Having looked at the kind of role that CMOs are increasingly being asked to play as insurers transform into customer-centric digital operations, I thought it would be useful to look at the specific challenges they face. Accenture Interactive research indicates that, in general, the biggest barriers CMOs face are inefficient business practices and lack of funding. But what’s it like on the ground for insurance CMOs?

When global multinational insurers have a group CMO, that person faces the challenge of mastering a very complex customer-centric view, and then integrating the voice of the customer into the corporate strategy. It’s a very daunting task because customers and customer segments across the various regions display a considerable range of differences.

There’s certainly no single answer on how to address this challenge but understanding the voice of the customer, defining group level strategic segmentation, spearheading digitally supported customer-centric programs, and establishing a shared analytics, mobile and digital center of excellence are the top initiatives we see CMO’s sponsoring at group level. For more information on these general topics, you might be interested in reading How to make your company think like a customer or Taking a fresh look at customer segmentation: Winning the lotto.

At the regional or business unit level, CMOs are in the frontline of helping to establish the new customer-centric mindset into both strategy and operations. This represents a complete change from the current focus on technical issues and product. CMOs have to help drive the understanding that what’s important is the lifetime value of the customer. Building and embedding this new rationale in the company will be dependent on clever planning: achieving quantifiable results in the short term will be vital.

The good news is that as insurers realize that they have to become customer-centric, the CMO is growing in stature both within the C-suite and across the organization in general. In insurance, marketing and distribution are often both the responsibility of the CMO, making him or her a powerful figure already. Moreover, marketing is currently one of the functions most likely to be driving the digital transformation effort, and the emerging position of chief digital officer frequently reports in to the CMO. (For more about this topic, download the results of the 2013 Digital Insurance Survey: Europe, Latin America and Africa.)

When they are thinking about how to change the company’s business model to become customer-centric, CMOs have a clear role to play in helping to create distinctive customer experiences. CMOs are likely to lead the use of sophisticated data analytics to obtain a better view of the customer in the quest to build the information needed to do so, and promote cross- and up-selling as well. Only then will the company develop the solutions that people will share with others in the “influence marketplace”. (For more, read more about the transformation of fulfillment in insurance.)

Next time, a few words about the most important relationship a CMO must build—with the CIO.

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