Taking The “Youmanity” Approach In Marketing Insurance

The classic visual image of a life insurance agent is that of a trusted advisor seated at a dining room table, providing guidance to a couple about caring for their family’s financial future. Unfortunately, the imagery of a company actually underwriting that protection is not as endearing.

An insurance company makes it to the family table only if the monthly billing statement happens to land there. While agents always have understood how significant it is to develop and foster a personal relationship with customers, there is generally no real human connection between the family who owns a policy and the carrier that issues it—the insurance company is just a faceless entity to which a customer cannot really identify.

Global research conducted by Aviva revealed this disconnection between what consumers want and what they actually get from their insurance carriers. Consumers are not wowed by a carrier’s proficiency in financial products and services. They expect it, just as they expect their doctor to be medically astute or their mechanic to have a knack for keeping their car running smoothly.

Consumers who were surveyed by Aviva said they want to be treated like individuals with diverse needs and desires in terms of the products and services they are offered. The industry, however, was perceived as taking a cookie cutter approach with everyone. Beyond tailoring products and services to the individual, the research showed that consumers want to be acknowledged as humans rather than just policy numbers.

What it amounts to is that people want to be treated with heartfelt empathy. Agents historically have received high marks on this because of how effectively they connect with their clients, whereas insurance providers typically are not perceived as having concern for individuals. I believe that it’s not that insurance companies don’t care but rather they just don’t show it very well.

Companies need to get back to the roots of the industry—which is demonstrating humanity as they help people take care of their families. That’s just common sense, really; but as the famous saying goes, common sense is not so common.

At Aviva, we’re working hard to change consumers’ perceptions of insurance companies. We are listening better and collaborating with agents, providing them products and tools that demonstrate to clients that our company cares about each individual customer. We are attempting to differentiate our company by putting people before policies and bringing humanity back to insurance. More than a catchy slogan or internal rallying cry, we consider it a notion that, we hope, the entire industry can and should emulate.

There’s a great opportunity for us here as an industry to change the way consumers see us. It’s important that we get this right.

Some people may view what we’re doing at Aviva USA as merely a marketing strategy. It truly is so much more than that. We realize that we can learn a lot from the way agents build strong relationships with their clients. Since the research was conducted, Aviva embarked on a movement to intentionally change our culture from the inside out. Our employees have wholeheartedly embraced it. We started this transformation with “You Day,” an all-employee meeting in June 2009 where we outlined the concept of our brand promise: We are building insurance around you. We challenged our employees to think through what it would mean to be a company that really put people before policies and how each one of them could be personally accountable to making that happen.

The movement picked up steam in 2010 as we worked hard to educate employees about our strategy—which is to enhance every customer experience. We want each employee to connect more deeply with our customers as well as understand what can be done personally to create a great experience for our key distribution partners, agents and policyholders.

This year, we’ve sharpened our focus on meeting the needs of agents—obviously a critical customer audience—through our internal “Operation Agent Impact” campaign. While that has been ongoing throughout 2011, we decided it also was time to take the word of what Aviva USA’s life and annuity business is all about to the streets.

Aviva is competing with much more well-known companies, but we are now growing our name recognition through advertising that emphasizes our building insurance around you value proposition to customers.

What underpins the Aviva story is our 2 1/2 year old internal transformation. It has three essential elements:

Products. “Building insurance around you” begins with product enhancements like the Wellness for Life program. This optional feature on a life insurance policy can reduce out-of-pocket premium costs over time if an insured meets health-conscious criteria like visiting the doctor at least every other year for physical exams, plus cost savings are even greater if the insured simply maintains his weight. Good drivers save money on auto insurance, so why shouldn’t life insurance customers save money by living a healthy lifestyle?

Service. Dedicated teams are now in place to support producers so they deal with the same people. Call center teams have extensive training on soft skills such as active listening, showing empathy and taking ownership to resolve issues. In addition to communications, we revamped marketing materials and billing statements. Simplicity and transparency are the keys as we’ve strived to make the language straightforward, customer friendly and jargon-free.

Corporate Values.  Globally, Aviva is committed to helping half a million children worldwide get off the streets during a five-year period through our Street to School program. We also have blended our emphasis on “you” with our commitment to humanity and coined the term Youmanity, which is the belief that, through heartfelt empathy, individuals and organizations can make a huge difference in the lives of others with acts of kindness, big or small. To that end, this past spring we provided a widowed mother of two—who was not even our customer—a retroactive life insurance policy. The policy amount absolutely changed her young family’s financial future while demonstrating the importance of having adequate life insurance and working with an agent to help insure a family’s future.

The insurance business does change lives. An insurance carrier may never be physically alongside agents at family dining room tables. However, they can be there philosophically by exhibiting how much they care and by placing more value on the people they insure than on the policies that are purchased.

Author’s Bio
Chris Jones
is executive vice president and chief marketing officer for Aviva USA. He oversees the development of the strategic marketing, communications and corporate responsibility agenda for the company.

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