Insurance—be it health, car, life, or any other kind—is a peculiar product. It’s one of the few items a customer might buy and hope to never use, but they still need to be sure it will work when they need it.
For that reason, Rob Burr, CEO of insurance provider iptiQ, says the insurance business is an industry predicated entirely on trust.
“Ultimately, you've got to be able to conclude that when you need to have a claim paid that that company will be there, and you can trust them to be there when you need them,” Burr says.
Burr got his start in the insurance industry working at Prudential during the pre-internet era when, he says, the company had agents deliver claims checks on their first day on the job. Delivering a life insurance claim to a widow on the poor side of Wimbledon was his first encounter with the trust claimants put in insurers to deliver.
“The look of relief on her face,” Burr recalls.
At iptiQ, which is a digital-first B2B2C unit of insurer Swiss Re, part of Burr’s job is to build trust with customers that the insurer will deliver on payments—perhaps so that current clients look more satisfied than relieved when they receive a payout. Ironically, as more insurance providers digitize their services, fewer agents will see customer faces at all.
But the industry isn’t ready to go fully digital, and perhaps never will. While digitization has provided new opportunities for insurers to reach previously unreachable customers, or made it easier for consumers to buy mundane but critical products like car insurance, Burr says the majority of insurance issuance still requires a human touch.
“I could automate everything in my value chain probably tomorrow, but my consumers would not want that. My consumers still want the option to pick up the phone and talk to a human being rather than a machine,” Burr says, especially when dealing with nuanced, personal products like health insurance.
“This comes back to trust: The deployment of technology has got to be on the consumer’s terms,” Burr says.
The same is true with data collection. Although insurers can use rampant data collection to offer cheaper and more personalized insurance quotes, doing so often diminishes trust. Consumers need to trust their data will be secure and used for their own benefit before handing it over.
With insurance, much like banking, an army of regulators set standards for proprietors to meet on issues like data privacy, and a slew of third-party auditors verify the companies are fulfilling those obligations. But those are standard measures for building trust. For Burr, building trust in iptiQ as a company relies on embedding trust as part of the corporate culture.
“In our leadership teams, we measure their performance not only in terms of what they did, but we also measure certain behaviors that we require from our leadership,” Burr says. “Transparency, accountability, simplicity, accessibility: Their year-end performance is assessed on living those values.”
“We want to create a culture where if you know if something is successful, we can share it, and if there is a problem, we can discuss it openly without fear of recrimination,” Burr says. After all, to mangle an old adage: How are customers going to trust your business if you can’t trust it yourself?