Offering Experiences: The Emerging Basis of Competition

Can you imagine running into Steve Job’s office at Apple and exclaiming: “Steve, I just realized that the new basis of competition is being able to provide world-class experiences for our customers !” Either he would laugh you out of his office or call Apple’s security to throw you out of the company. Steve Jobs already knows that offering experiences is the way for companies to achieve stronger competitive differentiation and larger market share.

Apple, of course, is not the only company that has been pursuing this strategy. In our world of insurance, USAA, Progressive and Chubb are three insurance companies that immediately come to mind as companies providing a world-class experience for their clients.

But what about your insurance company? Of if you are a producer, what about the insurance agency or broker you work for? Does your firm provide a world-class experience? Is it planning to offer a world-class experience? (By the way, it is your customers, producers and other stakeholders who would be the ones deciding if your company offers a world-class experience.)

Let’s assume that either your company wants to offer a stronger experience or offer an experience in the first place. (Yes, every firm offers experiences. It is just that most of the stakeholder interactions are labored, awkward or otherwise painful.) What technology firm might you consider contacting that would enable your insurance company or agency / broker to offer experiences for your policyholders, prospects and others?

edgeIPK.

Who is edgeIPK? My question exactly. On Wednesday, January 27, 2010 Wendy Corman, the newly appointed president of the U.S. division of edgeIPK and her colleagues were gracious enough to brief me about edgeIPK and show me a demo. The purpose of this post is to get across the highlights of that briefing.

Please note that I am not saying you should rush out and purchase edgeIPK’s products. But given that three of their insurance customers are Allianz, Zurich and Willis, you might want to consider reaching out to edge for a conversation, a demo and potentially creating a pilot for one of your lines of business. I’ll leave it to you to decide if you want to go their web site, find the contact information and call them.

So, what does edgeIPK offer? Edge enables insurance companies the ability to wrap and extend their functionality simultaneously to multiple delivery channels in multiple formats. That means, your insurance company can provide the same look-and-feel to producers, policyholders, prospects or others regardless of the nature and form of the interaction.

Say what? Edge enables insurer or broker functionality to be delivered in a consistent look-and-feel to the web, to mobile devices, and to laptop computers. A critically important point is that edge is ‘target platform agnostic’ so it doesn’t matter if the insurance company or broker is reaching out to people who use IE, Firefox, Safari, or other browsers. Nor does it matter what version of those browsers the target audience is using because edge (supposedly according to Wendy during the briefing) keeps up with all the browser versions and ensures the content can be correctly rendered for the target audience.

Edge capabilities can be used by marketing, distribution and call center staff in the home office as well as field office, agency or broker staff. Edge realizes insurers conduct business on a global stage and so supports multiple languages and multiple currencies. As they told me during the briefing, edge can easily handle our UK cousins use of ‘u’ everywhere as well as our US spelling. Edge supports Spanish, Chinese (Mandarin, I believe) and many other languages.

Edge uses their open presentation platform to quickly configure screens for the home office or field office user or agent or broker. Edge can configure composite screens from different applications which is particularly useful for home office call center representatives or agency support staff.

Edge focuses solely on the presentation of the information required by the insurance company or agency for their target markets. It is part of their skill set to keep up with the growing number of widgets and widget libraries. Occasionally edge will even create their own widgets for their customers when necessary. Edge also deals with security and performance to ensure that the insurance company’s target audience – regardless of end-device or browser – experiences approximately the same level of performance.

Yes, edge is new to the United States. They are in the process of building both sales and services teams here in the U.S. But based on my thirty-plus years in the insurance industry, I believe they are worth a look. Edge gets it: with the evolution of the web, the growing number of devices that clients and field personnel use, and the absolute mandate for insurance companies (and agencies and brokers) to provide a consistent look-and-feel for their policyholders, prospects and other stakeholders, edge provides the software to make that all happen.

Insurers do not have to replace their legacy systems or purchase new core administrative systems. Edge wraps around all of those systems and enables insurers to bring their ever-increasing number of Moments of Truth to the level of a world-class experience.

I’ll be checking back with edge and their insurance customers periodically to see  how edgeIPK is doing in the insurance space.  But to repeat, based on what I saw and heard (and given that Zurich, Allianz and Willis are world-class organizations themselves), I suggest you call edge and see what they can do for your company.

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Playing or Changing the Game?

More thoughts from the 2009 eInsurance Symposium…

Are you as a technology firm supporting the insurance industry – or whatever industry you support – playing the game just like your competitors or are you changing the game?

Playing the game, doing something the same as your competitors – albeit supposedly cheaper, faster, with more up-to-date technologies – or some combination is a holding action. Sure, you might pick up some market share here and there but you’re really just one of the herd. Nothing exciting and worst, no reason to think your firm really has a very long term competitive advantage.

But if you are changing the game … by hoping to change the rules of the game then it is quite possible you will create a longer-term competitive advantage.

Why bring this up?

Walking the floor of exhibitors at the 2009 eInsurance Symposium – it was a short walk because there were maybe a dozen exhibitors – only one exhibitor is truly trying to change the rules of the game: FirstBest.

Why?

You can click over to the FirstBest web site here but summing up they decided not to play in the “improving downloads or uploads” spaces. FirstBest realized insurers and agencies needed a shared platform to collaborate and accelerate business acquisition. Asynchronous communication is yesterday’s game; leveraging Web 2.0 enabling agents (or CSRs) and underwriters in the home office to see and work on exactly the same information at the same time is tomorrow’s game.

Are they wrong? Are they too far in front? What do you think FirstBest’s odds are of creating a competitive advantage?

Published in: on September 16, 2009 at 7:20 pm  Leave a Comment  
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