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How Zurich Insurance Grew a Complex Global Business with High-Value Customers

For their work, C Space and Zurich Insurance won an MRS Award for Financial Services Research at the 2015 Market Research Society Awards. 

Click here to read the full case study about how Zurich Insurance grew its Global Life Insurance offering.

Insurance is a complicated, highly established, technical industry that’s too often overly reliant on legacy systems and processes. Change comes slow, especially when what worked so well in the past is hardcoded into the DNA of industry and company culture.

But, to borrow a phrase from Bob Dylan, the times they are a-changin’. Today, customers – life insurance customers in particular – are empowered, worldly, and have more choice, literally, at their fingertips than ever before. Their rapid adoption of mobile technology is fueling the multi-billion dollar rise of largely unregulated fintech start-ups, which, collectively, pose a threat to the market share of global insurance companies.

Traditional insurers can no longer rely on the status quo to grow. So evolve they must. Of course, that’s hard to do, but if they wish to prosper they have little other choice.

To keep ahead, insurers need to substantively transform their global offerings. They must find ways to fit products and services more seamlessly into the lives of customers. Doing so requires listening closely to end customers, re-engineering the business around and with them, and bringing global customers to life to inspire insurance stakeholders to act, fast. It starts with the lifeblood of every company: customers.

Zurich Insurance, one of the world’s oldest and largest insurance companies, recognized the urgent need to evolve, to reconcile legacy with change. Armed with a new customer-focused mandate, Zurich wanted to better understand its global life insurance customers, an important part of the company’s USD $70 billion in revenue. These customers were primarily affluent and in certain markets predominantly ex-pats, relocating to a new city every few years. Reaching and continuously engaging with them would be difficult.

So the Zurich Global Life Insight team partnered with C Space, together piloting an online community of existing and prospective life insurance customers in Hong Kong. The community was designed to gain a comprehensive, real-time understanding of these people, and to develop insurance products and services directly with them.

Insurance, however, is not exactly a “sexy” topic. What’s more, how do you motivate such a nomadic and time-strapped audience to care about your company so much that they will take time out of their busy day to help you?

From this work with difficult-to-reach (and even more difficult-to-engage-with) customers, Zurich Global Life has today gained deep, targeted insight and a more nuanced understanding of customers’ differing regional perspectives.

Customers’ input and ideas for evolving Zurich Global Life to better serve its global clientele have created significant business impact. In Singapore, customers co-created, co-designed, and even named an award-winning product that has already generated more than USD $4 million in new business value.

Customers have also permeated Zurich’s culture, leading a transformation essential to the company’s continued prosperity. Customers’ voices and ideas reach hundreds of Zurich employees and senior executives, including the CEO. As says Simon Carpenter, Head of Customer Insight & Experience, Zurich Global Life, work with global customers has become “the centerpiece of, and a key driver in, Zurich Global Life’s journey to become the most customer-focused life insurer in the world.”

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