rakesh wadhwa

Originally published at - https://www.exchange4media.com/marketing-news/insurance-sales-are-moving-from-physical-to-phygital-106189.html 

The COVID-19 pandemic has pushed industries across spectrum to adapt the contactless digital way in the New Normal, and the insurance industry is no exception. According to Rakesh Wadhwa, Chief Marketing and Customer Officer, Future Generali India Life Insurance Co. Ltd., post the lockdown, his company’s 95% sales are happening online.

In conversation with exchange4media, Wadhwa talks about the current trends and future of the insurance industry in India.

Edited excerpts:


COVID-19 has increased awareness about health. Has that boosted the health and life insurance business?

This current pandemic situation has brought the conversation of insurance to the dinner table in many households. People have realised the importance of being financially covered against mishaps and health hazards more than before. We are seeing this being translated into higher online enquiries regarding protection, health and also savings plan that will eventually lead into higher sales.


Lockdown led to a cash crunch among consumers. Which insurances are high on consumers’ priority?

Consumers are showing higher interest in protection, health and traditional guaranteed savings plans. Given the volatility in the equity markets, investment products are receiving a more tepid response from the consumers.


The insurance sector was witnessing a positive growth rate till February. How has the sector performed since then?

COVID-19 has forced everyone to be confined to their homes and with extended lockdowns and social distancing norms businesses all across have been impacted. Moreover, life and health insurance is a solicitation-based product and hence due to limited movement and restricted access not all distribution channels and branches have been able to resume operations to normalcy but our digital sales have increased significantly. Overall, the growth of the sector has been impacted post February but long-term prospects remain highly promising for the sector.


How will COVID-19 change consumer behaviour?

The extended lockdowns and need for social distancing will possibly change consumer behaviour permanently. As incomes get impacted and the pandemic situation prolongs, consumers shall be forced to alter their spending preferences and make different lifestyle choices going ahead. Health and safety will be prioritised above everything else, people will resist going to crowded places (malls, big sales, exhibitions etc) and cut discretionary expenses. More consumers than before are using technology platforms to meet their daily requirements and a large number of people are going to experience the comfort and convenience of online shopping to perhaps never return to a physical store. They will demand more value out of each spend in the form of discounts, freebies or associated services and trust will become a key driver of business.

From a life insurance perspective, more people will open up to the ‘mortality’ conversations and proactively seek advice to draw out adequate coverage for them. We see insurance sales moving from mostly physical to mostly phygital as customers draw more comfort connecting on video conferencing and with DIY tools provided to them.


COVID-19 has also pushed most industries towards digital, as contactless is the need of the hour. How has Future Generali adapted digital post Covid-19?

Thanks to our investments in modern technology stacks and digital infrastructure, we moved very swiftly towards adopting digital as ‘The’ way to do things. We transitioned our physical sales model to an entirely digital, paper-less and contact-less process in just 2 weeks. Our distribution teams, partners and agents have shown exceptional agility in adopting the ‘Digital Sales Kit’ that covers the entire process value chain from prospecting to on-boarding resulting in 95% of our sales now coming from this medium. We launched a social platform called ‘Connected Agents’ and created individual profiles of our agents to be available for customers searching for advice on insurance. It also allows our agents to stay connected with their customers and be visible to their customer networks for broadening their prospects base.

In the month of March, we also launched a simplified and super-fast insurance buying process called ‘BOLT’ for our existing customers who are pre-underwritten basis analytical models. The entire buy journey can be completed via video conferencing where distributor can explain the product using videos and customers can complete the proposal digitally, in less than 5 min with only a few clicks - no paper forms, or documents or even medical tests. This also has a significant impact on time to process and policy can be issued within 48 hours of submission.


At a time of crisis, communication with consumers became the matter of utmost importance, how did you do that? What were your preferred channels?

Listening to our customers has been a deeply ingrained ritual in our organisation. This is our cultural fabric. As we see things, it is not just enough to hear the customers or simply be in touch, we must go beyond the words and understand the pain points, resolve them, eliminate the root-cause and communicate openly and proactively with customers. This can be a very complex and a consuming process. At FGILIC, we had not only built a sophisticated infrastructure to get real time feedback through NPS (Net Promoter Score) but have overtime created a committed community of employees (Cloopers – Who close the loop) in every department who have been empowered with technology as well as decision making authority to fix things as may be required by the customers.

We have seen tremendous improvement in customer satisfaction scores and the same has been augmented in these times when more customers expect empathy and care from the insurers. We use all channels of communication available as per customers preference be it WhatsApp, Email, Customer App, Social platforms, SMS, Call centre or our agents. We recently concluded an outreach campaign where our teams called 10,000 customers during the lockdown period to enquire about their well-being, inform them of relevant COVID related claim provision in their policy and offer any support with respect to the insurance cover they bought. We proactively identified their requirements and issues and resolved them promptly and our customers deeply appreciated the gesture.


What had been your media mix like since the lockdown? Now that lockdown is being lifted in phases, would you change your marketing policies?

We have always adopted a hardworking marketing strategy that is focused on digital and BTL marketing to reach out, build consideration and preference with our target audience. Our media mix is driven by customer outcomes and brand KPIs. We have always believed in the power of content to build user engagement and stickiness. This current context has only augmented our efforts and results significantly. Just before the lockdown, we initiated a campaign to bust myths and fight unverified news and as the lockdown was announced, we launched the next phase of our campaign – “LockInGoodHabits” that brought health and wellness content to customers persuading them to stay healthy and happy. In the third phase, just before the lockdowns were lifted, we heard our customers asking how the future would look like? We understood they were anxious about their careers, business, workplaces and change in lifestyle they may have to embrace. We then launched ‘Masters Speak’ – An online initiative, in line with our organisation’s core value of ‘Live The Community’, where we are bringing some of the world’s greatest thinkers, scholars, leaders and academicians to demystify what lies ahead post COVID and directly address their queries and help them build an action plan for future. We have received tremendous response from the audience and the user engagement is nothing short of phenomenal. So far, we have completed 23 sessions and reached out to over 20 million viewers.


Are you coming up with any new campaign, now that markets are opening?

The fight against this virus is going to be a prolonged one and the longer it persists; deeper will be the impact on our lives. Even though more and more customers are spending time online, we believe this is not the time to push products to customers but to support them and offer them solutions that go beyond the said product. At FGILI, we are driven by our purpose to offer preventive solutions and protect human lives. Authenticity and Trust are key vectors and content is the king.

We will continue to build on our Masters Speak series as it is purposeful content that offers genuine solutions to our customers in these unprecedented times. We have an extraordinary line up of speakers such as Tom Peters, Aswath Damodaran, Rita McGrath and Nandu Nandkishore to name a few for the upcoming sessions sharing their perspectives on how to emerge stronger from this ongoing pandemic.