It is not unusual to find a user becoming an operator as a result of "opportunities for improvement" identified in the process of product purchase and service delivery. Quite predictably, the operations of such businesses tend to be more customer-sensitive and increasingly attractive because the current pain points of customers will be their starting point.
Customers that know what ought to be done to enhance positive experiences businesses should give their customers become better operators when they decide to participate from the end of selling products and delivering services.
Gaps exist in every business though not all are commercially viable and exciting for investors, and insurance probably falls into this category because of its social responsibility side, which has made it very challenging for current players and investors to explore.
Upon critical review of the opportunities that plead for innovative actions in the insurance industry in Nigeria, I think they can best be explored by a Policyholder that decides to be the Managing Director and Chief Executive Officer of an insurance company.
The Experiences That Prompt
If you became an insurance policyholder by default or by accident, if you like, you will certainly view and relate with insurance a lot more cautiously than that person who deliberately approached the dashboard of several insurance adverts to select a policy. However, due to the inability of the insurance services providers to decipher how you got to them, the responses would have been similar as you were requested to provide information that enabled them to determine the premium (price) you paid. So, you probably became insured with little understanding of what you paid, as many Nigerians say about insurance today.
Though insurance has been made to seem all too technical for the ordinary minds to understand, extraordinary efforts have been known to produce very inspiring results, when customers (policyholders) are in focus. Need I say, the most successful insurance companies in the world, and recently, in Nigeria are known for their customer-centrism and employee-motivation. So, the policyholder that has desired excellent service and has not been getting it, would most likely provide the same for those under his/her management as an operator. Right? Not necessarily.
It is important to mention that not all policyholders will make the excellent operator that I am discussing here because some consumers do not quite care to know or would not be bothered so long as they can get attention from the "person that introduced them to the insurer". Such policyholders hardly know what is happening and could buy insurance from an insurer that is going through regulatory challenges simply because they rely on that "person..." for updates. Just imagine what happens when they have claims.
Indeed, policyholders that have had claims and went through the settlement process and continued to buy policies would probably make the best CEOs, if they decide to become operators!
Likely Focus of the Policyholder-turned-CEO
Seeing the problems that people face, ignoring them and yet trying to sell them insurance, remain the greatest mistake of today's insurers.
The real policyholder sees these gaps and wonders why the insurers are not looking to engage people with these problems and develop products that can resolve the issues. For example, Micro, Small and Medium Enterprises (MSMEs) have had the core challenge of lack of collateral for loans and the insurance industry would not see this as any of its business but expects the same MSMEs to buy insurance and renew their policies. How?!
As it might be difficult to make the current insurance industry embrace this line of thinking even as we now have packages for SMEs, I think only a customer (policyholder) who is experiencing this challenge will engage with a team that can possibly come up with the solution.
Considering personal challenges like the payments of rents and school fees, which there are even insurance products, I do think the policyholder-turned-CEO would do a better job of pushing the products to the extent that they compete strongly against several alternatives that make insurance unattractive.
Unlearning to Learn
Is it too late for today's CEOs to wear the cap of this policyholder-turned-CEO? No!
However, it would require a wholesome therapy to have such turnaround as we would expect to see in the current CEOs. This is simply because he/she was trained differently, for example, to see the Government as the one that will force people to buy insurance, while also solving the problems I am now thinking should be the new opportunities.
Understandably, unlearning is not the easiest of things you expect from persons with over 20 years experience in a particular line of activity, except the reason for existence becomes threatened; then the chance for innovation and technology would emerge.
Expectations of excellent customer service in the insurance industry in Nigeria have been heightened by some observed actions of a few insurers to be more sensitive to the plight of customers (policyholders) however, the people that understand the works, whether digital or otherwise, need to be not just in the rooms but encouraged to create products with (not for) our digital natives.
Hopefully, the improvements that we have anticipated will come through earlier to enable us reconcile the difference between the current and promising CEOs.