The Value of Recommendation Engines for Insurance
Listen to the Insurbreak podcast on:
Join Lance Taylor, VP & Marketing Partner at EPIC Insurance Brokers in the InsurBreak Podcast.
In this podcast, learn about:
- How effective communication within an organization can boost revenue through awareness of cross-selling opportunities
- How innovation is used to make products work seamlessly across multiple channels to create more sales opportunities and a better customer experience
- How recommendation engines can be used to create connections for salespersons on different product suites that would have been overlooked and hence, end the sales tunnel vision on their own products area
Lance: […] If you do it right, I would imagine, you know, if you didn’t […] make a single new client, you could take the clients that you have and resell them a different product or upgrade them,
Ash: You’re tuning in to the Insurbreak podcast. It’s the podcast about the latest and greatest trends in insurance. I’m your host, Host Ash, and I invite you to join us as we interview experts and executives at Insurance, covering innovative practices, technology advancements, and insight into the future of insurance. […] This podcast is sponsored by Zelros. Zelros is an AI software solution for insurance to hyper-personalize the customer buying experience with insurance recommendations across all channels, boosting client acquisitions, cross-selling, and upselling.
Ash: In this episode, we sit down with Lance Taylor. Lance is a marketing partner at Epic Brokers and has worked in the insurance industry for over 17 years. He focuses on understanding Epic’s growing product catalog and helps the sectors within Epic to drive customer activation. His specialty lies in mining customer insights and translating them into strategies for insurance products and services.
Listen in to this episode to learn about how effective communication within an organization can boost revenue through awareness of cross-selling opportunities, how recommendation engines can be used to boost revenue from existing clients and acquire new clients, and why it’s so important to ensure businesses’ bottom line that diversity, equity, and inclusion are topics that are top of mind for insurance executives right now.
Well, I guess we can start off if you can just tell us a little bit about your background and how you got into insurance, and your experience in insurance so far.
Lance: Yeah, I’ve been in the insurance industry for over 17 years now. I started my career as an internal sales partner for a boutique brokerage firm called True Mark Financial. And as that company grew, I advanced to the VP of Marketing and Sales. […] In 2019, our company was acquired by Epic Brokers and was absorbed into the Life Insurance and Executive Benefits arm of the company.
And in April of this year, I was recruited onto the Mark On team of Epic, which oversees all the marketing practices within Epic and all the acquired companies within the ecosystem. Today I’m speaking to my very first podcast, so I’m trying to be as well-rounded as possible.
Ash: Nice. Right now, obviously, you’re VP of Marketing, but what’s top of mind for you right now? What’s your day-to-day life like?
Lance: It changes. That’s what I like about the marketing space. […] It’s a dynamic space. Right now, I’m focused on being an integration partner. Epic is large due to acquisition, so there’s a lot of different industries that are just being absorbed into the ecosystem as a whole.
I work across and collaborate with internal teams within our lack of a better word ecosystem to build partnerships with stakeholders. My role understands our growing product catalog, and I help sectors within that big and ultimately help them grow. So I think the top of my mind is what our best practices are and how we are all working together in an effective way to increase awareness and boost sales and productivity.
Ash: Yeah, I guess speaking of that, obviously simplifying what’s complex to better the customer experience is probably something that you think about a lot. Now when I say the word silo, what comes to mind?
Lance: You know, a lot of things. I think […] companies when they’re growing, they’re big. A lot of people enter that space and don’t know what’s available to them. When I first joined Epic in 2019, I was overwhelmed by the amount of products and services that we offered. And I felt like a silo apart from the rest of the organization and unaware of all the opportunities that could be generated if we had the right tools in place.
So now, at the time, I didn’t know what tools those are. So I think building awareness within a company and educating […] an inquiry into that space is important. But at the time I thought, what if we could take innovation to the next level by making our products work seamlessly across multiple channels? This doesn’t just make for better service, but it also makes it harder for customers to leave that ecosystem. It’s what makes Apple so impressive.
People buy headphones, phones, TVs, all these things, and they all work seamlessly together. So they continue to keep buying them even though they may not be the best at the moment. They all work together, and that’s priceless. That apple example. I think they’re maybe slow to market on certain things, but it’s because they’re all working together.
Maybe a Google, and I’m not here to insult anyone, and I don’t actually know this for a fact, but I would imagine a company like that, they can just work independently and invent something. So for instance, if I’m where I am, I want to invent this new tool, I’ll just invent it. And I don’t have to check with everyone within the company, I’ll just do it. Whereas in Apple’s example, they have to figure out, I’m making this, how’s it going to pair with my headphones, how’s it going to pair with my TV and my phone and all the other devices that we have within our ecosystem. And I think that’s true of the insurance space.
Someone may dedicate themselves to a product, and I was guilty of this myself and still probably continue to be in some ways. I worked with just life insurance. So that’s all I wanted to know. I wasn’t curious or I didn’t want to know. I didn’t want to know how to work with other products because that’s all I did in doing.
So that’s where the missed opportunity is. Have we been talking and working together? I would have realized, oh, I just sold life insurance. The same guy could have got auto or home or […] whatever.
Ash: So then what are some of the drivers of that change?
Lance: I think it boils down to the […] ever-evolving consumer. Although the insurance industry is lagging behind other domains in terms of digitalization, […] customer expectations are going to force companies to keep up with the speed of change. So as we speak, the customer experience in the insurance space is being groomed and conditioned by other industries. […] Customers wake up in a world in which the very needs can be addressed to their smartphones. So it’s our job to figure out how can we compete and offer products and services that are on par with these expectations?
How do we change the perception of life insurance through technology? A component of that is a recommendation engine, in my opinion.
Ash: So I guess with how can a recommendation engine for somebody that might not know, how can that play a role in simplifying the complex?
I think you said the word simplification simplicity. […] How do we do that?
Lance: I think that’s what the focus should be on. And that can be done in three ways by narrowing down the options, showing the right content at the right time, and the packaging, the content presentation. So let’s use that Netflix case, for example, on how they narrow down options through simplicity. Think of the cocktail party effect, which is basically someone just tuning into a conversation that’s just about them. Something happens when a customer sees or hears a solution that’s relevant to their specific needs, and Netflix does as well.
So 80% of their watched content in the last two years is a direct result of Netflix’s recommendation engine. And recommendation engines can offer some psychological comfort as well. So in that same example, netflix’s Top Ten and trending now imply social proof, which is a potent tool in evaluating risk. So if I’m watching something that everyone else is watching, then how can I go wrong when it comes to trying new things? Consumers feel better when others have tried them first.
So they’re a great use case on how recommendation engines distill an overwhelming amount of choices into a digestible format. We have a boring product maybe, it can be seen as boring. We’re not selling jet skis, and there are products that are going to help us more than those things, in my opinion. But they’re not necessarily seen as a commodity or important at the time until you’re in a certain phase of your life. For most people and there are many products that are out there, people just say, oh, life insurance, there’s one life insurance.
I’m here for the life insurance place. Well, there’s a ton of products, there’s a ton of features. So those things become overwhelming and that’s where salespeople and marketing people have to distill that information and those choices down to a digestible format. And recommendation engines can help take all of those options. The alternative is to ask a consumer every single question like: do you need life insurance? You need disability? Do you need LTC? You need auto. They’re going to go, no. And that may be true, but it may not be true.
And then now it’s isolated to that one interaction. So the recommendation engine extracts the opportunity from all the data points. So instead of approaching every client with this one approach, hey, do you need these 30 things on this list right now? Can you check them off, please? You go, well, no, you’re my client.
Let’s talk about this. But down the line, maybe later on down the road, they may need something else. And that opportunity could have been extracted from recommendations engines, and data points and made the connection for sale later on or another product within my product suite that I would have otherwise overlooked.
Ash: Yeah, like when you said Netflix initially, I was like, I remember it was like a couple of weeks ago when I got the recommendation for Peeky Blinders. Like, hey, Piki Blinders is out, ash, you got to watch it. I’m like, how did they know that I wanted to […] that’s true, though, most of the time. Oh, yeah, I’ll watch that. But as a consumer right, of insurance, how would that look to me? When you say Netflix, I automatically know what that means because I get those emails and I get those recommendations. Like, if you’re on Netflix, you see like, top shows for you because you watch this or whatever. But how does that look? Like, maybe if you can give an example of how it would look to me as a consumer coming in, like through email, I’m just curious how that would look.
Lance: We’ll use an example where we’re already working together. You bought a term policy for me a couple of years ago. At the time, that’s what you needed, but now you have bought a house. We got to talking, and since then, I was just by myself, and now I’m a part of Epic in this case. Now you’re a business owner, you have a winery, and you live in California. Now all of a sudden, my product suite has fire insurance and wildfire insurance or winery insurance. You’re a little older now. So I look through your file, let’s say, and I go through there now it’s paired some of the things, people in your age group, your stage of life because I’ve made notes.
You have two children, you are a business owner, have that minor you mentioned. And now it’s connecting the dots, and it’s picking, and it’s cataloging and going through my product suite and saying, hey, you may also be interested in XYZ and to equate, that what that would look like. That’s the, hey, Peaky Blinders is out. Ozark season four is out. Check it out.
Those are the things where I look and say, hey, we’re talking. You mentioned you own a business. By the way, I also offer business insurance. And those are things that can be uncovered through conversation anyway. But what those things do in the overall scheme of things, in terms of what I was talking about with Apple is it gives other people who may not have that intuitiveness the ability to extract and find opportunities as well.
What makes that case useful is I have to be interacting with you, but I could have an admin or someone who inputs data or someone in another part of the company if all of our information is interconnected, may say, hey, listen, I was looking I just searched for the keyword winery, and your client came up. We just added winery insurance to our products. Would it be okay if I called your client? Oh, yeah, he’s actually here. Here’s his contact information.
I ask you, is that okay if my colleague called you? And then you guys talk and generate a sale out of that?
Ash: What value does a recommendation engine bring to an insurance company from the three aspects of client loyalty cross-sell and upsell? And then bringing in new revenue, bringing in new business,
Lance: It enhances that relationship, that word of mouth that every marketer covets. That’s the best thing you can get from a client. That word of mouth. Recommendation and evangelism, that enhances that relationship. Because now you can say, oh, I have the best guy. You always hear, I have the best dentist. I’ll call my guy, he’ll take care of telling my sin.
He’ll take care of you. And that’s the kind of relationship we want to build, that we offer as much value as possible. So they didn’t just buy something from us, they bought a relationship and someone that’s looking out for them. So for my mortgage company, they’ll send me, oh, it’s your birthday, and those are little things, but I still talk to them, the housing market, and they’ll refer me to certain people, and I will talk to this person. And in doing that, that relationship, I’ve recommended three different people to them because they keep me afloat on the industry and reach out, I’ll get cookies on my porch, I was in the area, that kind of thing.
And I know we can’t do that to everyone, but that’s the client’s loyalty. And what that equates to on the insurance side is we’re offering them value. We’re offering them solutions to things and bringing up questions and conversations that they didn’t know they should be having right now. Because ultimately, we’re a keystroke away from being replaced by something else, another option. So if I’m not offering you life insurance, they’re going to get it from someone else if they need it.
The cross-sell and upsell opportunity, it connects us all in that ecosystem, like I said, or for a specific example I use in this deck I put together, our company is made up of 20% salespeople, and the rest are in operations. And those people in the operations, those 80% are exposed to the process and clients. And imagine having those people having a sales mind, […] their sales hat on when they’re interacting with these people and recognizing opportunities and seeing correlations between products and relationships and saying, hey, why don’t you, hey, I’m filling out this form. I noticed these things about this client. They overlap with this other client from another different industry or vertical within the org. you guys should be talking together or that’s an opportunity because oftentimes we have the same clients and we’re not talking to one another and kind of in the same way.
New revenue, those are new revenue opportunities. They help create opportunities and drive engagement and create awareness for other things. And in doing so, over time, those people that were otherwise had tunnel vision on their product are starting to look and think a different way and think, how can I help my colleagues in this area? Or how can I identify opportunities and other cross-sell and upsell opportunities within my own client base or within my own practice? And that’s where new revenue would come from, from within, if you do it right.
I would imagine if you didn’t make a single new client, you could take the clients that you have and resell them a different product or upgrade them or cross sell them.
Ash: Yeah, that makes a lot of sense. Like when I’m making a life change or when you moved or when you start a business, it would be great if something came to your inbox or somebody just said this is a recommendation for you instead of going out and looking for it. That makes a lot of sense. So now on a more personal note to share your thoughts kind of on diversity, equity and inclusion in the insurance space, what do you think the industry is now? Where can the industry improve?
Lance: I think a lot of progress has been made in terms of creating awareness. From my own experience, I don’t see a lot of people that look like me in meetings. And that’s not to say there isn’t diversity in the insurance industry, it just seems to be segment based diversity. Where I see the most diversity is in certain departments of the insurance business, like Claims or HR.
And I feel that other areas of the business can be missing out on unique perspectives from underrepresented groups. So employees are going to be looking to company leaders to lead the charge on this issue. And I would say to those leaders, just be kind and be fair. Look past appearances and evaluate on merit and character. Everyone will work harder for someone that values them no matter what their race or gender is.
And I think when people see that, I think that’ll initiate change and an appreciation that may have been lacking or deficient in most jobs in most places. When people feel like they’re being treated fairly, they don’t attribute it to when they aren’t treated fairly, they may attribute it to their race. When it has something to do with that, it just might feel that way, but when everyone’s treated fairly and treated well, it doesn’t really become a factor. I think, oh, I got a raise because I’m doing a great job. I didn’t think I got to raise because of my race or anything.
A woman may say that too, oh, I just got a raise, but it was because they’re valued. And when you treat people like that, I think it kind of diminishes that race gender component from the conversation and just becomes about the person, not necessarily the race or anything. So be nice, be kind, be fair to people, and they’ll appreciate, they’ll work harder for you and they’ll start to not feel look over because of their race or their gender. That’s kind of where I see it, and I think we’re heading in the right direction.
Ash: The final question we have is, if you could go back 20 years, what advice would you give to the younger Lance?
Younger Lance: take more chances speaking out more, or networking more, or raising my hand or volunteering more in the workspace. I’ve discovered later in my career that people like to be helped. They like to partner and collaborate and they like to build together. I’ve learned that so much is possible when these connections are formed. And as a result of this, I’ve formed some really great friendships and learned so many new skills and have learned how to think more critically and creatively.
And I wish I had known that sooner or started sooner. I just kind of stuck to myself and just kept my head down and just did what I needed to do and I would go home and go for a run or whatever it was and that’s fine. But I’ve seen the friendships, the professional friendships, and what’s possible with extending yourself out to more people and taking more chances. And I like that path better. So I wish I knew that sooner.
So I would definitely have told myself that.
Ash: This podcast is sponsored by Zelros. Zelros is an AI software solution for insurance to hyper-personalize the customer buying experience with insurance recommendations across all channels, boosting client acquisitions, cross-sell and upselling. Thank you for tuning in to the Intra Break podcast. Join us next month as we interview another insurance executive to gain insight into innovative practices, technology advancements, and what the future of the industry.
“[…] Although the insurance industry is lagging behind other domains in terms of digitalization, […] customer expectations are going to force companies to keep up with the speed of change. So as we speak, the customer experience in the insurance space is being groomed and conditioned by other industries. […] Customers wake up in a world in which their very needs can be addressed to their smartphones. So it’s our job to figure out how can we compete and offer products and services that are on par with these expectations. How do we change the perception of life insurance through technology? A component of that is a recommendation engine, in my opinion.” – Lance Taylor – VP & Marketing Partner at EPIC
Do you want to know more about how the Zelros recommendation engine can help your marketing team increase the quote conversation rate via personalized messaging and your sales team to increase cross-selling and upselling opportunities? Request a demo with Zelros today.