Increasingly, as we’ve seen, insurers have to adapt to a world in which consumers are more aggressive in terms of what they want and the lengths they will go to get it. Becoming a digital and customer-first organization is essential in order to attain the required flexibility, and probably the larger companies at any rate will have to consider multiple business models depending on line of business and geography.

Think of it as learning to hit a precise target with a bullet rather than just lobbing a cannonball in the general direction of the target!

I could even foresee that within a certain geography and single line of business, a company might be targeting multiple consumer segments with distinct service offerings. This is very possible given customers’ growing demand for highly personalized service experiences rather than just products (or as our friends from Fjord, a recent acquisition by Accenture Interactive, would say: “The service is the marketing.”) In this new digital world, segments are defined in terms of behavior rather than age, and customers may shift between segments over time.

This highly customer-centric approach has implications for the brand itself. Assuming the company maintains a single brand, could the brand is pulled too many ways? One thing’s for sure: the company needs to be aware of how differently its brand will be seen by an increasingly fractured customer base across many countries.

Our own brand has the same challenges. In some market segments, Accenture is seen as technology company, in others a management or strategy consultant and in others still a provider of outsourcing services. At the end, however, we stand for getting things done and helping our clients to achieve high performance.

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In such a world, a powerful brand can act as a unifying force, and give each specific product or service an instant head start when it comes to building consumer trust. But brands are also very fragile in this new world because any failures in the brand’s delivery against its promise can quickly become a public-relations nightmare on social media sites. Today’s empowered consumers are quick to make their displeasure felt, and in forums over which the brand-owner has no control—the days of polite exchanges on a customer helpline are numbered.

Two conclusions follow. First of all, insurers need to proactively monitor traditional and social media channels to check what is being said about the brand on them. At Accenture, we are already providing just such a service to clients globally.

Read how Accenture provides this service to global financial services firm UBS.

Use the data from the Consumer-Driven Innovation Survey’s online interactive tool to explore the implications of social media for your markets or read the full report.

Second, and more broadly, insurance companies (like all companies) need to create organizations that actually do understand what consumers want, and then deliver services and products on that understanding.

Next time, let’s see what we could learn from other industries.

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