Are you in a relationship? No, not in that way, but with the products you love? Marketers talk a lot about relationship marketing and building engagement with their customers. The theory is that if the brand provides information and advice, even entertainment, beyond the product they are selling then the customer gets more involved (or engaged) and is then more open to being sold to.
And I get that. For me I definitely am engaged with the BBC Sport website. They mix their own factual stories with gossip, entertaining comment and video – both new and archive. I could easily spend a couple of hours looking around. Although this may not be the best example as they are not trying to sell me something but, to be honest, if they did I would definitely buy!
Similarly, I think I have an ‘engaged’ relationship with Amazon. That’s very different in the sense that I am looking to buy, or at least shortlist what I might buy. However, having one place for music, films and books with what’s hot, what’s new and what’s coming next I find fantastic. And the consequence is that I buy way more there than maybe I should.
The thing about relationships though is that, in general, we don’t have that many of them (hopefully). In general, we maybe have one or two deep relationships, a few more casual ones and some fleeting ones that we drop in on every now and again.
So, taking all of this into account, when it comes down to it, how easy is it for an Insurance Company to build customer engagement? No-one really wants to have a relationship with their insurance provider. In reality there are only a few touch points in a year and all of these are pretty painful – such as paying the premium or making a claim. Is it realistic to think that an insurance brand can build a relationship with a consumer and keep them engaged enough to buy when the time is right?
I think, first of all, it is important to be realistic. Of all the relationships that the consumer has with brands, I personally don’t think it is feasible for the main one to be with an insurance company. However, given that we have to buy insurance, being the Insurance ‘best friend’ isn’t a bad place to be. Like the mate you can rely on to go to the pub to watch the football – reliable and available.
It is also key to remember that service is a fundamental basis of a relationship. Bearing in mind the small number of touch points that an insurance company has with the individual, getting that right is vital. Make finding the price easy, be clear on what is included and what isn’t and most importantly, if and when a claim does happen be responsible, fair and easy to deal with. Relationships are all about feelings and when you have lost something, been in a prang and had a crisis, having someone who listens, understands and helps is a real bonus.
Also, and personally I find this really important in a relationship, being recognised is nice. Going back to our friends at Amazon, it is great that whenever I drop onto the website they already know who I am – and ask me to confirm this. I then have to log in to buy anything but that seems fair. Why don’t more companies do this? I think a lot of brands are worried that this seems ‘big brother’ but if you are clear that by using cookies or other tools we are going to cut the time it takes to deal with us, most people will agree to that – and those who won’t get the chance to say no.
With all the information that is publically available about us as individuals, it is also quite surprising that more companies don’t use this to enhance our experience with them – even in subtle ways such as the pictures used on websites or in communications.
Ultimately, how engaged we are with any brand will come down to how much we enjoy the experiences we have with that brand. A relationship is two-way, it can’t be forced from one side only – that is basically stalking. Clearly in insurance there are some fundamentals such as decent and fair pricing and a strong brand that will always be taken into account when making a choice.
However, if the brand makes it easy to meet them, makes it enjoyable when we are together and are sensitive and caring in a crisis then we are much more likely to go on that second date.