It’s all changing now though as the company has embarked on a major re-invention of its approach to customer engagement and the customer journey.
There’s a good reason for this, according to Russell Fisher, Head of Customer & Digital Strategy. When you’re dealing with products like pensions, life insurance, death in service plans and so on, you’re already not at what he refers to as “the sexy end of the market”. Add to this the customers perception of their own mortality and you have a further issue:
People say, ‘I don’t want to think about my pension. It’s wishing my life away’. That’s perfectly normal. We’re never going to get to the stage when someone wakes up and says, ‘Shall I upgrade my car or go on a great holiday or put $5000 into my pension plan?’.
Zurich is one of the best known financial services brands in Europe. Coming up for a century in business, the firm has grown over the year through a combination of acquisition and growing its own product offerings. It is, assets Fisher, a trusted brand, albeit one that has been disconnected from its customers:
For the customer, we are a bit of a disengaged bunch of products. We’re asking them to buy products today that they won’t need until their end-of-life.
This disconnect has been exacerbated by Zurich being heavily intermediated in its business model. The end customer has dealt with Zurich at arms length, through employer schemes or via Independent Financial Advisors. That means, says Fisher:
We have never really had that much of a relationship with the end user. We never really own the relationship right through to the end.
That needs to change, not least because of regulatory changes in the UK marketplace. Every company with more than 5 employees is now obliged to offer an occupational pension while there’s an also a backdrop of wider deregulation of the sector.
People may not find the subject sexy or be particularly engaged in looking after their financial futures, but increasingly they find themselves confronted by the need to do so.
To make matters worse, most of the products on the market today are geared to the old intermediary model and are complex offerings that are pushed out to the customer rather than being tailored to specific needs. There’s also often misconception in play with people not recognising the gap between what their retirement needs will be financially and the money that they’re putting away to pay for it.
This leads to one conclusion, says Fisher:
We need increasingly to own our customers one-to-one.
Back to the future
Which is where Zurich’s FutureYou program comes into play. This is targeted not at the top tier of affluent individuals who have their own advisors or at the bottom layer of the essentially completely disengaged, but at the middle layer of people who know they need to do something, but haven’t started on it or don’t know where to start.
The most visible manifestation of FutureYou comes in the form of a web portal which offers a secure landing point for users to create their own personal dashboard. Once this is set up, customers can link products into it to build a single point of contact and information.
There’s an element of gamification on offer to get past the traditional practices whereby an IFA would sit down and ask questions like,’What sort of age do you want to retire?’ and ‘How much money do you think you’ll need?’ and so on. These may sound like simple enough questions, but they are, says Fisher, in reality “tricky subjects” and harder to answer than they might appear.
By answering questions online based around pictures and suggestions, a profile of needs is built up, which then allows the customer to get to the stage of knowing that they need and want to do something. They can then engage with online tools which provide access to a variety of products that might meed their needs.
The final part of the puzzle is to maintain ongoing customer engagement. This is the bit that Fisher confesses keeps him awake at night. The solution is to provide valuable, informative content that customers will want to read and engage with, but which isn’t product-focused, but lifestyle-centric, such as articles on getting married or becoming a new parent or education choices for children.
An important thing to bear in mind, advises Fisher, is that there is no one size fits all here:
There is no perfect journey. Customers will find their own way though the site that suits them.
That’s a mind-shift that leads to new ways of thinking. Instead of designing new product offerings and then trying to work out how to sell them to customers, the challenge today is to understand the customer first, then design the product around him or her after that.
Zurich’s approach to this is to use a ServiceDesign methodology. Fisher explains that this is underpinned by a basic belief:
Our products are not more important than the way that the customers want to live their lives. How can we help them to live those lives?
There are a number of elements that come into play. Because of its many acquisitions over the years, Zurich has, like so many organizations, ended up with a lot of legacy technology platforms, including what Fisher describes as “probably not the best CRM systems”. Over these, Zurich has layered a Data Lake, which is what is used to build the customer experience.
There have been some surprises en route, not the least of which is that around 75% of customer access is coming via mobile phones. Fisher notes:
We would have thought that planning pensions was something that people would slave away over at the weekend, but no. We’re never going to be Candy Crush that people play on the train, but…
For customer management, Zurich uses Salesforce’s Service Cloud and Marketing Cloud offerings to build a personalised experience. The end goal is the elusive ‘segment of one’, says Fisher, but in practical terms what really matters is getting a personalized experience because all customers are different and need to be engaged with differently.
This means getting under the skin of the customer and that means going out and talking to them in order to understand their needs and desires. Fisher says:
It is all about talking to customers. What we’d have done in the past would be to look at our products and say, ‘how do we get these out there?’. Now we go and talk to the customer first and ask them about their lives. People are crazy. We all live crazy, chaotic lives. We want to understand customer problems. Tell us about your lives!
That then leads to an analysis and synthesis stage of the findings - lots of Post-It notes! - following by some hypotheses of how to address issues raised. Then comes prototyping and testing of solutions, before handing the whole thing over to the business to build a product offering around.
It’s all been a disruptive 18 month journey for Zurich, in partnership with Salesforce and Deloitte Digital, but the results have been tangible. From having only sent 1500 emails to customers in its lifetime, Zurich went to sending tens of thousands in the first two months of the new approach.
There have been challenges, of course. People have had to be ‘re-skinned’ internally with the marketing team having to learn new tricks. But it’s all resulting in a change in the way Zurich does business.
And it’s still only the start of the journey, says Fisher. There’s some possible interest in Salesforce’s Community Cloud, although this presents challenges in its own right, getting customers wanting to talk to other customers about financial and insurance matters. If Zurich can be the firm to crack that, it would be an achievement, reckons Fisher.
Appropriately enough, given the AI focus at Dreamforce this week, machine leaning- or ‘robo-advice’- is also a topic of interest, with Fisher seeing the trend as being towards guided decision-making via offered A-B-C options rather than actual specific machine-driven recommendations.
At the end of the day though, whatever comes next, Zurich’s well on the way on its own journey to improve the customer journey. Or as Fisher says:
There are a lot of trials and error. We’re learning what we should and learning more about what we shouldn’t do.