How Farmers Insurance® enhances human relationships with digital experiences
Staying ahead of digital disruption can be a challenge in the insurance industry. How do the biggest and best companies do it?
In our interview with Amanda Reierson, head of digital at Farmers Insurance®, we learn that it’s not about replacing people with technology—it’s about using technology to enhance human interaction.
Skuid: What’s the difference between buying insurance now and buying insurance 20 years ago? What are customers looking for now in their insurance experience, and how is Farmers addressing those needs?
Reierson: Insurance trends follow many patterns for products and services in the marketplace. What remains constant is the expectation customers have for hands-on, on-demand service, with access to the information they want, when they want it. Farmers strives to meet this expectation. If you look at where we started nearly 90 years ago and where we are today, our agent model still provides that hands-on, value-added experience customers want. However, we are building digital capabilities in order to complement that agent experience. Our agents are a key differentiator for Farmers, and we continue to evolve to meet consumer needs now and beyond.
Farmers efforts in the area of technology innovation are driven by a commitment to improve the customer experience at every point of engagement. We have improved Farmers.com, and continue to upgrade our mobile app to provide customers easy access to their insurance information, such as their policy coverage and proof of insurance cards, and enable them to easily pay their premiums online and on the go. Agents with digital storefronts make it easier for consumers to locate and contact an agent. And with our Enterprise First Notice of Loss (EFNOL) system, we have been able to streamline the reporting of a loss. We make the process simpler and more efficient by providing customers the option to enter personal lines, homeowners, auto and specialty claims anytime and anywhere.
What’s different about Farmers’ approach to digital transformation? How do you let it change your business model—and convince the rest of the organization to adapt to changing technologies and processes?
Farmers agents continue to provide customers the human touch when navigating the insurance landscape. What has changed is our evolving customer preference options. While staying true to our business model, we’re building capabilities that customers expect from not only insurance companies, but other big brands that they do business with. So, our job is to make sure that we’re keeping up with the market in that respect.
What’s different about our approach is that we’re still true to our agent model, and we believe that technology will never replace the importance of human interaction. Our approach to digital is that we’re not looking to replace the agent. Through technology, we’re enhancing the agent-customer relationship by offering customers things quickly, more efficiently and providing them greater access to their policy information.
How do you keep an ongoing cycle of innovation at Farmers? How do you keep your digital transformation from stopping at one project?
We keep digital transformation from stopping at one project by keeping the dialogue open. One project can be a nice catalyst for additional projects, and a way for employees to see how things have gone well and how ideas can blossom into something bigger. I see it as ideas accelerating other ideas. You’ve got to give yourself the space, as a leader and as an employee, to be able to act on those ideas. We’re constantly evolving.
In this article, CIO talks about how companies must disrupt themselves. How is Farmers disrupting itself?
Technology is a constant investment at Farmers as we endeavor to stay abreast of innovation and advances, as well as disruptors to the insurance industry and the broader marketplace. Retaining your core business model, and putting problems or customer pain points on the table for employees to innovate around will result in a different way of doing things, while staying true to our core.
The article also says insurance should fail fast and fail smart. What are some ways Farmers is doing that?
Our approach to technology reflects an openness in the culture, transforming a legacy leader in the insurance industry into an agile, bold “mover and shaker” that is setting new standards for itself and the industry as a whole. Digital is a real platform for innovation—in the customer experience and advertising fronts—in that it’s one of the quicker ways to get something up from a test perspective and know if it’s working or not. But you have to go in with the mindset that not everything is going to work and be comfortable with that, and more importantly, set that kind of culture.
Sometimes, if you’re failing, you’re really failing forward and learning, and that feeds back into your next big journey or project. In today’s world, where technology is moving so fast, building a culture where failing can be positive, if it helps you ultimately advance, while still hitting your business goals and keeping that standard of excellence, is a challenge. Farmers is going through a technology transformation, and we’ve seen a lot of wins in the last few years, and that has fueled the strategy for moving forward and being as strong as we can be. There are a lot of things going on, and we’re doing it in a fashion that’s building on our strengths. So it’s an exciting time to be here.
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