Bridging the Digital Divide and Providing Insurance to South Africa's Rural Areas
As one of a handful of document developers in South Africa, I'm a bit of a pioneer. There were only two or three of us when I started my journey a decade ago. Now we're up to approximately six strong. I'm happy to share knowledge with the next generation in my field, as it is something of a necessity. A couple of years ago, I took six-weeks sick leave, and my projects were all put on hold due to resource and specialist knowledge limitations. This is a big deal because of how important communication is with our customers.
I work in the Financial Services Industry for a company that focuses mainly on what we call the lower LSM market. The LSM—or living standards measure—is a demographic tool that cuts across race, gender, and class boundaries. It identifies South African consumers based on where they live, as well as on their access to sanitation, infrastructure, and technology in order for industry to better service and understand specific needs and requirements.
As you can imagine, those who are low on the LSM scale often face considerable socio-economic obstacles. Like all consumers, they deserve access to suitable products.
Our business offers affordable peace of mind to the people who need it the most. Our brand is a trusted one and our goal is to make the client experience so valuable, they'll want to and be in a position to hold on to it. We believe in the promise we sell to our clients.
Creating a CCM Mindset in a Vacuum
As a seasoned document developer, I oversee our customer communications management solution (CCM). It’s an understatement to say this is a challenging role, since CCM is not widely implemented in South Africa and the mindset of creating solutions with a future view is not always a shared one.
This is partly because our businesses are not always optimized for centralized communications. We have a lot of legacy systems in place that all operate independently, a challenge shared by many within the Financial Services sector. One system, for example, will handle email. Another will deal with web content. A third will generate written documentation. Many of these older systems are not setup to fully integrate. Certainly a great journey a lot of South African companies will soon embark upon.
Another struggle is that many companies see documentation as a legal and regulatory necessity and not the opportunity that it is.
Our biggest opportunity with client communication is external. Less than 40% of South Africans have internet access. A third of these users have only mobile access, and of those that do have many only connect to the internet at work or at Wi-Fi hotspots. Email adoption is even lower, at roughly 16%.
As a result, most of our customer communication happens through regular mail or mobile SMS functionality.
Taking Control of Customer Communications
Three years ago our documentation and customer communication was outsourced. The upside meant fewer internal headaches, as was the case with many other businesses at the time where the outsource model was strategically favored. As such, systems alignment was not a necessity and IT focused on other priorities. The result was that a centralized coordination point emerged in order to coordinate all the necessary steps in the process, as well as internal resources to manage the content or the solutions. All of this was previously managed by the outsource solution, resulting in overall less internal control and increased risk.
But this meant less control for us. In that making a change to a policy was a timely task and our outsource partner at times struggled to relate to our communications and the link it has to our products—there was no assurance that the generation or that the content remained consistent.
A few months before I joined the company, a rigorous solution evaluation process was conducted and Quadient proved the most appropriate supplier to deliver against our CCM needs. Ease of use, an excellent interface, and easy integration played a huge part in the selection. But the most outstanding features, at least immediately, were online approvals and version control. Being able to centralize these two functions was critical to our workflow.
The other integral feature was automation. The ability to manage and send email and SMS messages form a centralised place helps us transition to a digital strategy. We adopted Quadient Inspire as our CCM platform, and began to centralize document creation and management and streamline our paper-based documentation.
Within a few months of adopting Quadient Inspire, we saw a 95% reduction in the development time needed to create new documents, or to alter existing ones.
After we brought the process in-house, we were able to make changes in four days that used to take a couple of weeks, an important requirement in our highly regulated industry to be first to market and reduced implementation times despite tight regulatory deadlines.
Embracing the Building Blocks of Content
One of the ways Quadient helps to speed up the documentation process is its ability to use and reuse blocks of copy. I only have to create content once and then I can drop it into various documents as needed.
This helps us standardize the customer experience. For example, we now have standardized greetings. I don't have to worry a client will receive a document starting with “Hello there” this month, and one that says “Hi Bill!” the next year. It seems like a small detail, but this allows our messaging to stay consistent through the life of the policy and how we continue to strive for customer excellence.
Another feature of Quadient Inspire that stands out for me is web design and the fact that some companies build online claim systems using Inspire. Quadient doesn't only manage paper documents.
The platform also provides a centralized environment that allows clients to manage websites and create wireframes. A company can even generate new content or reuse elements of paper-based communications. We discovered these standout capabilities during the evaluation process and frequent communications distributed by Quadient. No other system, that I am aware of, offered centralized and integrated web and document development.
Implementation with Quadient was swift and the project was delivered within six months as Quadient took the time to understand our systems, and visualize how our solutions would work, not to mention the great internal team we had assigned to the project. My thanks goes to the greater project team for their dedication to make this happen.
I could say we winged it, at least a little. Most companies take a year to transition to a CCM platform like Quadient. We implemented in half the expected time because we made this project a test for a new agile methodology. We had a big team and we worked together using this new philosophy. Now, we approach all our internal processes by finding ways we can work together as a CCM team to get things implemented faster.
Today, we're looking at ways to optimize our Quadient solution. I'm a big picture thinker. I have big dreams and big ideas, so I'm looking at a bolder future such as providing our clients with a digital experience, and the opportunity to manage their experience with us by providing difference channels of communication or management of information.
Quadient has given us the ability to communicate in new and exciting ways. We can move to an omnichannel communication strategy because we can manage all our communications from a central point.
I would like to provide a real-time customer experience. I love technology and I'm always looking for the best, easiest way to do things online or on my smartphone. I'd like to bring this to our clients. I'd say in many cases it is both a necessity and a priority within our country.
Providing Digital Equality and Choice
South Africans don't take infrastructure for granted. I'm not talking about internet access. This is about basic necessities: roadways, electricity, running water. If I communicate with a client in one of the more rural areas, I have no guarantee they'll ever receive it.
A client may provide an address that is on a gravel path. I would love to deliver documentation on their smartphone and have them sign in or make changes to their information in real time.
One of the things that poverty takes away is people's ability to choose. With Quadient, we give our clients a choice. I’m able to send them a physical contract to sign, but can I also reach them through email, on the web, or by SMS from one platform. This is so empowering.
Quadient is more than a centralized CCM solution. It is a powerful tool that helps us create a CCM mindset. We are building a coherent and comprehensive customer communication experience. We can spot and remove inconsistencies and adjust our content to meet our customers' changing needs. We’re also able to manage regulatory compliance, and have the ability to clearly communicate any alterations to our customers.
Creating a consistent customer experience helps us provide products to those who most need them. Finding new ways to improve customer communication management is what drives me.
We are three years into our Quadient journey, and have come a long way, but we can achieve so much more. I see us adopting a leadership role and taking our clients forward. I want us to give them what everyone else in the world takes for granted, and I want them to have it as soon as possible.