May 19, 2020

Combining automation and personalization for customer communication

Elizabeth Stephen
3 min
Combining automation and personalization for customer communication

Elizabeth Stephen, VP of Customer Engagement at Striata (America) highlights what insurers need to know about combining automation and personalisation. 

Traditionally, insurers have lagged behind other industries when it comes to customer communication. 

If customers did receive communications from their insurer, it would most likely be after they’d filed a claim, or if it was time to renew their policy. 

But in a world where customers are used to other companies placing them at the center of their experience, that’s no longer viable. If established insurers want to avoid being usurped by new, disruptive players, they need to embrace customer communication. 

Importantly, that messaging needs to be highly personalized and tailored to each customer. Fortunately, technology means that it’s possible to provide that kind of personalization in a way that’s automated and, more importantly, effective. 

The need for improvement 

The insurance industry’s issues with customer communication aren’t just related to the infrequency.

Stats show that more than 90 percent of insurers worldwide do not communicate with their customers even once a year and that 20 to 40 percent of their customer base will not receive a single communication all year. 

Even when insurers send an appropriate amount of communication, they often send out the wrong kind of messaging. 

According to Oliver Börner, principal business solutions manager for global customer intelligence at SAS, “The typical insurer’s customer communications are 90 to 99 percent sales-focused and 1 to 10 percent service-focused, but the goal should be 70 percent of communications directed at serving the customer and building trust and only 30 percent aimed at sales.”

With new, disruptive players, who understand the need for customer communication, entering the insurance space, business as usual simply isn’t an option for traditional insurers. 

The power of personalization 

The most important step insurers can take when it comes to improving customer communication is using the considerable data at their disposal to ensure that messages are as personalized as possible. 

That doesn’t just mean knowing a customer’s name, or what products are best suited to their needs. It also means being able to communicate with them on the channels they’re most comfortable with and which they can access at any time. 

Insurance customers want to interact at a time and via a channel of their preference.  They require real value from the interactions they have with their insurers. They expect both marketing and services to be highly personalized, from content to pricing. Communication must be seamlessly cross-channel, consistent and delivered in real-time. 


Embracing automation 

Of course, this kind of personalized communication wouldn’t be viable if it had to be done manually. 

Automation, enhanced by artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning (ML) allows even the biggest insurers to provide their customers with personalized, relevant communication. 

This combination of automation and personalization has the chance to fundamentally change the way insurance works. 

It’s already possible, for example, to have an automated buying experience, using chatbots that can pull on customers’ geographic and social data for personalized interactions.

Carriers will also allow users to customize coverage for specific items and events (known as on-demand insurance). 

According to McKinsey,  automated customer service apps that handle most policyholder interactions through voice and text will ensure that claims are resolved in minutes rather than days. 

People-centered insurance 

Ultimately, combining personalization with automation results in insurers that aren’t just customer-centric, but people-centric. 

Insurers who embrace this approach must, however, commit themselves to a cycle of continuous interaction with constant adaptation. 

Those who get it right stand the chance to realize serious benefits, turning customer experience into a significant competitive advantage.   

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Jun 13, 2021

Marketing matters: from IBM to Kyndryl

Kate Birch
5 min
Former CMO for IBM Americas Maria Bartolome Winans was recently named CMO for Kyndryl. Maria talks about her new role and her leadership style

Former Chief Marketing Officer for IBM Americas, and an IBM veteran of more than 25 years, Maria Bartolome Winans was recently named CMO for Kyndryl.

Prior to joining Kyndryl as Chief Marketing Officer, Maria had a 25-year career at IBM, most recently as the tech giant’s CMO where she oversaw all marketing professionals and activities across North America, Canada and Latin America. She has held senior global marketing positions in a variety of disciplines and business units across IBM, most notably strategic initiatives in Smarter Cities and Watson Customer Engagement, as well as leading teams in services, business analytics, and mobile and industry solutions. She is known for her work with teams to leverage data, analytics and cloud technologies to build deeper engagements with customers and partners.

With a passion for marketing, business and people, and a recognized expert in data-driven marketing and brand engagement, Maria talks to Business Chief about her new role, her leadership style and what success means to her.

You've recently moved from IBM to Kyndryl, joining as CMO. Tell us about this exciting new role?

I’m Chief Marketing Officer for Kyndryl, the independent company that will be created following the separation from IBM of its Managed Infrastructure Services business, expected to occur by the end of 2021. My role is to plan, develop, and execute Kyndryl's marketing and advertising initiatives. This includes building a company culture and brand identity on which we base our marketing and advertising strategy.

We have an amazing opportunity ahead at Kyndryl to create a company brand that will stand apart in the market by leading with our people first. Once we are an independent company, each Kyndryl employee will advance the vital systems that power human progress. Our people are devoted, restless, empathetic, and anticipatory – key qualities needed as we build on existing customer relationships and cultivate new ones. Our people are at the heart of this business and I am deeply hopeful and excited for our future.

What experiences have helped prepare you for this new opportunity?

I’ve had a very rich and diverse career history at IBM that has lasted 25+ years. I started out in sales but landed explored opportunities at IBM in different roles, business units, geographies, and functions. Marketing and business are my passions and I landed on Marketing because it allowed me to utilize both my left and right brain, bringing together art and science. In college, I was no tonly a business major, but an art major. I love marketing because I can leverage my extensive knowledge of business, while also being able to think openly and creatively.

The opportunities I was given during my time at IBM and my natural curiosity have led me to the path I’m on now and there’s no better next career step than a once-in-a-lifetime-opportunity to help launch a company. The core of my role at Kyndryl is to create a culture centered on our people and growing up in my career at IBM has allowed me to see first-hand how to prioritize people and ensure they are at the heart of progress in everything Kyndryl will do.

How would you describe your leadership style?

I believe that people aren't your greatest assets, they are your only assets. My platform and background for leadership has always been grounded in authenticity to who I am and centered on diversity and inclusion. I immigrated to the US from Chile when I was 10 years old and so I know the power and beauty that comes from leaning into what makes you different from other people, and that's what I want every person in my marketing organization to feel – the value in bringing their most authentic self to work every day. The way our employees feel when they show up for themselves authentically is how they will also show up for our customers, and strong relationships drive growth.

I think this is especially true in light of a world forever changed by the pandemic. Living through such an unprecedented time has reinforced that we are all humans. We can't lead or care for one another without empathy and I think leaders everywhere have been reminded of this.

What’s the best leadership advice you’ve received?

When I was growing up as an immigrant in North Carolina, I often wanted to be just like everyone else. But my mother always told me: Be unique, be memorable – you have an authentic view and experience of the world that no one else will ever have, so don't try to be anyone else but you.

What does success look like to you?

I think the concept of success is multi-faceted. From a career perspective, being in a job where you're respected and appreciated, and where you can see how your contributions are providing value by motivating your teams to be better – that's success! From a personal perspective, there is no greater accomplishment than investing in the next generation. I love mentoring younger professionals – they are the future. I want my legacy as a leader to include providing value in work culture, but also in leaving a personal impact on the lives of professionals who will carry the workforce forward. Finding a position in life with a job and company that offers me a chance at all of that is what success looks like to me.

What advice would you give to your younger self just starting out in the industry?

I've always been a naturally curious person and it's easy for me to over-commit to projects that pique my interest. I've learned over years of practice how to manage that, so to my younger self I’d say… prioritize the things that are most important, and then become amazing at those things.

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