Creating added value for insurance customers with design thinking


Technical feasibility, economic efficiency and compliance are important framework conditions in the insurance industry when it comes to developing new products and service offerings. But the knowledge of risks and limits quickly stands in the way of finding innovations. Design thinking can be a methodical way out of here, creating added value in product management and customer service.

International internet giants such as Amazon, Apple and Google, as well as fintechs, are so successful and popular not least because they develop very streamlined digital applications. At this point, these meet changed expectations of customers already mentioned before. For most policyholders, user-friendly apps and service offerings are now part of everyday life. This is especially true for the young target groups of Gen Z and Gen Y.

Traditional product development often gets in its own way

The classic development of products and service offerings in the insurance industry is generally based on an external view of customer needs. What risks do customers want to cover? What trends does the company see? How does the market develop or how does the competitor solve a certain problem?

In the course of the internal discussion, the specialist departments and experts then become involved in the topic and refer to regulatory issues, for example. The end result is a product description that is a compromise of all the different points of view.

The product is developed and introduced to the market in the hope that the subsequent eagerly awaited response from customers will be positive. So there is relatively late feedback from the actual most important people in this game.

And it doesn't have to be positive. It is unpleasant, for example, if the app, which was developed with a lot of energy, simply fails with the customers and there are negative reviews in the app stores. In order to improve the product, the deficiencies must be classified and then find their way into the development process that has already been outlined.

All this is time-consuming, expensive and ultimately risky, because there is also the possibility that the product cannot be improved at all because it was simply developed without taking into account the wishes and needs of the customers.

Design thinking as a structured process for innovations

Design thinking is a structured process for the development of innovations that focus on customers and users. The approach originates from industrial design and has been used by us several times in cooperation with customers. The aim is to involve the people who will later use a new service or product in its development as early as possible.

Economic efficiency and feasibility also play a role in design thinking. However, these considerations will follow at a later stage. The first step will be surveys and workshops with customers. It is about understanding current life circumstances and needs. This step does not necessarily have to take place exclusively in the form of interviews or discussion rounds. In the workshops, for example, very specific questions can also be worked out, such as how to proceed when looking for property insurance.

The behavior and the expressed wishes of the customers are analyzed in order to develop concepts and solutions in interdisciplinary (!) internal workshops on how these wishes can be implemented. Even if it may not seem so at first, the points at which insured persons express annoyance or dissatisfaction are particularly revealing. The identification of such "pain points" is hardly possible without direct participation.

Ideas in the form of models or early prototypes are the result of the findings of these workshops. They are again presented to the potential users and the feedback is received. Based on this feedback, the first prototype will be improved again. This procedure is repeated until the customers are satisfied.

Only now are economics and regulation entering the picture. Within the framework of this iterative process, the basis for the actual development or implementation of the desired solution is created.

Design thinking puts the customer in the center

With design thinking, insurance companies achieve two things: the interdisciplinary workshops and the direct participation of the users promote broader thinking. Points of view that would have had no influence at all on product development on the basis of surveys, statistics or market research alone are recognized and taken into account. That alone increases the chances of broad acceptance in the market.

In short: design thinking does not focus on the insurer and feasibility, but on the wishes of the customer. Just as customer-centric companies like Amazon exemplify.

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