Stories and Customer Engagement Should be the Focus for 2016

The 7 Families initiative proves that stories work.

Often better than slick advertising campaigns. Stories resonate with people. The campaign shows that combined with social media it’s a great way to engage with potential customers.

Stories and Customer Engagement

I’ve been saying, with my tongue slightly in my cheek, that what the protection industry needs are 7000 families. Every product provider, reinsurer and financial adviser could be pushing out stories on the printed page, in video and in audio. There’s little evidence that this will happen.

As the 7th Family takes centre stage, discussions will turn to whether the campaign should continue. Who will fund it and by how much? Strong leadership from the team ensured the success of round one of the campaign but will that be enough to guarantee more?

Making a dent

We need to do more because, although a well-conceived campaign, 7 Families hasn’t made much of a dent in the true perception people have of protection product providers.

Recently the Daily Mail ran an article about a declined critical illness claim. The client developed a cancer in situ the policy didn’t cover, even under a partial payment. The journalist took a neutral stance. The piece was quite balanced and made the point people should read the small print or ask their adviser to explain it to them.

The comments beneath the article, however, betrayed the true feelings of the readers and their perceptions. “Product providers always try and decline claims,” they raged. “All protection insurance is a rip off.” “Financial advisers are conmen.” “Critical Illness is a scam.” “Don’t touch any of these policies with a barge pole.”

A huge task and a long game face the industry to change these views. But companies are cutting marketing budgets or channelling them elsewhere. Product development meetings focus on adding a few more critical illness conditions. Or knocking a few pennies off the premium rate. New entrants to the market launch high quality and complex products but have to play the same price and condition games to grab their share of a flat market.

People before profit?

Actuarial minds focus on how to make the existing cake more profitable. They’ll ask questions. Should they stop taking business from those advisers they feel have “persistency issues”? Should they use postcode pricing to squeeze a little more off the headline rate to appear cheap. Then they go on to load the premiums of more applicants?

None of these actions engage customers. They don’t help change perceptions of a maligned industry.

True and sustained customer engagement is what we need. 7 Families points the way ahead but it’s only a tiny first step. Postcode pricing might make you more profitable in the short term. But once everyone catches up we’re all back to where we started and customers are still writing nasty comments under Daily Mail articles.

Let’s follow the path indicated by 7 Families, but let’s ramp up the customer engagement to unheard of levels. Looking outward is the only way to grow the market.

Now it’s your turn:

What do you think Protection Provider’s should do to increase customer engagement in 2016? Are stories and customer engagement the way forward? Please leave a comment or share your thoughts on Social Media.

Money Marketing Magazine originally published this article on 10 December 2015.