Applied Systems: Your indispensable partner of choice
Applied Systems is the leading global provider of cloud-based software that powers the business of insurance and is the indispensable partner of choice for NFP.
“We've been a partner with NFP for more than 10 years - our companies have grown together throughout the US and Canada, said Trevor Bunker, Chief Customer Officer at Applied.
“We provide that digital ecosystem or digital platform, by which they run their business and help support their customers. Our goal at Applied is to really be that essential partner to customers like NFP, who look out for their customers to help them protect what matters most,” said Bunker.
“Our internal mantra is to be an indispensable partner - to be that partner of choice. We strive to be that partner you want to bring into the room every day - we focus on being the easiest company to do business with,” he said.
For more than 35 years, Applied has led an industry which they helped to create with a mission to continuously improve the business of insurance. Since 1983, the company has been at the forefront of insurance technology, leading the way through innovation.
Applied is the world’s largest provider of agency and brokerage management systems serving customers throughout the United States, Canada, the Republic of Ireland, and the UK. By automating the insurance lifecycle, Applied’s people and products enable millions of people around the world to safeguard and protect what matters most.
Applied Systems - quick facts:
- Founded in 1983
- Headquarters: University Park, Illinois (US), with regional headquarters in Mississauga, Ontario (Canada), Brighton, East Sussex (UK) and Belfast, Northern Ireland (Ireland)
- More than 2,300 employees
- 99 per cent of IIABA Best Practices Agencies use Applied System technology
Commenting on industry trends, Bunker said today’s customer expectations are driven by big tech – shaped by their experiences interacting with companies such as Google, Uber and social media platforms.
“We are helping our customers continue to stay ahead of those innovation curves,” he said. “And an output of all these digital interactions is data – our customers and the industry are becoming even more obsessed with data. Clients want to be able to mine data to gain deeper insights into their business and make more informed, intelligent decisions.
“NFP and others around the world are constantly looking to expand their data repository – looking at their own data, integrating third-party data – all while keeping data security front and center.
“How they show up in a digital storefront can elevate their brand, increase their pipeline and create market opportunity. But there's also an internal efficiency as well. How they engage digitally with insurers or carriers. Creating efficiency, having the ability to go out and find the best rates or best products out there in the market to better serve their needs.”
Bunker said independent agencies are attracted to Applied because they offer scale and expertise. “We bring expertise around digital connectivity – gone are the days of closed systems. Independent agents want choice and the flexibility to innovate. Our open architecture provides flexibility and easier access to more quickly integrate third-party applications so independent agencies can be in control of their own tech destiny,” he said.
Applied’s philosophy around open technology extends to its partners too. Case in point, Applied has partnered with Salesforce which combines Applied’s expertise in insurance and Salesforce’s expertise in sales and marketing. “It’s a natural synergy to be able to bring our solutions together. We're very excited to be able to deliver capabilities on the Salesforce platform,” said Bunker.
Google is another technology partner and has made a significant investment in the company. The partnership has brought a wealth of expertise and technology to Applied. From access to data scientists to deep cloud expertise, the partnership has allowed Applied to focus on providing that open, flexible, scalable technology.
“Google has really given us that vaccine, or that boost in the arm, to really help up our game from a technology stance,” said Bunker.
Re-defining the economics of CX in the new customer journey
There’s no shortage of customer service channels for the enterprise to select from today. Regardless of the many new metrics that have emerged – such as customer success, or empathy – cost reduction is still a primary driver in selection criteria.
There are many articles dedicated to how companies can turn customer service and customer experience (CX) from a cost to a revenue centre. The problem is, if you stop there and don’t look beyond cost reduction, you’re limiting the scope for CX to become an even bigger economic contributor in the enterprise.
There is every opportunity for customer service and CX to significantly influence the front end of business, particularly amongst direct-to-consumer subscription-based products and services, such as popular streaming services like Netflix, Amazon, Disney+, as well as sports subscription services like DAZN.
In these products and services and others, there are new customer journeys that may drive business growth and revenue. They start earlier and may last a lifetime, so getting things right at the start of the journey is key so that customers have the best experience from day one.
Not only will this help in making customers less likely to reach out for issues-based support further down the line, but these customers will be much less likely to churn, and much more likely to take up new services as they are offered throughout the lifetime journey.
So, what does the new customer journey look like for these services?
Opportunity waiting for the likes of Netflix & Disney
While consumers may have previously regarded customer service as a way to mitigate the inconveniences in their lives, the customer journey is expanding in scope every day. Today there are many more touchpoints available that put CX in a position to drive revenue.
For one-off purchases, traditional CX deployments have not changed significantly in the past few years. However, if you look at the change in the CX relationships we’re seeing with subscription-based products and services, particularly media-based streaming services, it’s clear that these companies lead what quickly become very multifaceted relationships with their customers. These have serious potential to evolve over time for increased economic benefit.
For any sort of subscription-based business, customer lifetime value is paramount, and the requirement to actively manage a continued positive customer experience is critical.
Every interaction is an opportunity, and every data point is a chance to offer more value. Introductory offers can convert to longtime customers. Longtime customers may take up opportunities to upgrade to more premium products or services. They may also appreciate incentives to invite family and friends to become customers. Consumers who like a particular service, for example, may appreciate a recommendation for another similar or complimentary service.
It all starts with customer interaction, and the customer experience journey becomes an opportunity to strategically affect the user base and resulting revenue - which is a far cry from the limitations of call center cost reduction or churn metrics.
How do companies support the new customer journey?
More and more, customers look at the new customer journey as engaging with brands as part of their lifestyles. Many companies are making brand ambassadors available before the traditional customer journey even starts, which is a marked change from a purely transactional relationship associated with a one-off purchase.
These ambassadors, who are often independent users of products or services, are providing trusted pre-sales advice, and that same trusted advice can also function to nurture the customer journey in a subscription-based relationship. Call it ‘GigCX’ or ‘crowdsourced customer service’ or even ‘peer-to-peer customer service’ - it doesn’t matter.
The key is in providing impartial, trusted advice from real users. Think about it: who would you rather get advice from? Someone who has used a product or service extensively, or someone who has been trained to provide customer service surrounding that product or service?
For services such as streaming media, advice from trusted experts with real product know-how could be invaluable. This may not be limited to technical issues, such as what to do when you can’t access your favourite show, or how to access services across various devices. It could be parents helping other parents who are concerned about how to restrict adult content from child viewers, or simply customers who have similar taste in programming who can comment on the benefits of upgraded or premium products. The point is, these experts are easily available at any touchpoint in the customer lifetime journey, creating more chances to add value.
It’s also about tipping customers from ‘passive’ to ‘promoter’ in the NPS scale. It’s an opportunity to turn neutral customers who may be vulnerable to competitive offerings into loyal enthusiasts who will keep buying and referring others, fuelling growth. It may ultimately help drive even further revenue by creating customers that are helping to sell the brand itself.
And, while chatbots and automation may play a key role, they are often not able to handle the more complex support needed in the new customer journey. Conversational AI is rarely as conversational as it claims to be, and in the new customer journey, most companies are finding that a mix of automation and people-centric service is an ideal way to nurture the many new touchpoints created.
It’s no longer about trying to replace human capital with automation: it’s about orchestrating a uniquely personalised CX, and proactively engaging during the customer lifecycle to enhance the experience, and to create more long-term value.
At the moment, we’re only seeing the tip of the iceberg in terms of the power to affect the economics introduced by the new customer journey. We’ll no doubt see this evolve rapidly particularly amongst streaming companies as they use human-centric connections in CX to support the full potential of customer lifetime value.
About Roger Beadle
Roger Beadle is an entrepreneur and business leader who is reinventing how customer service is delivered via the gig economy. After establishing several businesses in the contact centre industry, Roger co-founded Limitless with Megan Neale in 2016. Limitless is a gig-economy platform that addresses some of the biggest challenges faced by the contact center industry: low pay, high attrition and access to new talent. Previously, Roger and Megan helped to build one of the largest privately-owned outsourced contact center business in Europe, before selling the business to the global conglomerate Hinduja Group. Roger is an outspoken proponent of digital ethics, worker’s rights and the ‘good-gig:’ which encapsulates gig work for incremental pay versus full time work, skilled gig work, no unpaid time/downtime and zero expenses.
Named a Rising Star at Deloitte’s Technology Fast 50 program, Limitless is a gig customer service platform, combining crowdsourcing and AI to help global businesses address their biggest customer service challenges – rising costs, increasing attrition, variability in demand and the need for diversity. Brands like Microsoft, Unilever, Daily Mail Group and Postmates are using Limitless’ SmartCrowdTM technology to connect with their most engaged customers, and reward them for providing on-demand customer service that can flex in line with demand. Limitless is one of the world’s first global tech platforms to introduce localised platform terms to protect the rights of its gigging workers. Backed by AlbionVC, Downing Ventures and Unilever Ventures, Limitless is empowering people worldwide to earn money for providing brilliant customer service for the brands they love.