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Five Strategic Insurance Business Imperatives for 2016

One of these days the ground will drop out from beneath your feet
One of these days your heart will stop and play its final beat
One of these days the clocks will stop and time won’t mean a thing

“These Days”, Dave Grohl, Foo Fighters

 As we kick-off 2016, the time is now for industry decision-makers to make a profound difference in the way Insurance business is transacted. Not just for competitive position, but for future generations, shareholders and most importantly, for the customer. Peer group competitors are formulating action plans now to address the most pressing tactical and strategic business imperatives across the enterprise for 2016 and beyond. Are you? Here are five top focus areas for 2016 that I am hearing from insurance executives across both Life and P&C:

  1. Digital Strategy
  2. Security
  3. Collaboration
  4. Talent Acquisition and Retention
  5. Business Outcome Approach

Read More »

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Marketing in the Digital Age: Trends to Watch in 2016

Remember 1995? That was the year we put ‘e’ in front of everything to signify that it was being done ‘electronically.’ eBusiness, eCRM, and eProcurement were all the rage.

Fast forward to 2016 and we’ve dropped the ‘e’ because doing things electronically has become the norm.  The same will happen with the term ‘Digital’ Marketing. Cisco’s CMO Karen Walker has said, “Marketing was the last function to be industrialised and the first function to be digitised.” Marching into the future, that means we’re no longer doing ‘Digital’ Marketing, we’re simply Marketing in a digital world.

As the term Digital Marketing dies and Marketing regains its place, what other trends will accelerate in 2016? Here are my thoughts

1. AIDA will become AIDAA

Our marketing text books teach us to drive customer engagement according to the AIDA model: attention, interest, desire, action.  In 2016 I’m adding an ‘a’ – for Advocacy!

Once a customer has purchased a product or a service from a company, the ultimate goal is to have that customer share the positive experience with peers. Why?  According to Edelman’s 2014 Trust Barometer, customers trust their peers more than any sales and marketing collateral – and even more than industry analysts.

Cisco has taken this message to heart and has officially made it part of our marketing team’s role and purpose – ”To inspire people to prefer, choose, and advocate Cisco.”  I’m sure we’ll hear a lot more about customer advocacy in 2016.

2. Customer data will improve the customer experience

Market leaders have always had rich customer data on their installed base and could predict future behaviour based on past bookings and external insight. We’ve now gained the ability to layer additional data based on what customers are doing online.  This is good news for marketers, obviously, because we can use customer intelligence to inform the customer journey.  But what’s more important is that it’s good news for the customer – because companies are able to use the information they collect to fine tune the customer experience.

This critical link between customer data and customer experience is echoed by Jeremy Bevan, Vice President of EMEAR Marketing at Cisco. In his blog post, “Is Customer Experience Your North Star?” Bevan implores marketers: “consumers have more purchasing muscle today than yesterday – they are firmly in the driving seat – so why are you not working harder to create the optimal customer experience?” Look for marketers to take Bevan’s challenge to heart in 2016.

3. The use of predictive analytics will explode

Not only do today’s customers want companies to react to the “digital footprint” they leave behind – they are put off when we don’t. As a recent Harvard Business Review report explains, “When marketers send customers a promotion for a product they already own or would never be interested in, they send a clear signal: We don’t know much about you, and we don’t much care.”

Predictive analytics provide the critical information marketers need to know their customers well and demonstrate that they care. A study conducted by Forrester Consulting revealed that most B2B marketing organisations (89 percent) see value in using predictive analytics to identify new opportunities and to better qualify leads. The more advanced users also realise upstream and downstream benefits: 97 percent analyse their best customers and understand how/why they buy; 92 percent optimise the marketing mix to reach the right types of buyers. The takeaway? In 2016, marketers who aren’t yet using predictive analytics will get on board – fast.

4.  The face of content marketing will change

Buyers are still using content to inform their digitally driven purchasing decisions, but it’s not the content of yesterday. To help buyers through the journey – and to spark conversations along the way – marketers are developing new forms of content marketing that are dynamic and personalised.  They’re highly visual.  They’re fun and humorous. What’s more, many of them are not even created solely by the marketing organisation. In 2016, we’ll see less content created by corporate marketing teams and agencies and more created by the folks that are closer to customers:  local marketing teams, company employees, and even users themselves. For more on this trend, see my blog post, “Content Marketing: It’s Getting Personal.”

5. Marketers will act more like publishers

Marketers are good at creating content, but we have traditionally worked in linear sprints that deliver programs like a website refresh or a marketing campaign. In 2016, as content marketing continues its reign, we’ll have to work as if we’re publishing a never-ending daily newspaper.  The hallmarks of this new approach?  Telling great stories to engage readers, using analytics to ensure that content is audience driven, and balancing breaking news with feature-length pieces.

This will not be an easy transition for marketers. We’ll have to get comfortable with paradoxes:  maintaining corporate oversight while enabling local personalisation; operating according to strict schedules while allowing for responsiveness; and balancing the quality of content against an incessant need for quantity.

6. Marketers will move from listening to responding in real-time

We’ve known for a while that it’s not good marketing to simply broadcast your viewpoint to prospective customers. Recently, we’ve been focused on listening to what our customers are telling us.  In 2016, we’ll need to respond to customers’ needs in real-time.

What will real-time marketing look like? According to a recent report from Wayin, a social intelligence company, 49% of respondents say real-time marketing is the ability to respond within minutes to an event – and 26% say it is the ability to respond within seconds. But here’s the really important bit:  98% of those surveyed (200 manager and executive-level marketers at companies with more than $100 million in revenue) say they see a positive revenue impact from their real-time marketing efforts. Speed pays – and in 2016, marketers will pull out all the stops to respond at lightening speeds.

With so much change predicted for 2016, how can marketers master it all? We can’t.  We’ll have to experiment, run the analytics, tinker with the formula, fail sometimes, and try again.  As Richard Tyler says so nicely, “The greatest risk is NOT doing something different, the greatest risk is staying doing the same thing.” If we wait for perfection, we’ll get left behind. Let’s dare to begin before we’re ready! Happy New Year!

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Make Some New Friends: Jimi Hendrix and Customer Experience Part 2

Do the names Linda Keith and Chas Chandler ring a bell? Well, without their influence, we may have never heard of Jim Hendrix.

In May 1966, Keith ran into the then-obscure Hendrix playing at the Cheetah club in New York.  “He was astonishing – the moods he could bring to music, his charisma, his skill and stage presence,” she recalls. “Yet nobody was leaping about with excitement. I couldn’t believe it.”

HENDRIXKeith convinced Chas Chandler to come see Hendrix on August 2, 1966 in Manhattan. Chandler was the bass player for the hit group “The Animals” at that time. “He was the best guitar player I had ever heard.,”  Chandler would later comment of the performance. Chandler became intent on making Hendrix a star – but to do that, Hendrix had to go to a new place to start fresh – the U.K.

Successful customer experience for contact center directors also means going to new places – organizationally. The contact center is a critical cog in the “Big 3” of customer engagement, where the propensity of customer interactions (vs. transactions) occurs between the web, the mobile device, and the contact center.  In contrast, many businesses are not organized holistically across these three critical elements. And on occasion, each domain architects conflicting business outcomes.

Leading companies view the customer journey as a singularity from a mobile, web, and contact center perspective. Managers of these domains are beginning to exist under common organizational designs. Many are beginning to report into chief experience of digital officers.

Much like Jimi Hendrix needed to make some new friends to achieve success, so it is in business. If you’re operating in isolation, expand your organizational boundaries if you haven’t yet. Make some new friends in your mobile and web application teams. Customer experience stardom may be right around the corner for you also!

Discover more about how Cisco’s customer experience offerings can help make music for your customers here:

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Mortgage Lenders Imperative – Engage Millennials

I am a millennial and my entire financial life fits in my front pocket.

Whether I am setting up automatic credit card payments, paying a friend back for a dinner he paid for, making my monthly rent payment, or buying the latest Wall Street darling stock; it can all be accomplished with four or five taps on my smartphone.

Since the advent of the iPhone in 2007, the app economy has flourished, and now there seems to be an app for everything. This is particularly true for the financial services industry. There are apps for banking, investing, measuring net worth, tracking expenses, processing payments, and for things that probably neither you nor I have even thought of yet.

This trend has spilled over from the world of simple financial transactions to the complex financial world. Exemplifying this perfectly is the astounding success of Quicken Loans, which has grown to become the third largest United States mortgage lender (by volume) after adjusting its strategy in the late 90’s to become a direct digital lender. And as you may have guessed, they have an app for that. Read More »

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#CiscoChat Recap: No More Bankers’ Hours

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How often do you bank? ?

For me, it’s a few times a week, but more frequently when I have a few bills to pay. Today, digital technologies makes checking balances, transferring money and even depositing checks an “anytime, anywhere” process using apps and mobile devices. Banks and other financial institutions that plan to stay ahead of the digital disruption must find innovative ways to transform and differentiate themselves. Otherwise, they may end up a part of the estimated four out of today’s top 10 financial services giants that could be displaced by digital disruption in the next five years or as Chris Skinner predicts, ‘see all their margin on traditional products erode in the next decade’.

During our latest #CiscoChat, banking futurist Chris Skinner (@Chris_Skinner), chairman of Europe’s Financial Services Club, joined @CiscoFSI for a live and fun discussion on how banks can make money, when everything is ‘free’. When transactions are table stakes.

If you missed the chat, the full recap is here. Below, I summarized a few of the highlights and insights. Read More »

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