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InsurTalks Podcast with Dr. Robin Kiera: Nurturing Sales in the Global Shutdown

9 minutes, 45 seconds read

Today, we are facing a crisis unlike ever before. The outbreak of COVID-19 has shaken the very foundation of the world economy. Social distancing and lockdowns have disrupted supply chains and international trade. 

We are seeing an unprecedented surge in lay-offs since the last economic recession in 2008. Amongst other industries that have been affected, Insurance and InsurTech are also finding it difficult to deal with the crisis. To get deeper insights on the new strategy for Insurance Sales, we interviewed Dr. Robin Kiera, founder of  Digitalscouting and renowned Insurtech & Fintech Influencer.

Digitalscouting is a platform with over 70,000 followers for thought leaders, entrepreneurs, and senior managers in finance and insurance to share best practices, lessons learned, and up-to-date views on tech and business trends around the world. 

Dr. Robin is a Co-author of The InsurTECH Book which offers essential updates, critical thinking, and actionable insight globally from startups, incumbents, investors, tech companies, advisors, and other partners in this evolving ecosystem, in one volume. He also advises and mentors many start-ups and corporations in various industries. His other areas of expertise include Brand & Marketing, Public Relations, Business, and Management. 

Connect with Dr. Robin Keira- LinkedIn

Complete podcast:

Excerpt from the interview-

Impact of COVID-19 on Insurance in Europe

Europe’s Insurance markets are facing a severe crisis? How are carriers, agencies, and insurance professionals in Europe developing measures to survive the global shutdown?

Dr. Robin: We have several live shows that we do in English and German where we interview several CXOs in the insurance industry. Mr. Christopher Lohmann from Gothaer Insurance said that only 10% of sales are doing well. 

So the question is, what do they do well? 

The answer to that is, they talk to clients, change their value propositions and product portfolios. 

One agent from Allianz said he is doing well because in the initial weeks of the lockdown he reached out to small and mid-sized businesses and helped them cope with the situation — displaying humility on their part. One of them helped his client in restaurant business sign-up for an online delivery service during lockdown. It wasn’t his job, however, if his client does good business, he will remain his client. Some agents and brokers took this opportunity to invest time into their client’s businesses and flourishing them. 

Other areas of distribution such as bank insurance i.e. selling insurance via banks are facing losses as most retail banks are closed and a lot of them have not found ways to effectively communicate with their clients.  

On the claims side, we haven’t seen any disastrous news yet. Also, it is interesting to see from the Life Insurance segment which did not see a surge in claims for term life or whole life insurance. However, we saw general insurance lines such as car insurance going down as not many people are driving. It’s a mixed picture. While in US insurers are paying the claims, in Germany insurers have decided to wait till the end of the year to assess the state of claims. 

The holding company of AXA announced it’s revenue numbers for the 1st quarter which was (-)10%. The negative figure means that new businesses are slaughtered. On the other hand, there’s been a boost for agencies. Our clients ask us how they can help their sales team to sell insurance policies since they cannot meet during this time. There’s been a dramatic change in the way insurance sales works.

The Reinforced Insurance Sales Strategy

How can Insurers equip their agents to generate sales in this pandemic?

Dr. Robin: It depends on the philosophy of an insurance company. Many insurance companies here are very old and go as far back as the 19th century. They have a very authoritarian culture and the agent-insurer relationship is very complex. There are some trust issues due to the unethical practices. 

For example, one of the big insurers promised young people to get on board and provide them with customer portfolios. But on the day of business, they see that only half of the portfolios were provided. If there is such a toxic relationship in an organization, then it gets difficult to deliver good output. 

However, small and mid-sized insurance companies have a very nice working culture where they willingly help their sales people. They have a very effective way of communicating with each other. 

Insurance Sales in The New Normal 

What are some Attention hacking lessons for Insurers operating in ‘The New Normal’?

Dr. Robin: Let’s divide and focus on two groups. 

First is the End Customer. For example, we have a client which is a big insurer with a distribution model to banking i.e bank insurance. We looked at every single touch-point in the process and noticed that they were not present in any. So we started placing them in every touch-point. Therefore, when a user logs into his bank account, the insurer can extract their data with the demographics, individualize and present relevant content/product.

[Related: How Technology is Transforming Insurance Distribution Channels]

Second is Sales. It doesn’t make sense to spend millions of euros and dollars in advertising with celebrities. Instead, they should produce content with people they know in the insurance community such as bank managers, insurance agents, etc. However, what’s more important is how insurers communicate and manage their sales against brokers, retail employees, etc. 

One of the most unestimated channels of communication is the messenger system. For example, WhatsApp, which is very popular in the west. We started experimenting with WhatsApp two years ago and the response was amazing. 

Sales managers use this distribution channel to share content with their agents. It brings 10x or sometimes 50x better engagement than a newsletter coming from headquarters. It is very necessary to focus on the attention of the end customer but also of the sales team. There are many simple ways to engage with sales guys such as interviewing top 2-3 performers with a simple smartphone. The key is to produce massive content and share with customers and sales that they are zoomed into the company. 

[Product: Lead Generation Chatbot]

Prevailing Technological Challenges

What are some of the technological challenges faced by Insurers operating in the New Normal?

Dr. Robin: The insurance industry needs to change culturally. They need to be a part of the daily lives of its customers and agents. They need to win their hearts, minds, and home screens. Insurers need to be on the apps, on platforms, and help them provide value. For that, we need technology. 

[Related: Four New Consumer-centric Business Models in Insurance]

Technology helps in faster claims and application processes which is a given but there are still many companies in the world that do not have these standard processes automated. I believe that the true game-changer will be AI, data science, data analytics in claims or underwriting departments. 

[Report: The State of AI in Insurance 2020]

Insurance is ripe for AI. Still, why are some Insurers still hesitant to invest in AI?

Dr. Robin: Traditional Insurers overlook the capabilities of AI and other technologies. Having people both — from inside and outside of the industry can give a broader perspective on applications of technology to bring innovative products and solutions. 

Product Innovations in Insurance

What product innovations in insurance are going to take place for short-term, mid-term, and long-term?

Dr. Robin:  In the short-term, adaptation of certain payment methods like pausing the payments and lowering risks could be done. 

In the mid-term, you will see more flexible products, more lean underwriting, or more lean claim management. What we need to think is about our role in society. Our mind-set should not be of pushing insurance products down the throats of the customers. What our role is to pool risks and stand by those who have been hit by these risks. We should not just help them during claims but before as well. 

For example, why should we have to replace a car if we could send them a push notification intimating them of the hailstorm and advising to put their car inside the garage? 

Another example is, why to sponsor super expensive healthcare when we can help the people to live healthier lives. Having customers call you portrays that the insurer is the solution. And that is what I believe the long-term goal should be. 

COVID-19: An Impetus to Digital Processes?

Insurers are taking the distribution process online. How are the Insurers adjusting to this new model? Is the ongoing pandemic, going to be the impetus for insurance to move completely digital? 

Dr. Robin:  Having come so far to 2020, I think it is very rude to do time-consuming tasks. What is needed here is to educate the people that their manual tasks can be done by machines. Today, there is so much knowledge available out there. One of my clients asked me how much we should invest in educating employees. To which I said, zero. You don’t have to hire so many consultants to educate them, just send them relevant YouTube videos. 

Way Forward for InsurTech

InsurTech largely facilitates technology in terms of scale, distribution, and market fit. How will New Normal InsurTech create market attractiveness?

Dr. Robin: The first thing that InsurTech or any other company needs to understand that all the plans made earlier have now become irrelevant. It’s time to research and build value propositions for existing clients and prospects. This would include a new pricing and pilot structure as well. 

For example, we can create a small package of services which an insurer can easily download and try out. I don’t think they should aim for $100-$200 million deals but rather give this small package demo to insurers trying to get them hooked on it. This will pave the way for getting more business. I have seen some software companies slashing prices to 70%-80% in some cases. It’s not always the question of pricing, but when InsurTechs say that they’re not able to sell, it ‘s time to re-evaluate their pricing models.   

Road to Recovery for General Insurance

Many General Insurance lines are hit- Travel, Motor, Home – what will be the road to recovery for these Insurance lines?

Dr. Robin: It’s going to be difficult. I was talking to Chris Skinner, an author in the finance space where he said that it’ll take two years to recover. This is a significant paradigm shift in Insurance Sales. Maybe we will never go back to normal. I used to travel a lot for business. Right now, I am very happy to do remote workshops. It is unpredictable how it’s going to pan out.  

The Expert Advice

First, it is time to bypass the moment of shock. Most insurers have done that. They are past the crisis mode and are addressing the issues at hand. 

Second, avoid watching too much news about the coverage on COVID-19. It’ll just bring the morale down.

Third, Stay Zero! and re-evaluate everything- what kind of products we should make, what do clients need, which clients have money to invest, what additional products can we launch, what should be the pricing model, what kind of value proposition we should provide and

Fourth, is to take action rather than Netflix. There will be massive layoffs, so it’s important to ensure you bring value to the company. 

Last but most important, is to focus on the attention of the end customer and provide value to them. Make your customer come to you.

AI is going to be essential for Insurers to gain that competitive edge in the post-pandemic world. Check out Hitee — an Insurance specific chatbot for driving customer engagement. For your specific requirements, please feel free to write to us at hello@mantralabsglobal.com.

Podcasts in this series:


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Virtual health: Delivering care through technology

8 minutes, 52 seconds read

Virtual Care, Telehealth, Telemedicine, etc. are terms used very synonymously. Indeed they are interrelated, however, Virtual Care is a broader term in which healthcare providers use digital tools to communicate and deliver care to their patients. Telehealth and Telemedicine are a part of Virtual Care where doctors deliver care to their patients, remotely via phone, video, or instant messaging. Virtual health includes care delivery beyond video consultation where hospitals provide services using technology such as wearables for remote monitoring, instruments for post-op care and second opinions, e-pharma services, and medical information, etc. 

The outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic gave an impetus to Virtual Care, but even in the Pre-COVID time, the Healthcare sector was slowly gearing up for this next wave in care delivery. What COVID-19 did was, help patients get acclimatized to the digital health tools and services. 

What does Virtual Health help with?

The pandemic has brought the burning issues of the healthcare sector to center stage. Patient experience and access to healthcare services are key differentiators for people while choosing a healthcare provider. Let’s take a look at some of these issues addressed by technology in the healthcare sector-

The increasing number of patients

Apart from the pandemic, there’s already been a rise in the number of patients due to drastic changes in lifestyle and food habits, an increase in pollution levels, increase in new types of viruses, etc. This has caused undue stress on healthcare institutions and workers and has led to the deterioration of the quality of patient care. Virtual Health technology such as mHealth apps, EHR (Electronic Health Record), video conferencing, etc. has helped reduce the pressure on hospitals.

Difficulty in traveling for old patients

The pace of life is increasing at a rapid rate. It is getting insanely difficult for the elder population to navigate through the traffic and commute long distances for a check-up. Many times, they have to depend on their family members to take them to hospitals. Moreover, they are at risk of exposure to viruses in hospitals and clinics. Now that they have had the experience of virtual consultations, they prefer care delivery at home rather than going to hospitals.

Chronic Diseases treatment

The number of people above the age of 45 face health issues. Some patients are suffering from chronic diseases regardless of age. Regular monitoring of their vitals is very important. Moreover people now prefer Virtual healthcare services which are easily accessible and save a lot of time, effort, and money. Now that people have found these services effective, they will opt for online consults rather than frequent in-person visits. 

Post-op Care

The duration of post-operative care is quite long and tedious. If given a choice, people will lean towards wearables which will help keep doctors posted on the status of the treatment. Many times, the cost of post-op care is more than the actual treatment and sometimes is not covered under insurance. Virtual care-delivery services will help reduce the financial burden of people going through these treatments.

Follow-ups/Second opinion  

Some health conditions need multiple follow-ups and second opinions to figure out the right approach to treat the issue. It is much easier for patients to do follow-up consults virtually rather than going through the tedious process of appointment booking, commuting, and waiting for their turn. It helps reduce the queue outside the doctor’s office as well. Some health issues need a second opinion, sometimes both by patients and doctors. Virtual Healthcare technologies make it possible for them to take second opinions from doctors all over the world. With electronic records and image sharing, doctors can diagnose the problem better.

What does Virtual Health include?

Virtual Health can be broadly divided into below applications-

mHealth Applications

mHealth applications have widespread use. From symptom checkers to appointment booking, from fitness trackers to uploading medical records, from video conferencing features to chatbot integrations, mHealth apps are on a rise mainly because of easy accessibility for the tech-savvy customers. According to a study by NCBI, among the 22 selected mHealth apps operating in India, Practo, mfine, DocsApp, 1mg, Netmeds, Lybrate, MediBuddy, and Medlife were found to be the eight most popular ones with over a million downloads and on average four-plus user rating out of five. All the above apps are mainly being used for online consults. This just goes about showing that people prefer having homecare services instead of stepping out. 

E-Triage Tools

The rising number of patients with different stages of COVID symptoms was a task to deal with. E-triage software here enables hospitals to triage patients into different sections when there’s an overload of patients at a particular time. Now, in the case of home care, e-triage tools help patients to access the gravity of their health condition and notify the healthcare provider accordingly. Such tools help reduce A&E waiting time and improve NHS performance. Many companies are building healthcare software integrating the E-triage module within EHR, telemedicine, clinical decision making, billing, etc. In India, Persistent Systems’ cutting edge platform has a Nurse Triage system that enables nurses to see the queue of patients and triage via phone calls. Once the calls are done, a triage report is generated and sent to care providers. Many leading doctors feel that AI in image triage will see a boost in near future.

Remote Patient Monitoring 

There are multiple benefits such as reduced post-op expenditure, time wastage, less exposure to other diseases, etc. The global remote patient monitoring devices market is expected to expand at a CAGR of 7.1% during the forecast period (2019–2027) according to Coherent Market Insights. Some of the top players in this space are Biotronik, Boston Scientific Corporation, CAS Medical Systems, CONTEC MEDICAL, Dragerwerk, GE Healthcare, Guangdong Biolight Meditech, Medtronic, Mindray Medical, Nihon Kohden, Philips Healthcare, Spacelabs Healthcare, Abbott. Companies such as GE Healthcare and Philips Healthcare have done a great job with building remote patient monitoring systems within the hospital premises as well as homecare for COVID patients. The main goal was to reduce the exposure of healthcare workers to at-risk patients. 

Synchronous and Asynchronous Telehealth

Synchronous telehealth, in other words, Telemedicine is where there is a live conversation between the patient and the doctor. Asynchronous telehealth involves the exchange of recorded data e.g. images, video, medical reports, pathology reports between patients and doctors, at times between doctors as well. Similar to mHealth space, companies like Practo, 1mg, Lybrate, Medlife, and Portea Medical in India are some of the top players in telehealth and telemedicine. Lybrate’s USP lies in CMS (Clinical Management System) which helps doctors with tedious tasks of managing patients and providing better care. Meanwhile, Portea Medical’s home consults and pharma delivery have more relevance with the audience as it combines technology with a touch of personalization. 

Digital Therapeutics

Digital Therapeutics delivers evidence-based therapies with the help of software which can be used both as a preventive measure as well as treatment application. The effectiveness of the medication and lifestyle changes on patients are monitored by leveraging technology. In India, major non-communicable diseases that account for 62% of the total mortality rate are CVD, diabetes, respiratory conditions, and cancer. Prominent global players in this space include Noom (US), Livongo Health (US), Omada Health (US), WellDoc (US), Pear Therapeutics (US), Proteus Digital Health (US), Propeller Health (US), Akili Interactive Labs (US), Better Therapeutics (US), etc. Omada Health is the pioneer in the DTx (Digital Therapeutics) that focused primarily on diabetes and pre-diabetes but now is branching out in the mental health space as well. In India, Altran (a part of Capgemini) is into building personalized DTx applications for clients. Whereas a start-up called Wellthy Therapeutics has ready solutions catering to multiple diseases.

Future of Virtual Health

Undoubtedly, there has been a massive increase in the adoption of Virtual Health technologies as people have gotten accustomed to the ease of certain services at home. In the coming future, mHealth apps, remote patient monitoring, and Digital therapeutics see a surge in demand from the customers. According to a study by Markets and Markets, “The global digital therapeutics market is projected to reach USD 6.9 billion by 2025 from USD 2.1 billion in 2020, at a CAGR of 26.7% during the forecast period (2020–2025).” A study by Fortune Business Insights, “The global mHealth market size is projected to reach USD 293.29 billion by 2026, exhibiting a CAGR of 29.1% during the forecast period.” A Research and Markets report says, “The remote patient monitoring market is expected to reach US$31.326 billion by the end of 2023.” Apart from the above, development in digital infrastructure such as virtual health stations where doctors can provide consultations globally, mobile ICUs, MRIs, X-rays, ultrasound equipment, the establishment of rural virtual care units reaching the remote areas of the country are some of the trends which will gain momentum. The focus would always lie upon the personalization of the virtual care experience for patients driven by data exchange and interoperability. 

Indeed, there are certain challenges to the implementation of these technologies, lack of infrastructure, and digital literacy amongst elders and lower strata of society. Many healthcare institutions still have inhibitions while investing in digital technologies fearing rejection from the customers. It will be crucial for care providers to choose the right partner for implementing these technologies and create awareness amongst people to adopt them.  

In a Nutshell

The success of virtual care relies on how well the digital experience is designed for the patient. “By 2025, as many as 95 percent of all customer interactions will be through channels supported by artificial intelligence (AI) technology” – Microsoft. The use of algorithms and AI for personalizing these experiences will be the key. 

Find out more about unchartered territories in ‘Blue Ocean’ of Digital Health. Join our webinar hosted by Parag Sharma (CEO, Mantra Labs) as he shares his insights on untapped opportunities using digital self-care tools within behavioral healthcare & emotional wellness.

Save your spot! 

Further Readings:

  1. Reimagining Medical Diagnosis with Chatbots
  2. HealthTech 101: How are Healthcare Technologies Reinventing Patient Care
  3. What will be the state of the healthcare industry post pandemic?
  4. Healthcare Chatbots: Innovative, Efficient, and Low-cost Care

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