Filed Under:Agent Broker, Sales & Marketing

Perfect customer experience with persona-based engagement

Opinion: InsurTech Talk

A successful persona is perfected by actually learning about customers over time and across all interactions. (Photo: iStock)
A successful persona is perfected by actually learning about customers over time and across all interactions. (Photo: iStock)

What is the next step in your path to perfecting customer experience?

Like many insurers in recent years, perhaps you have already put in some hard yards working to unify underlying systems to provide a good experience for your customers across channels. And you are tapping into more data sources for better risk evaluation and customer servicing.

The payoff, however, comes through doing something special and personal with that information for each person coming across your interaction channels, and this becomes your true differentiator. Personas allow that to happen, but only if you are prepared to readily adapt each interaction for each and every person.

Related: Customer expectations: 4 digital technology implications for insurers

What are personas? The term has become something of a buzzword recently, often denoting different things to different people. The most important thing to know is that a persona can't be defined solely based on market segmentation or in reaction to customer surveys. A successful persona is perfected by actually learning about customers over time and across all interactions. Not just the "what" they’re doing and the basics of "who" they are, but also the "why" of their decisions and "how" and "when" they want to interact.

The next step in market segmentation


Market segmentation based on analysis of customer data helps marketers target certain types of customers with specific offers and service levels, and this type of personalization has been used to the near end of its limits by insurers. Personas provide a more holistic approach to designing customer journeys by considering lifestyle, behavior, and preferences, as well as adapting the shape of the customer experiences at each touchpoint.      

Personas coalesce real-life examples into a dynamic profile of a common role or person. To illustrate, consider two customers, Tom and Dave. Tom and Dave are both married men, aged between 35-45, and working in manufacturing. They have young kids in school, working spouses, and a house in the same suburb. In fact, both drive to and from work at the same factory. Seemingly, we could safely put them in the same demographic segment.

But that's only a good start.

Let's look at their journeys. It turns out that Tom is going to school to get a higher education degree that will allow him to get into management, while Dave has invested in real estate and is aspiring to retire early from his union job and manage his real estate investments full-time. The sooner their insurer realizes these different trajectories, the better it can serve their needs.

Furthermore, while Tom is a private person and does not like to be "bothered" with promotions and ideas, Dave welcomes them and always wants to learn how to get the "best deals" possible for himself, his family, and his business. As we can see in this simple example, a purely demographics-based segmentation will miss all of these nuances.

Related: Using data to identify high-intent consumers

Some insurers have done extensive work to define personas and gain an understanding of their customer journeys. The challenge many face is operationalizing those insights. The ability to build persona-based apps to customize and package services for specific situations is an excellent way to leverage these insights.

Personas provide a more holistic approach to designing customer journeys than market analysis alone because they consider consumer lifestyle, behavior and preferences. (Photo: iStock)

Personas provide a more holistic approach to designing customer journeys than market analysis alone because they consider consumer lifestyle, behavior and preferences. (Photo: iStock)

Persona apps simplify business conversations


A well-defined persona should include characteristics that are role-based (such as customer, prospect, sales or service agent, claims adjuster, or underwriter), and profile-based (demographic and psychographic data, skills, and interests). These characteristics are honed, and are dynamically updated to adjust the inferences with actual data gained from interactions and transactions.

Related: Video: Digital transformation strategy for insurance companies

A well-defined persona-based application will, in turn, take these characteristics as guideposts and applies within a specific business context (buying, selling, servicing) and conditions (such as rules and regulations, time and date, device and connection) to create adaptive user interfaces, interactions, and business processes to present a highly personalized experience. In other words, a successful persona-based application is based on contextual awareness. The app should strive for a genuine personality compatible with the user’s intentions and actions. While realizing this might be a tall order today, software is moving in the direction of a fully personalized user experience, and your applications should take full advantage of current and emerging possibilities.

Expect your persona applications to:

— Be deployed throughout your distribution channels on different devices and modes as an ecosystem in the cloud.

— Be customizable for a user based on how users interact. For example, an agent may use both a mobile and web-based version of their persona app and use each for different intents and purposes.

— Be seamless in transferring data and context across omnichannel in real-time as much as possible.

Optimize every interaction


The varieties of interaction that can be automated and personalized in this manner far exceed what can be done with conventional methods of interaction management. The business logic associated with a persona might be used in different contexts, and to provide a fluid experience, that context should be retained when switching between apps and interaction channels: i.e. web, mobile, call center, agent.

Related: Independent insurance agents have an edge in the digital market

We can now visualize that a quote and buy web app for a retiree user should look and act much differently than one for a younger prospect. The former is likely to expect a different buying experience as a veteran insurance buyer who is perhaps less technologically savvy, whereas the latter could be more likely to expect digital payment options and may expect communication on social media platforms. However, you can also visualize tech savvy grandparents and luddite youngsters, so a persona app should really reflect its user and usage and not mass generalizations.

Make new tech serve your personas


What goes on inside a digital experience platform to make these exceptional brand experiences? The platform should pair an adaptive and responsive front-end (using web, mobile, or conversational user interfaces) with an extensive set of digital interfaces (such as Restful APIs) to connect with services from source systems. Most importantly, the app should have the ability to package and provide services as needed for a specific user, that is, the persona. This tailoring approach has the added benefit of not burdening each app with functionality the persona does not need or use, while the lightweight design makes for easier adoption and management of applications. Furthermore, limiting the footprint of applications to user persona reduces the complexity and cost of maintenance, while making the user more likely to try new features and trust the provider.

Employing analytics, artificial intelligence, and machine learning can help adapt and personalize each interaction by intersecting the business context with the user context in current conditions, optimizing the user experience for the most satisfying yet efficient delivery of results.

Persona-based applications have the power to turn customer interactions into positive brand experiences. Using the best digital experience platform could enable an insurer to create "persona-lized" experiences for all users throughout their insurance ecosystems.  The value is a broad and deep differentiation in your marketplace.

Fazi Zand is vice president of products at insurance core systems and digital platform supplier EIS Group. To reach this writer, send email to fzand@eisgroup.com.

See also:

How AI and automation can transform the claims process

3 must-have digital technologies for today's insurance agents

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