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EP #61: Unlocking the marketing success algorithm with India’s leading insurance firm, Max Life Insurance

About this Podcast

The pandemic has highlighted the importance of health and life insurance. Digital transformation and personalization have become critical levers of growth for insurance brands; in the absence of a physical connection with their customers. 

Max Life Insurance Co. Ltd. is a joint venture between Max Financial Services Ltd. and Mitsui Sumitomo Insurance Co. Ltd.  Max Life offers comprehensive life insurance protection and long-term savings plans through its multichannel distribution including agency and other distribution partners.

We caught up with Sameer Jain, AVP- Digital Marketing at Max Life Insurance to understand how digital transformation and marketing automation have changed the game for insurance companies over the past year. 

Sameer shared his thoughts on: 

  • How the insurance sector has transitioned over the past year
  • Changes in customer behavior observed while engaging digitally with them
  • Challenges encountered due to the change in customer behavior across digital touchpoints and how they were addressed
  • Necessity to provide a personalized experience to all the customers across all touchpoints in the absence of physical connect
  • Trends and innovations to look out for in the automation space in 2021 and beyond 

Tune in to learn how understanding customer behavior and effectively engaging with them on the relevant touchpoints has proved to be a gamechanger for insurance brands.

Episode Transcripts

Neharika Sharma (host): Hi, everyone. Welcome to Netcore’s very own podcast series, the MarTechno Beat. I’m your host Neharika. And joining me today is a very special guest, Mr. Sameer Jain, who is the digital marketing head at Max Life Insurance during weekdays and a voracious traveler by weekends. He believes in continuous improvement by spending time every day to outwork and outgrow himself. Welcome, Sameer!!

Sameer Jain (guest): Hi Neharika. Thank you for that lovely introduction. Hi everyone, I’m looking forward to an engaging conversation today with you Neharika.

Neharika Sharma: Absolutely thrilled to have you join us today. So I’m just going to send the context for our listeners for today’s discussion. I just want to start by applauding everyone for such a swift adaptation to the new normal, like we’re all embracing the work from home culture and how marketers, you know, like yourself took up the challenge of going all-digital to push on with the business. I think COVID truly affected all industries and left us with a lot of things to reconsider, especially with marketing strategies. You know, we saw how many people are now moving towards the whole empathetic route and now have a desire for securing one’s future. You know that took precedent and became a priority for people. I believe the customer is more evolved and asks for a more customized approach to marketers and expects them to understand his needs. Considering this, we’re here to talk to Sameer who will be giving us the right and razor-sharp tools for a successful marketing strategy for the insurance sector. Now I’m just going to come back to how the customer is behaving and how they’re evolving these days. So Sameer, what were the changes in customer behavior that you observed while engaging digitally in the past year?

Sameer Jain: A lot of them are Neharika, in fact, and you know, just to go back to what you were saying, I really believe that the world will never be the same again. I think we’ve all adapted to the new reality and businesses which were shy of going digital have now to live on digital and you know, actually are able to leverage the benefits out of some of these changes that they made in their business. For us specifically, the genius that we saw in consumer behavior where insurance became top of mind for our target primarily due to COVID environment and basically gave people time to think about bigger decisions in life and insurance usually, you know, it’s a bigger decision in life. You only think about it, you know, in your free time than actually pondering over what to do with your life, what is going right or what’s not, and so on. That’s one thing that changed. The other thing that we observe was that more and more consumers are browsing our products near the late evening in the traffic and consumer intent post 6:00 PM, significantly spike, our hypothesis is that this is happening due to the work from the home environment because people are not actually traveling to and fro to their office and their emails are relatively swinging. The third thing that we noticed was connectivity for outbound calling increased. In fact this was counterintuitive to what you were actually thinking because most of our call centers were now working remotely from home. And we were actually thinking that connectivity is going to go down. But it did actually increase probably because of the relatively free mind space. I noticed for myself as well. I was picking up most of the inbound calls from unknown numbers that I was getting. And then after I was picking up the call that I realized whether it was a delivery call for me or one, but I was, I ended up picking most of the calls. So I think that’s what’s happening with the consumers. The last thing that we saw was that WhatsApp has been awarded a significant channel for reaching out to prospects. We’ve experienced that the response on WhatsApp has shot up probably because that’s one mode of connectivity for everybody today while people are working from home.

Neharika Sharma: Right. It’s a very interesting point that you raised that post 6:00 PM people became more receptive to picking up phone calls. I think I completely resonate with that point because people generally feel like you said there was no traffic or no travel time. So people could actually engage now with usually the hundred of hundreds of calls that we would generally ignore, we will actually now engage. So I think that’s a very critical development that happened. Considering that, what were your primary challenges and how did Max Life address the whole dynamic change in the customer behavior only through the digital touchpoints?

Sameer Jain: So insurance primarily is a touching field category. And historically even today the largest chunk of our business is very nutritious, actually meets up with the prospect’s family and builds a relationship, talks about financial planning, and then gets to the actual sale. And hence it was a big change for our industry like all other traditional industries so to say. However, we even a better place than some of our competitors, because we already had a lot of automation which is existing specifically you know, we add a campaign across channel marketing automation using Netcore smart tech platform, which helped us stay in touch with our prospects through various channels and did not that’s off track of duty. The other thing that we had to actually change about how we were working was transitioning our call center to a remote working environment.  So we were not really prepared for it. We had been planning for it for a long time, and there were a lot of no Sayers within the organization who would say that how can call center work from home, it’s always going to be a process which has to work from the office because you will not get the rigor and we will not be able to drive productivity my grades, we will not be able to train them effectively. However, we were able to overcome this. We actually created an app which enabled all our tele-callers with the same functionalities that they actually had on a laptop and you were also able to monitor their activity whether they were sitting idle or they were on calls and so on. And eventually, we were able to tie this over. The other thing that we had to change was that assisting prospects in a buying journey, post 8 pm, there’s actually outbound calling regulation that we can’t call prospects post 8 pm, and maybe this applies to most businesses in India. And hence, we were actually pondering as to how we would solve this because there was a barrage of prospects engaged in traffic coming, post 8 pm, as I just mentioned. So what we did was we opened up Chat and Inbound calling, for anybody who was actually browsing our products and stuck somewhere in the journey, wanting to get there to know more information about our products, and also enabled Inbound calling, we wanted to get in touch with the call center. The other thing that we did was we completely shut out our fear-related conversations. Insurance, as you must be aware historically has been one of the dominant conservation of our sales has been fear-related. What happens if you have an accident and what happens if you’re no longer there to provide for your family? However, considering the environment that we were in and the sensitivity because of Covid and work from home, we migrated to more contextually and relatable to work from home-related conversations. And that’s one change that we did. The last challenge that we actually had to deal with was consumer demand which spiked significantly in the first half of the year. It’s second in the second half of the year because the mind checks completely shifted away from insurance. At that point in time, we actually had to go aggressive on perspective while in the first half of the year, we did cut down a lot of discretionary spend on display on going after new prospect because like all organizations were also quite very about not spending too much time being really cautious about the cost of acquisition, but in the second half, we had to completely change our strategy and go aggressive on perspective. So that’s the other change that we made.

Neharika Sharma: Very interestingly, how you customize the communication really came through. Like when you mentioned that we would talk more about fear-related communications, the move towards work from home, more relatable subjects. I mean, that’s a very interesting shift, for any especially a theory, you know, somebody’s calling from a call center, how they could adapt to that conversation. So, I mean, considering now that we know that there’s no physical touchpoint, how important was it to give that one-on-one personal experience to your max life customers, just by the touchpoints that we just discussed? 

Sameer Jain: It’s actually a holy grail for any insurance business to be able to solve a one-on-one connection experience that an agent has with a prospect in a digital world. We’ve all been trying to solve this puzzle. There’s no easy answer and however, we know that insurance will continue to remain a relationship-driven, financial need analysis-based sense. And hence, it’s very imperative for us to connect with a prospect one-on-one if we want to have an effective conversation, the way we’ve tried to tackle it as a hyper-personalization and context carry forward, and this has helped us partially like whatever information, first-party data we are about to move, we capture about our prospects we try and use that in subsequent conversations to SMS, email, remarketing, in our call center scripts, when the user comes back on our homepage or in our journey, there is some sort of footprint that is already left and we try and carry forward all that context for the user so that he doesn’t feel that why am I being asked this question again or why can’t the company customize their offering basis, whatever already expressed. So we tried, we’ve moved leaps and bounds in that direction. We’re also evaluating the possibility of video calls instead of telecalls for high-value sales because we truly believe that video calls will enable better conversation and connect with the customer what’s their daily calling. It is also obvious that the types of people who will be interacting on this point have been very different. For instance, a fresh graduate after out of college let’s say a 25-year-old graduate cannot be the right person for having these conversations. And hence, we might need a more matured tele-calling setup and in a very different team. They’re still evaluating how to solve this. The last thing that we’ve done is we’ve assigned a dedicated relationship officer to every customer. And what this helps in doing ease is once they bought any insurance policy from us, any questions that they have, any apprehensions that they have, any changes that they want to make, in the product that they bought, they have a go-to person, which sort of helps with that one-on-one connection. 

Neharika Sharma: I think that’s a really interesting point there again. One thing that really intrigued me was the introduction of the tele calling in the video calls instead of the tele-calling. I think that was a very interesting mix of what you’re going to be bringing to the table because that’s a trend I think that has not yet picked up. So it would be very interesting to see how your customers are responding to that. So considering all these, what trends and innovations do you foresee that Max Life would look to in the entire customization space in your industry? 

Sameer Jain: Yes. There are lots of pilots that are going on Neharika like traditional buying journeys that we are currently dependent on. A user comes on a website or a mobile site, fills in a lead, then creates a quotation, goes on to fill the form, and then makes payment is our main state today. But that may not be the future. And hence we’ve been trying various pilots. There was one pilot that tried a new lead generation by a bot. We felt that we did have a couple of iterations on that could be failed, that you got ahead of time on this end, consumers were not yet ready actually to share information with the board, they were more comfortable sharing postal information on a lead form which was more like native environment for them than interacting with the bot. However, even still we think because you got ahead of time, I think there is another attempt that we will make on this going forward. WhatsApp might come across as one channel where we would heavily invest in capabilities as far as prospecting a new user and also customer service. So we’re trying to invest in technology, which helps us have a dialogue with the user rather than just have one-way communication, which is today the case. Apart from that, dynamic emails are depending on the time of day; whether the location is something that you’re looking at, emails integrated with lead forms for better fun conversion. We’ve seen some affiliate networks that do this with a lot of ease and efficiency. We want to have to go at it. And also insurance has continued to be even online, insurance buying continues to be in a strict sense. So every time a user comes into our journey, fills up a form, and goes forward with the process. There is a tele-caller who gets in touch with the consumer. However, we believe that the real value will be unlocked, and then we can make the user buy insurance online without any assistance, without any physical assistance of a human being. And hence, we’re trying to use contextual nudges in the buying journey to reduce dependence on tele -caller. It’s just like you see in a lot of new-age apps today, every time they come with new features or they revamp their user experience, they do give us nudges just to tell us, okay, this is where you go to do this. The first time you log into that app, that’s something that we’re exploring going forward. 

Neharika Sharma: That’s amazing. I think your last couple of points again, caught my attention because now I’m envisioning a situation where a customer would just come to Max Life and in a few clicks maybe that could be the aim of the future that they’re able to take up an insurance policy without human intervention, how interesting and how automated that would be. It would be great to see. I think on that note I want to thank you so much for your time today, Sameer and educating our listeners with such great insights and how they can really customize a truly efficient experience for their customers. Thank you so much.

Sameer Jain:  Thanks a lot, Neharika.

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