA, asked me to come to her invitation-only dinner party at SIIA and speak to her guests about Social Tech for a few minutes. Brilliant use of time. The space was perfect. I shared some conceptual stuff like Crowdsourcing and ORM as well as some practical tips on Linkedin and Twitter. It was really well-received by all involved.
I wanted to share another recent image as well. It’s totally unrelated to insurance, but very much on Social, especially location-based marketing. I’ll go into the details later, but suffice to say that my drycleaner is very smart about marketing. She shows great concern about her customers, remembers small details about them, and always says. “Yes! Yes! Yes!” One time last year, Sue cleaned my son’s Army uniform. Zach and I dropped it off and picked it up. With her huge smile and winsome manner, Sue spoke to us for 5-10 minutes. Ever since then, she always asks about Zach. So when I told Sue that Zach was deploying to Afghanistan in December, a big frown crossed her brow. “Oh, Oh, Oh… so worried,” she said. I glanced at the wall by the register gulping back a flash of emotion. I noticed that Sue had just removed some old Kiwanis baseball team plaques from years past. The nails were still in the wall. So I said, “Sue, do you think you would like to put Zach’s picture up on the wall here? I have his Army picture in my office. Maybe customers would like to see it?” A BIG smile returned to her face. “YES! YES! … YES! YES! YES!” So the next time I came in, I brought the picture with a little note about what’s going on. And there it will sit until next August when he returns, Lord willing. Social, Marketing, Customer Engagement. Local. Excellent.
Last week, I also took some time to visit a local Soup Kitchen in Akron, located right next to the County Jail, that serves people coming and going from incarceration. Yeah, it was great food, served by ex-cons trying to go straight. But Duane Crabbs is the real deal. He used to be in business. But now he feeds and ministers to the people that need the help the most. South Street Ministries is a ministry my church supports, so I know I can trust it. And speaking with Duane – yeah, it’s legit. Another big gulp.
And wouldn’t you know, I was in Kansas City this week. The friends I was staying with, insurance peeps I met in the Dominican Republic on the mission trip last year, who live in K.C., asked me to take a few minutes and speak to the kids at the morning Chapel service about the DR. Sure! My meeting didn’t start until 10 and it was right down the street from the school. Chapel was at 9. Sure! So we showed the video and I told the story about the water jug, the teacher, the student, and how God used us to repair a critically important water line spanning a river that had been washed away in the Hurricane Irene flood a couple months before. The kids were enraptured – for a few minutes! Then I lost ‘em! So I quickly ended. But it was good for 7 of the 10 minutes! Ha!
Thanks for taking the time. Enjoyed it. Love to hear your thoughts on any of this..