One of the people I had breakfast with during the Portals, Content and Collaboration Summit was from the insurance industry. His organization, like many insurers, depends on a network of agents to sell their policies. For many years, they have focused on making it easy for an agent to write a policy so they would be the preferred company to do business with. They also depended upon the agents to know what kind of products their customers want.
Lately, they have been experimenting with a process that gives them feedback on what actual customers want rather than relying on the agents to translate the customers’ needs for them. Not surprisingly, they found that the agents view of the customers’ product needs and the needs expressed directly by customers are different. Using social tools has given them a means to hear the actual voice of the customer (VoC).
I’m told by my Gartner colleagues who cover the insurance industry that most insurers do not know their customers. They think that their competitive advantage is their brand and their broker network. But a survey documented in Kimberly Harris-Ferrante’s research indicates that in the customers’ eyes, the cost of the policy is the major thing they care about (see Kimberly’s report U.S. Insurance Consumers 2010: Social, Complex, Online and Evolving).
The major take-away for me from that conversation was that every organization needs to find the true VoC. Social media monitoring tools offer one way to collect information from the social web that could be helpful in determining current and future needs. Innovation management tools offer a more focused approach for gaining insight from a known constituency. The best practice is to be willing to continually ask questions.