Building a high touch world of agents with high-tech world of digital

| 14 Jul 2021

Video edited by Azri Bahari

Even as the vaccine reaches every arm, the world has already been transformed by COVID-19. Employees and consumers have embraced remote work and the digital life as the new normal simply for its convenience, and for some, it means a more productive lifestyle through the time saved from daily commutes.

We spoke to Max Life Insurance Deputy Managing Director V. Viswanand, to find out how insurance, a traditionally face-to-face business, has adapted with digital initiatives to help its agents reach out to their customers, as well as its consumers to stay protected.

Combining high touch world of agents with high-tech world of digital

Mr Viswanand shared that in the 2000s, insurance in India focused on growing the distribution footprint.

It was during that time when the world slowly stepped into the digital age that saw the emergence of new products competing with one another. As the market grew with a long list of products that catered to different requirements, insurers realised customers were also becoming tech-savvy.

Focusing on customer-centricity and understanding the mind-set of the customer is vital in the digital era. Insurers must maintain the balance of servicing existing clients who are growing older yet find new ways to attract millennials and Gen Z customers.

As part of Max Life’s ‘India Protection Quotient 3.0’ survey conducted in association with Kantar, results showed a 6% jump in life insurance ownership by millennials over the course of a year. “This group of customers approached the concept of insurance and insurance companies through online platforms. We observed that the sum assured that millennials are purchasing seems significantly higher than other cohorts because they have a propensity for pure term plans where the sum assured is nearly eight times higher than investment plans,” said Mr Viswanand.

“With e-commerce, the market is expected to grow 20% year-on-year for the next few years, which is why insurers should morph their approach to e-commerce in order to attract the millennials,” he added. 

Focusing towards a digital approach, Max Life Insurance is making sure its agents are directing their customers to trusted sources for information for those who prefer self-help or the online approach. “If we can marry the traditional high touch world of agents with the high-tech world of digital, it will really be a force multiplier for the sector”

Mission Possible

Drawing inspiration from the action film series Mission: Impossible, the launch of “Mission Possible” saw Max Life Insurance move its operations digital operating model. The fast-paced shift into this new ecosystem in 2020 helped retain majority of previous year’s business and even saw growth in the following quarters of the year.

Through various digital tools and initiatives, Max Life Insurance agents were able to engage with customers effectively. Agents could also get training and certification online via the company’s Mbuddy platform. Even employee recruitment for Max Life Insurance is now paperless and contactless. Also the new agent recruitment is done via smart electronic direct mailers that allow recruiters to share information via digital tools.

Reimagining the role of agents

“I think due to Covid-19 and the subsequent waves we've been experiencing have created an all-time, record high demand for life insurance, term insurance and health insurance. This is indicated through the consumer search intents on Google in India.”

With that as the new narrative, agents will need to adapt and focus on becoming more digital and customer centric. Making sure that its agents are keeping up with all the digital capabilities that the company is investing in, Mr. Viswanand said, “The magic doesn’t happen just within the brand’s premises or agency branch, it has to also move to the agent’s tools and to the consumer’s mind.”

Stay ahead of the curve

Two lessons that Mr Viswanand has personally picked up from this pandemic are to – stay paranoid and find purpose.  

 “Stay paranoid, be paranoid. Don’t think that you know it all. Nobody knows the future, so adopt digital, adopt a growth mind-set. Start thinking omni channel and embrace online ecosystem of partnerships.”

Second lesson is to find purpose. Millennial job seekers have a trend of seeking meaningful, purposeful jobs. “Instead of counting new business, think sum assured and the guaranteed protection you’re offering. From just measuring renewal premiums, think customer loyalty and net promoter scores.”

In times like these, especially during a pandemic, Mr Viswanand hopes practitioners overcome their hesitation to connect. “There is an unprecedented pull from customers on term insurance, life insurance and health insurance. And on the other hand, there are advisers who are hesitating to connect. By closing the supply and demand gap, consumers get what they want, and the agents and insurance sector get to grow.”

More from Max Life Insurance:

Riding the digital wave in insurance - Manu Lavanya, director and COO of Max Life Insurance

Three traits for life insurance agents of tomorrow - Max Life Insurance Deputy MD

How life insurers can transform into a new-age digital hybrid sales distribution model post COVID-19 

Reimagining the role of advisers to align with the future of life insurance distribution in India

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