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Interview with Generali: talking digital in the insurance business

Generali is a leading company in the European insurance market for individuals, professionals and SMEs, while building a focused, global asset management platform and pursuing opportunities in high potential markets. In partnership with NGCX Asia, Retail in Asia had the pleasure to interview Neil Gardner, Regional Chief Customer Officer, Asia, Generali.

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RiA:  Generali is a global company that over the years has successfully adjusted its products to each and every market you cover. How are you aligning communication both internally and externally to succeed in it?

Gardner: Regardless of the size of a company, be it a large multinational conglomerate or domestic monoline, what is critical is that the company is clear with its Brand Strategy and defining its Brand Experience.

For us we call that “Lifetime Partner”. And so whilst we use a global creative standard for communications, the cornerstones of the success of “Lifetime Partner” comes from having local flexibility within a framework to drive segment relevance. We need to demonstrate that we are part of a large multi-national company – this gives our brand strength – but also be locally relevant to our customers in 50 markets.

Generali GCC day 1 0857
Source: Generali

RiA: Insurance business has been changing over the years and particularly become relevant during the pandemic. What have been the main changes and how to remain relevant to customers in this particular moment in time?

Gardner: Obviously the pandemic has had massive impact for our 65 million customers and members and the emerging markets of Asia have been some of the most severely affected. Those that had coverage relied on Generali to take care of their needs by paying claims quickly whilst those that were not covered were desperately seeking coverage. One of the tenets of “Lifetime Partner” is simplified language. Customers must understand exactly what they are covered for. This ensures that we do not let them down in a key moment of truth – the claims process.

In terms of behavior change, the use of digital was a game changer.

Visitors to our websites – to both buy and claim – have increased dramatically year on year – up 35%. Customers were hesitant to see agents face to face, so digital sales increased 40% YoY. But most satisfying, was that we managed to improve our Customer satisfaction against our last year’s performance and against our key competitors.

RiA: How has digital supported the marketing strategy of Generali?

Gardner: I find it funny that we still talk of people with the word “Digital” in their job title. I do not see anyone with “Analogue” or “Non Digital” in their job titles. It is crazy because digital has become ubiquitous in 2021. It does not support your marketing strategy; it is your Marketing Strategy and you have to be prepared to be digital first.

So we are investing heavily in our Martech stack… Lead Management…. CRM…. Content Libraries… CMS…. I feel like I am a CTO sometimes, not a CCO.

Data is knowledge and knowledge is power.

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Source: Shutterstock

RiA: Has there been any change in terms of customer base? If yes, how?

Gardner: The overall number has increased. Year on year, we have increased our Customer base in Asia 15%. It is hard to tell if this is just a “bump” from the pandemic, but I do not think so. I think that COVID is changing the landscape whilst highlighting the importance of Health Insurance for many people, who had never considered it before.

Of course, it has severely impacted our Travel Insurance business, but we think that when travel opens up again, then it will bounce back quickly.

Plus the pandemic is opening up new product categories, such as business continuity and micro-insurance.

But whilst the customer numbers are improving, insurance in emerging markets in Asia is still under penetrated compared to mature markets.

Source: Generali

RiA: What are you expecting at NGCX Asia and why is this a must-not miss event?

Gardner: Times have changed with the pandemic and with the new norm of webinar conferences, it is really easy to attend them. The time commitment bar has dropped considerably. NGCX has a really interesting line up. I am looking forward to listening to Jason Bradshaw talk about “evolving customer demand”. I have heard he is a great speaker.

I am also keen to listen to speakers talk about UX and Design thinking. It is an area that I want to learn more about and there are some fantastic brands showcasing their approach.

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RiA: What will you be sharing during the event?

Gardner: My own slot is talking about aligning brand experience and internal customer culture. I am very passionate about making sure we “walk the talk” when it comes to communications and service delivery. I believe that it is critical when it comes to scoring high in Customer experience. We need to make sure the customer expectation is delivered and something we at Generali are making great progress with.

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