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The traditional business model of many insurance companies is in jeopardy. New platforms, startups and technology are shaking up the industry, leaving laggards wondering where all their customers have gone.

According to PWC’s top insurance challenges of 2016, the two key drivers of disruption are changing customer expectations and the increased pace of innovation. New consumer technologies enable faster, more personalized digital services, and that’s just what consumers are demanding. Meanwhile, incremental innovation allows many insurance companies to meet expectations, but not necessarily exceed them.

Sun Life Financial, one of the world’s largest insurers, has successfully navigated changing customer expectations. Lindsey Colella, the associate director of insights integration at Sun Life Financial, recently spoke at the Customer Intelligence Summit in Chicago, where she shared strategies and insider tips.

How Sun Life Financial keeps up with changing customer expectations

Sun Life Financial’s two principle consumer groups are brokers (third party insurance firms) and employers (the end clients). The company wanted to create new experiences to set it apart from competition, but needed to know more about its basic consumer’s needs.

“Sun Life Financial seeks to be the best partner to our brokers throughout every touch point,” said Colella. “To fulfill our mission, we need to understand exactly what brokers consider to be ‘table stakes’ and infuse that perspective into our company culture.” In 2015, Sun Life Financial launched the Broker Voices Community, an insight community of 400 brokers.

Traditionally only reached through sales representatives, brokers now have a direct, two-way channel to connect with the insurance company. This gives Sun Life Financial the chance to get to know brokers and understand their how expectations of insurance carriers are changing.

For example, the company learned through the community that brokers have different digital needs based on the size and type of firm they work for. As a result, Sun Life Financial tailors the digital services they offer to brokers. They learned that mid-size brokers lack the digital resources that their clients expect, so a carrier that offers these resources can be an attractive partner. The company is exploring options to offer digital services such as benefits administration and online to this segment of brokers.

Final thoughts

It’s no longer feasible for insurance companies to flirt with the idea of customer centricity. Changing customer expectations are pushing for more personalized services, redefining value propositions and driving technological advancements. Empowered customers have upset the very nature of the insurance industry and are willing to shift loyalties to find what they want. Rather than resist updating their business models and risk losing customers, Sun Life Financial found a way to evolve with changing technologies by going straight to the source: the customer.

Find out how you can keep up with the fast pace of innovation and changing customer expectations. Download the ‘Enterprise Guide to Innovation.’
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