For as long as insurers have distributed products through agents, a difficult question has dogged the industry: Who owns the customer?

Executive Summary

"Who owns the customer?" is not the question carriers should be asking. Instead, they should focus on "customer experience" and what it takes to equip agents with the knowledge and skills required to cultivate customer experience excellence in their own offices, writes Watermark Consulting's Jon Picoult. From mapping out the customer journey to diagnosing its highs and lows to applying best-practice principles of customer experience design—these are capabilities that carriers too often keep close to their vest. Here, he presents five tips for carriers aimed at sharing ownership of the customer experience and collaborating to improve it.

It’s not an academic query. The answer has important strategic and tactical implications for all involved—from defining how (and with whom) customer data is shared to clarifying who’s ultimately responsible for account management, cross-marketing and the long-term health of the customer relationship. It’s a controversial question and one that often inspires vigorous debate among industry insiders. It also happens to be the wrong question.

We live in the age of the empowered consumer. People have a wealth of information available at their fingertips—easy access to product information, pricing, and even crowdsourced reviews of carriers and agents. Gone are many of the traditional obstacles that made it time-consuming and difficult for consumers to explore, evaluate, purchase and manage insurance coverage.

As is the case in many industries today, the insurance consumer is in the driver’s seat. And, in an environment like that, no one owns the customer. Not the agent. Not the carrier. To suggest otherwise would be an arrogant view that is inconsistent with the realities of today’s marketplace. If anybody “owns” the customer, it’s the customers themselves.

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