ITIC MENA: Insurance customer engagement in MENA

Jonathan Cooper, Managing Director, WIS

Jonathan’s presentation aimed to answer three key questions about the MENA travel insurance market:

  • Does insurance resonate with the consumer – do they see value in the product?
  • How do we increase penetration and leverage the travel trade to do so?
  • What role does, or can, technology play?

“As an industry, said Jonathan, I’m not convinced our product resonates with customers. It’s like selling a Ferrari to a man that only drives one day a year. The value of the product is not clear. ”

Defining the roles of the consumer and insurer in the process is key to understanding and improving the relationship, said Jonathan, pointing out that consumers in MENA often see travel cover as an administrative function – it is needed to secure a visa, but nothing more – and while Covid is driving demand, this could be temporary. Consumers in the region generally have a low understanding of the need to insure, and there are cultural and religious factors at play that act as a barrier to insurance purchases. “Offering customers services outside of the claim is going to be to changing customer attitudes,” said Jonathan.

Insurers in the GCC, meanwhile, view travel insurance as a relatively reliable product with historically low loss ratios – unlike travel insurance in other regions such as the UK – but insurers have struggled to grow meaningful critical mass of the business, with varying success depending on distribution channel. Furthermore, cover for more challenging risks, such as preexisting medical conditions, is relatively limited. “The increased awareness of travel cover, and the governmental requirements of it, is an opportunity on which the industry can build,” said Jonathan.

Looking at distribution of travel insurance, Jonathan said that the path to success lies in making it easier for travelers to purchase cover, embedding it in the purchase pathway for travelers. The direct market is very small currently, but it is growing. It’s also, though, about educating the travel trade, getting them to ask the question of the traveler, and then giving them a product that customers value and want to buy. “We need to do better to meet customer needs and offer them a product they value,” concluded Jonathan.

Michel Faucher, Chief Operating Officer, Now Health International

Michel’s presentation was about how IPMI is different pandemic post, and how the industry can use the tools at its disposal to empower customers to understand the product and use it more effectively. He focused on the value of international health insurance, and why and how it differs from travel insurance, how the industry can enhance customer understanding of insurance benefits, the challenge of identifying trusted distribution partners, the increasing acceptance of technological solutions such as telemedicine, and how the product is increasingly lifestyle focused.

Moving on to how health insurers can better engage with their customers, Michel highlighted the importance of empowering people to understand the policy they are buying: “Give them the tools and technology that allow them to select the benefits they need,” he told attendees. A lot of people have international healthcare benefits through their employer, and there is a lack of ownership of the policies in this particular demographic, but people should be taking out their own policy and understanding it, Michel believes. From a branding and marketing perspective, insurers need to not sell the policy details, but the lifestyle it can deliver to the customer and their family. Customization of policies is another way in which customers can feel more empowered with the choices – so insurers should consider their pricing and product structure and how this could give their customers more ownership.

How technology can help improve customer engagement was Michel’s final point. “Insurers are sitting on a lot of details, we just need to use it on a daily basis – modular pricing can be done, underwriting can be adapted,” he said. Inter-sector portals that allow this valuable data to be shared can empower insurers to connect the whole insurance ecosystem. “Ultimately, IPMI can help people stay healthy,” Michel concluded. “It’s not about them not making claims so we save money. It’s about ensuring the customer understands the product and how it can help them manage their health. ”

Claire Ryan, Global Head of International Sales, Europ Assistance (part of the Generali Group)

Generali works all over the world, partnering with many brands to embed the insurance product in the customer’s purchase pathway, pointed out Claire, and as such is uniquely positioned to show that in order to engage with any customer demographic, products have to be dynamic. “Insurance companies have to create a personalized offering,” said Claire. “Tailoring the right product with minimum risk cost is the basis for optimized conversion rates.”

Companies need to provide a balance between maximum product flexibility and simplicity of implementation for each market in which they wish to operate. Claire then shared how Europ Assistance designs its products, putting its coverage into three broad groups: the trip, the ‘stuff’ (baggage etc.), and the person (medical / dental). Customer information is then used to tailor the products further.

Customer groupings are based on similar coverages having common perils, explained Claire, and each prototype has eight different versions of each grouping by offering various levels of perils, limits, time-sensitive periods and exclusions. In theory, over 500 products can be created within these 24 segments. And in an example of the ongoing flexibility of the travel insurance product, Claire said that other segments can be created from the existing set within weeks.

Optimization of travel insurance policies mean that offerings are within the context of their environment, and a modular benefit structure, technology and policy fulfillment, maximum flexibility in the final product offering is possible. “In addition to customized travel insurance benefits, as a service-based organization, we’re capable of adding non indemnity services for further flexibility and revenue.” Claire mentioned telemedicine and cyber risk as being of particular interest to customers at the moment.

To achieve better customer engagement, insurers need to be able to provide a seamless digital sales journey, she continued. There are multiple customer touch points that improve conversion and customer experience during the travel booking and actual travel process, including providing an e-claims portal – Europ Assistance’s allows customers to file a claim in less than four minutes, and can be integrated into the partner company website, enhancing the customer experience with a seamless service. Digital capabilities are also key during the assistance process, and providing customers with simple access to a travel assistance portal empower customers and enhance the value of the product they have purchased.

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