Finding Yourself, And Your Customers, in Europe

  • Mike Davies, VP EMEA North at GMC Software

  • 30.03.2016 10:45 am
  • Digitalisation

Many have applauded the European Commission’s “Europe 2020” strategy, in particular its focus on removing contract-related barriers to cross-border insurance. However, while tackling “bottlenecks in the Internal Market” will remove obstacles to competition, as well as a heavy and inconsistent burden on the ability to expand services, it doesn’t guarantee success. A one-size-fits-all approach to customer experience is already unworkable on a regional or national scale; on a continental scale, it’s even more so. The ultimate success of insurers will be largely dependent on how well they can engage with individual customers, whether they are in Birmingham, Barcelona or Bucharest. Providing comprehensive, informative and above all customer-centric communications will be crucial to making the most of cross-border trade.  

At its most simple, customer-centric engagement needs to adapt itself to crossing borders. For instance, ensuring that language and cultural references are relevant to the individual customer. It might seem obvious, but wishing a German customer Happy Bastille Day, expecting French customers to respond during the les grandes vacances, or sending a morning greeting when the other side of the continent is having lunch, is a swift route to alienating the audience. However, engagement should go further than this. Businesses should know the best channel to communicate with a specific customer; the best times to do so; and what messages will interest them. Essentially, a customer contacting their insurer should expect a single, seamless experience that crosses channels and languages.

This customer-centric approach will be supported by another major focus on the European Commission, digitalisation. Used correctly, digitalisation should make cross-border, customer-centric engagement much more achievable. Communications can be more frequent, more targeted and more interactive, with dynamic content allowing customers to view the information that most interests them; whether that’s interest rates or how to lower their premium. Digitalisation is particularly important in appealing to new consumers such as Millennials, who demand ease of communication and won’t accept traditional boundaries.

However, key to succeeding in this approach is the ability of the industry to implement its, often legacy, systems and processes to reflect and exploit these regulatory changes as they appear. The financial industry, and insurers in particular, are by nature risk, and so change, averse. Unless this inflexible attitude changes, the European industry will never be able to take advantage of more open borders.  

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