Computers and artificial intelligence have come along at an exponential rate over the past few decades, from being regarded as oversized adding machines to the point where they have played integral roles in some legitimately creative endeavours.
The life insurance sector has traditionally had low engagement with customers. But for MetLife’s chief product and marketing officer, Tim Tez, technology and data can be successfully used to reconnect with customers and make those touch points more memorable and relevant.
“The skill sets of marketing teams and the expectations of CMOs have certainly transformed, particularly compared to 15 years ago, when technology was latent. Now it is ubiquitous,” he tells CMO. “As an industry, we need to connect and engage with customers on a more personal level than what we have been doing.”
According to Tez, the insurance sector has traditionally struggled to engage with its customers, firstly because they don’t have the opportunity to connect on a daily basis.
“Life insurance is also highly regulated and has traditionally been a very conservative sector of the financial services, with engagement typically fairly low,” he says. “But what we do have is access to a wealth of data, so we need to be able to use that data to pinpoint exactly where our opportunities are, how we can engage customers in an impactful way that’s relevant and authentic.”
At MetLife, Tez says his team is working on the delivery of digital, data analytics, direct marketing and customer-centric product design.
“There is now an expectation for us to be across not just the marketing discipline, but technology, data and the role of digital within the customer engagement and product design process,” he explains. “That’s led to change with how we engage with IT and the technology department, because it’s increasingly important to build those capabilities within the marketing team.”
In order to drive engagement, Tez says MetLife is starting with membership engagement, working with several partners.
“Insurance is a grudge purchase in a lot of instances,” he says. “We struggle with relevancy because of that. Often, price is one of the main drivers in why they would select an insurer, so we’re working on new products that are more innovative, provide more touchpoints and more engagement with customers.
“It gives them a reason to connect with us and be more relevant to our customers at large. We’re also working on our digital engagement strategies with our partners to ensure we’re providing the right information and make it as seamless as possible to purchase insurance and be relevant.”
MetLife recently launched its new ‘Inifinity’ app, designed to help capture and securely store photos, video, audio and documents in one place for safe-keeping.
“It’s essentially a digital time capsule,” Tez says. “We’ve also launched our super fund data tool, which helps our super fund clients leverage their data as we improve their customer engagement.
“These are not traditionally things insurers have had, but it’s all about embracing digital and marketing to make you more relevant to your customers.”
When it comes to embracing technology, Tez believes the customer adoption of technology has been rapid, compared to the insurance sector that has been less up to speed.
“Looking back, we’ve seen significant changes within the industry, but I think the potential for market disruption lies in leveraging technology and data,” he says. “We do have access to a great deal of data and there’s much more scope to use it better, so we’re committed to keep providing some world-class solutions to our partners and customers.”
Tez says he’s not a fan of the ‘disruptor’ buzzword, because for MetLife, the primary focus is simply to serve customers better.
“I don’t think we’re looking at replicating existing models,” he says. “We’re looking to build and improve upon it to make it much more user-friendly and customer-centric.”
Tez stresses while it’s important to look at the technology and the tangible items, it’s critical to consider cultural change as well.
“Sometimes we ignore the importance of a cultural shift that an organisation needs to drive engagement forward,” he says. “In recent years, our industry has gone through tremendous change and transformation, and while it has been traditionally slow moving, our role is to embrace and encourage a dynamic, innovative and customer-centric focus right through the organisation – from the call centre staff to the CEO.”
With customer centricity the cultural focus, Tez says MetLife has more recently put a specific focus on delivering better outcomes for millennials. The group has also built an innovation team in Singapore to further conceive the concepts and processes around innovation and disruption for the region.
On top of this, the organisation has spent a lot of time and resources upskilling the marketing teams in customer-centred design, which means going out on the frontline and actually talking to the customers.
“I would imagine most CMOs across most industries and sectors will have to embrace this cultural challenge, rather than paying lip service to it or just address the tangible,” Tez adds. “CMOs will have to try different things and acknowledge some things aren’t always going to work. Most people know what to do, but sometimes it’s just having the bravery to embrace what that cultural shift really means and championing it within your organisation.”
Tim Tez was listed as one of the inaugural CMO' 50 for 2015. You can read his full profile here.