Digital Innovations: We are the biggest digital start-up

Digitalisation & innovation, 16.03.2018

This past week I was invited to the Versicherungsmonitor’s “Breakfast Briefing” to discuss the topic “Partnership of Insurtech and Insurers – model for the future or act of desperation?”. There, I discussed with the dedicated people behind the successful start-ups like Koya, Element and Flexperto. The key question of the morning was: Are traditional insurers the only ones who aren't riding the wave of digital innovation? Here's my answer!

Digital means that there are new, exciting technologies which we can take advantage of in order to make the lives of our customers easier and inspire them. We know a lot about these technologies, but haven't been exploiting their potential for a long time. For example, the topic of Voice is a decisive future technology, especially in an industry such as ours in which service plays a big role. But the present chat bots are still far from what's possible. To properly keep up to speed, we need partnerships with new players in the insurance market.

Unique digitalisation strategy in the insurance market

We at ERGO are looking for new partners in Berlin, London and Silicon Valley, where we’ve set up teams to find the right partners for our specific demands. We have to meet these partners at eye level. Because: The good providers have the option of choosing who they want to work with. There's no place for arrogance on the side of the insurers here. Conversely, however, digital innovation is something only the young and wild out there do; the classic insurers are the losers – a notion which some participants of the discussion at the “Breakfast Briefing” reiterated – that doesn't apply to us at ERGO.

ERGO had the courage to establish an entity with Digital Ventures, which is there exclusively for digitalisation and digital interfaces. Across the process chains of the ERGO Group, we examine if and how we can improve in terms of digitalisation of the customer interface. This structure is unparalleled in the German Insurance market. What kind of opportunities the entity ERGO Digital Ventures creates is exemplified by our Customer Rela-tionship Management.

Treating customers the way they want to be treated

According to market studies, ERGO has one of the best e-mail marketing strategies of all German insurers. Customer communication at ERGO isn't clumsy, it's relevant. Properly informing based on needs instead of pestering, that's the trigger. This way, those with motor vehicle insurance in cities receive other news than the ones in rural areas. With a countdown we’re also able to announce to potential customers the change date for their motor vehicle insurance, and the mailings look different in rainy weather than in sunshine. Thus we’ve been able to significantly increase the closure rates. Dr Alexander Hombach, Head of CRM and previously actively employed at Telekom and eBay in the United States, has shown that online and traditional sales can be extremely fruitful.

The customers want Omnichannel. More and more, they want text chat, because it's anonymous and can run as a “second screen” while watching TV. At the same time, they still always place their greatest trust in their agent, who they know and value. We at ERGO have consistently combined these in a way no other player in the industry has. In a test run, our online specialists in Nuremberg managed customer portfolios from traditional agents. One of the agents called after the successful pilot in Nuremberg – and “thanked his 1,000 new colleagues ”.

Partners are vital to moving ahead. But we are personally the biggest start-up!

Our consistent one-source digitalisation strategy pays off. Omnichannel is only one of the areas in which we’ve made considerable progress. Carsten Crede, Head of ERGO Mobility Solutions is in demand as an expert at the Geneva Car Show and is speaking together with Daimler CEO Dieter Zetsche at an important auto conference in China. But all of that's not enough; we now have to consistently keep at it. My discussion partner Felix Anthonj, founder and managing director of the software service provider Flexperto, made a decisive call to arms to the insurers at the “Breakfast Briefing” to decide if they want to take over the customer interface or not. Otherwise, they ran the risk of becoming mere suppliers to the companies, who, like car manufacturers or electronics providers, already have a broad and digital contact base with the customer.

This decision was made at ERGO long ago: For us, the customer interface is absolutely decisive. That's why we’ll continue entering into partnerships with highly promising start-ups who can help us get better access to customers. But we personally are the biggest start-up. We were the first German insurer to introduce video telephony in the customer service and the first insurer to be accessible for its customers via text chat. We have the feedback on millions of customers; we know what’s important to them and what isn’t. And we have the courage to keep breaking ground. 

I look very much forward to your comments, questions or suggestions.
Best regards, Mark Klein

Author: Mark Klein

Mark Klein is Chief Digital Officer ERGO Group and Chairman of the Board of Management of ERGO Digital Ventures AG. Here you find Mark Klein on LinkedIn.

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