Disruptive customer engagement. Interview with Matt Aston, Head of Digital Sales, Vitality

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Vitality: Largest disruptor on the block. 

Vitality is on a mission to change health and life insurance for good - and they’re getting noticed for it. They are showing the industry that you don’t need to be a small start-up to be disruptive. They have flipped the traditional health insurance model from only interacting when a customer needs cover, to one where they interact daily, changing the focus from illness and risk, to health and wellness.

Vitality rewards customers for being healthy. They make it cheaper and easier to live a healthy lifestyle by providing benefits and perks to clients who exhibit healthy behaviour. Using wearable tech and mobile apps, users are motivated to track their daily activity to get rewards. For example, if a user meets a daily step goal, runs a certain distance, or sticks to a certain diet, they will get rewarded with things like cinema tickets and extra benefits. The result? A healthier and happier client base. 

This model has proven to be incredibly successful to Vitality’s bottom line, with recent reports of a 26% increase in business protection sales in the first half of 2015. Employers are quick to see the benefits of a happier, healthier workforce, and Vitality is the leading provider to help.

Matt Aston on customer engagement, health insurance, and form optimization. 

Qubit caught up with Matt Aston, Head of Digital Sales at Vitality UK to discuss all things customer engagement. Read on to learn what Matt has to say about Vitality's innovative approach to customer experience, and how one simple change prompted a 7% uplift in customer form completion.

 Q: What's going on at Vitality?

What isn’t going on at Vitality! Amongst all the innovation and product enhancements, we are focusing a lot of effort on improving our digital capability across all our customer processes, especially customer experience and acquisition. We recognize this is the way individuals and customers want to engage with brands. Optimization is key part of this strategy, and we’re keen to use data and analytics to inform our overall approach.

Q: How does Vitality see the role of customer engagement?

Customer engagement is central to our core purpose of helping people enhance and protect their lives. As a result, we’re very customer focused and we’re learning all the time. We see ourselves as a health and wellness business and our proposition is unique and different in the market, as we incentivize and encourage people to live well, as well as protect them should things go wrong. There are lots of opportunities for customers to engage with Vitality, even if they don’t claim.

Life is very busy these days and we find ourselves living a very sedentary lifestyle in front of computer and television screens. The biggest risk to public health is people not doing anything. At Vitality, we believe we can positively affect that behavior with our shared value model, and also change the health and life insurance industry for good. Our customer centric model makes us rare in the industry. Others are playing catch up, but what we do is unique and very difficult to replicate. We are continually innovating and bring new ideas to the market.

Q: How do you measure the success of your customer engagement?

We have the typical business metrics like everyone does. We are a massively performance driven business. However, measuring member engagement in the Vitality program is incredibly important and we’re seeing members engage more and more each day as we continue to innovate and offer more benefits of joining. That’s the whole business model. Instead of only covering the cost of claims when things go wrong, we encourage and incentivize people to live well. The more you engage, the more benefits you unlock. So engagement is very important and we measure the impact it has on our members on a daily basis.

Q: What sort of challenges do you face in terms of customer engagement?

Getting people to engage with Vitality is a constant challenge. Whilst we see a great take up of the gym and free cinema ticket offers, the benefits and rewards are much deeper. So broadening engagement across the program is a constant challenge that we love. We seem to be winning and our members are benefiting.

Another key challenge is that the traditional pre-sale customer experience is a huge barrier. Getting people to understand the need for health insurance, the benefits of Vitality, and the positive difference our shared value model will have on their lives. If that isn’t a big enough challenge, doing the necessary research and then facing up to all the form filling to get a quote is a huge time commitment, when time these days is a precious commodity. I know I hate it; so making that process simple and easy to understand is critical.

This makes the work we do with Qubit to make that process simpler and quicker incredibly important. Through the initiatives we’ve worked on together we have increased our form completion rates by 7%. That’s quite significant. Even before form completion, in earlier stages of the form process, Qubit enabled us to significantly increase the conversion rate of prospects coming through specific phases of the quote process. This again enabled us to improve the quality of leads coming through to build greater customer interest as they become more invested in the process.

Q: Why haven’t health insurance companies focused on form optimization of this sort before?

When it comes to considering customer experience, health insurance providers are definitely playing catch up with retailers and other successful ecommerce businesses. Insurance is seen to be quite complicated, but it really isn’t. Sometimes the online form processes are built with the single aim of gathering as much information on the customer as possible and then delivering a price. What we’re now trying to do is to reverse that perception and making the process much simpler. We’re focusing on how to demystify health insurance, and build trust by not over complicating the form filling process. We want customers to be invested in the process and brand, instead of putting them off from the first engagement. We are seeing dramatic differences and improvements in our conversion rates as a result.

Q: How are the actuaries, the underwriters and the other parts of your business reacting to you changing the traditional forms?

We all work to a common goal, and work together to ensure that whilst we have a simple and easy process, it’s compliant and meets the requirements of the business. In the digital world, we now have the opportunity to make the process as easy as possible for the customer. Online quote forms shouldn’t be a barrier to your customer. Qubit’s visitor analytics and form optimization reports gave us the granular insights needed to pinpoint exact problem areas, and build tests to create the optimal experience. Once we demonstrated success by running some tests and generating some solid results, it was easy to galvanize the business to a common goal on how this should be executed. As long as you are satisfying the regulatory and commercial objectives of the business, we all respond to the proof.

Q: How does your research and insight inform your approach to the way customers buy insurance?

 The digital research that we do that looks at the user behavior, it totally drives what we do inside the business. Consumers these days are more empowered, they operate whenever they want and will engage with multiple brands, across multiple devices. There is no longer a single channel or linear process in the way people research and buy insurance products. The way people engage and transact has changed. For example, we take our time and research something on a mobile, then walk away and pick up the research process a few days later on a tablet. Finally, when ready to transact, we’ll sit down the laptop open on the kitchen table with credit cards out, either to complete the transaction online, or whilst speaking to an adviser in the call center. The way we understand the journey between a person seeing our advertising and transacting is really speeding up. At Vitality we have a very strong appetite to understand user behavior and data, which then helps us form our digital strategy. Technology partners like Qubit have made that possible.

 Q: Where do you still have to improve?

We are always looking to improve. One big focus in on linking up all the data points - the response data, to the call center data to the conversion data. That’s what we are now working on and what I believe will define success and failure in the market. It’s all about making it easier for the customer. To do that we really need to understand your customers behavior and what makes a great customer experience. You may have to take some risks and try some things that you can’t guarantee will pay off. It's about testing, learning and optimizing. Download the pdf of this interview here

Want to learn more about how Vitality achieved a 7% increase in form completion rates? Check out the on-demand content from our predictive analytics webinar series. 

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