Abhishek Rathi, Head, Marketing, Digital, eCommerce & Analytics, PNB Metlife talks about the brand’s use of innovations like Virtual Reality and chatbots and why it is important to keep using new technology to build a connect with customers
By Samarpita Banerjee
Q] What role does innovations like VR and Chatbots play in the insurance sector?
The insurance industry in India is undertaking significant steps to incorporate technological innovation that can improve business processes and support profitability and growth. From messenger bots, artificial intelligence, big data analytics, companies will need to rethink their business models to understand and service customers better. As the dynamics in the industry swing towards digitization, we at PNB MetLife have been at the forefront of integrating technology onto our platforms to serve customers better through digital innovation. In most cases, the customer does not have a clear idea about a life insurance product. ConVRse, our Virtual Reality platform and more recently, Dr Jeevan, our Artificial Intelligence-enabled chatbot, were launched to enhance the engagement and intensity of interactions for the firm’s customers with its sales teams and distributors and demystify the complex world of life insurance.
Q] Are there plans to expand the company’s VR offering?
The feedback from customers in our first phase of the rollout has been overwhelmingly positive. More than 1,500 customers were surveyed from which 95% rated the ‘conVRse’ experience as extremely good/good for being futuristic and convenient. Customers are intrigued by the experience of the virtual environment and spend an average of eight minutes exploring its various functions. Currently, Khushi, our Virtual Assistant, is available in 10 cities in PNB MetLife branches. There are plans to scale up its presence shortly. We plan to equip our sales team with VR devices to provide instant service to customers and also educate them about our solutions. We would like to build conVRse for customers to download and engage directly with PMLI from the comfort of their homes as well as create self-help kiosks with conVRse across partner locations.
Q] How can it be beneficial for customers?
Insurance is high on Emotional Quotient. The personalized experience provided by conVRse will lead to deeper engagement with the customers and help educate them beyond a transactional interaction on current mediums. conVRse adds another dimension to our servicing platform where the customer can get instant access to our experts, view their policy details as they speak, get a speedy resolution, upload their KYC documents through activation of camera, interact and understand simply in a two-way transparent communication.
Q] In an already hyper-competitive segment, who are your target consumers and how do you plan to draw their attention through your marketing initiatives?
In our industry, the demographics of our target audience are fairly fluid. With a growing young population, increase of Internet and mobile penetration in the hinterlands, a rapidly growing middle class and financial literacy, our target audience is spread over age groups and across geographies in the country. It is imperative to identify with our target segments and their financial needs to be able to help fulfil them. In order to specifically identify the core target segments, we conduct segmentation exercises that include attitudinal and behavioral attributes apart from the demographics to arrive at the core target segment and create specific solutions for them. We believe there are specific life-stages associated with our products. With the more mature and financially literate audiences, customizable product design plays an important role, while we have employed a digital route through various thematic campaigns to engage with the millennial.
Q] What are some of the marketing activities that you undertake to build your brand?
Under our ‘Health for Happiness’ campaign, we have invested in brand properties related to health and well-being like PNB MetLife Junior Badminton Championship and PNB MetLife Satara Hill Half Marathon for the past few years to engage with our customers. In fact, we recently launched new 3D Pro Badminton Challenge, a mobile game app to further strengthen our commitment for badminton as a sport. The app has over 1,25,000 organic downloads within the first month of its launch, without a single marketing spend. Also, keeping in mind the changing trends in media consumption of our customers, we have steadily increased our media spends towards digital mediums. In a short span of time, PNB MetLife has garnered over eight lakh fans on Facebook and more than 45,000 followers on Twitter. Our #AnythingCanHappen social campaign recently won the ABP News Social Campaign of the year. Our ‘Circle of Trust’ marketing campaign propagates need-based selling that entails assessing the life stage and specific financial needs of the prospects and presenting the most suited solutions towards Protection & Health, child’s future, wealth creation and retirement planning.
Q] In a scenario where the offerings and communication of insurance players is similar, how does the brand distinguish itself?
Insurance is an area where advertisers and companies have traditionally engaged with their audiences using the fear or emotional card, aiming to touch the heartstrings and appeal to the audience’s emotional side to get the message across. Secondly, most consumers look at insurance as an investment tool rather than a safety net in case of any untoward incident. While consumers are aware of the uncertainty of death, they don’t want to even think that something unfortunate can happen to them. We are looking to change that mindset with the launch of a light-hearted brand communication that conveys the message of life’s unpredictability & importance of insurance. We believe in simple, continuous and personalized engagement with our customers to uphold our distinctive brand positioning of being our customers’ trusted partner, helping them navigate life’s twists and turns. Our recent campaign #LifeMeinTwist, uses the humorous route to get consumers to recognize the need for insurance to protect themselves and their families as ‘Anything can happen in life’. The film was awarded the prestigious Asia Spikes Bronze 2016 award at Singapore.
Q] What are some of the newly launched services by PNB MetLife?
We have recently launched the PNB MetLife Mera Heart and Cancer Care (MHCC), a tailor made product that provides comprehensive cover against all stages of cancer and heart diseases. Recently, we also introduced ‘JKB Family Protection Savings Bank Account’ in association with the J&K Bank which is a one-of-its kind bundled saving account that gives benefits of savings and protection. Last year, we had launched an online insurance plan, where customers could pick and choose and draw up their own plan – drawing on the DIY phenomenon.
Q] What challenges do you see coming ahead, from an industry perspective?
Insurance as a product category faces a key challenge of limited customer touch-points and low customer engagement despite the consultative nature of the product and significant financial implications for the customers. As an industry, we have historically been intermediary-led with very little interaction with customers directly. High attrition amongst intermediaries and frontline staff has led to low customer contactability in this sector. So, as an industry, we have to collectively drive awareness using unconventional engagement routes.
Q] The brand strategy of most insurance products is strongly focused on the idea of trust. Is the positioning of PNB MetLife any different from other insurance brands?
Trust happens to be the starting point of forging a long lasting relationship with our customers. We draw heavily from the strong brand equity of our shareholders PNB and MetLife, to be a trusted partner of our customers. However, our distinctive brand positioning revolves around helping our customers welcome change, enable them to anticipate and adapt to life’s twists and turns and leverage all opportunities that come their way. The brand proposition is also the centre of everything that we do in terms of our business strategy – designing simplified yet customized products, developing sales and servicing technology that's straightforward and helpful, and providing a superior customer experience across customer lifecycle.
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