1. Customers hold the answers, so ask them. Getting first-hand feedback from insureds is invaluable. This can be hard if you have distribution partners as they may be concerned about you directly engaging their customers, or they may be interpreting what they hear and passing it to you through their lens. Even direct writers can miss what customers are genuinely asking for. It is crucial to engage customers on what they want from you, how they want it and stay focused on that rather than what you think they want, or what you can do.
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2. Engage your people in your efforts. People in all positions and all levels have first-hand knowledge of what is and isn’t working well, what customers are thinking or could benefit from, and how to help the company run better. Unfortunately, most of these thoughts go unheard or without action being taken. Instead, engage your entire organization in the quest to make things better and grab the opportunities in front of you. But it has to be more than lip service. They need to be the ones doing the innovative work, and their ideas need to come to fruition.
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3. Celebrate your failures and learn for next time. Not every idea, whether from customers, employees or others, will work out. And that is ok. It is as important to celebrate your failures as it is to recognize your wins. People need to know it’s ok to raise their hands, to speak up and to try. All too often, we try to sweep failures under the rug when talking about them, what went well, what didn’t, and what we can learn for next time can be just as impactful as the idea that moved ahead. In the SCIF case, employees came up with over 30 innovative ideas. Eighteen of them moved forward. The 12-plus that didn’t are also important and got recognition.
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4. Age is not an indication of quality. While at an InsurTech, I heard several carriers say they can’t work with any company less than X years old because there’s a lot of snake oil being sold by these unproven companies. The age of a company is not a proxy for quality, nor does it mean you don’t need to do your due diligence and make sure a solution is what it’s said to be. Today’s modern tools can be used to build solutions much faster than before, while plenty of decades-old companies still struggle to deliver on their promises. Instead, dig into their solution. Test it out with pilots or test deployments. Talk to other customers. You wouldn’t promote someone because of how long they’ve been in a role, but because their ability to deliver in the new role warrants it. Select your providers on the same basis.
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5. “This is how we’ve always done it” is a radar signal of where to focus your change efforts. For some carriers, progress can be stalled when they hit changes to the way they’ve always worked. Often, there is no rational explanation for working this way beyond the history of doing so. When you come up against one of these moments where the only real push back to a new idea is that “we have always done it this way,” use that as a marker for an area that needs further investigation and challenge. Breaking through in these spots can be the impetus for unlocking growth in an organization.
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6. “We don’t understand” should not be a reason to say “no” to an idea. New approaches and solutions often include things companies have never done before. That creates discomfort and fear. A natural response to something we don’t understand can be to say, “no,” and move onto the next stack of to-do items. I have seen this especially in the context of internal risk assessment, compliance and legal reviews. If we don’t know, we need to get more comfortable saying so, and then learn more so that we can understand more. The answer may still be that you can’t do that particular thing, but at least you will know why and may discover an alternative solution that does work.
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7. Seek empathy over hubris in partners. Many new providers to the insurance industry and startup carriers often start their ventures with the premise that insurance is broken and they know how to fix it. And, generally, they believe those in the industry today are not capable of solving these issues themselves. This is a recipe for missing what matters and what complications exist under the surface. When selecting partners, look for those who want to understand the insurance industry and what life is like for those they are helping. For example, if you’re evaluating a solution to help claims adjusters, if no one in the company has experience adjusting claims, they may be missing the real depth and nuances of the job.
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Customers are demanding a different experience from every company they do business with. For years, insurance has behind the curve on meeting these demands, and customers dealt with it.

That has changed — and changed rapidly. As more and more parts of their lives are on-demand, digital and flexible, customers’ willingness to accept an experience that is not those things is evaporating.

At the same time, a new generation of carriers has emerged, enabled by technology to be free of some of the constraints that have prevented the industry from meeting changing customer expectations.

In the new book, “The Future of Insurance: From Disruption to Evolution,” I share case studies from seven carriers — CSAA, CNA, The State Compensation Insurance Fund (SCIF), Ohio Mutual, EMPLOYERS, AXA XL and USAA — that have found a path to innovate and evolve to meet or exceed customer expectations and keep up with new entrants.

Seven key lessons emerge from these case studies that apply universally for carriers looking to move forward but needing help to plot their path. See the slide show above to learn these insights.

Bryan Falchuk is the managing partner of Insurance Evolution Partners and the author of “The Future of Insurance: From Disruption to Evolution.” Contact him at [email protected]. Reprinted with permission.