Creating Seamless Customer Experiences with None of the Hassles
Your home is not only your biggest investment; it is the centre of your life. It's clearly worth protecting but, let's face it, nobody likes talking about insurance. You don't see people sharing posts about emergency coverage on social media—it's just not sexy.
At HomeServe, we know insurance might not be sexy, but when something goes wrong, it’s the most important thing in the world. So someone has to do it—and they have to do it well. HomeServe is an international home emergency assistance provider. We have over two million customers here in the UK as well as offices in the US and continental Europe. But HomeServe is more than an insurance intermediary. HomeServe's network of 26,000 tradespersons helps our customers recover from all kinds of home emergencies. Our contractors and suppliers handle everything from blocked drains to leaky roofs.
We do everything to put our customers first. Our policies are flexible and easy to understand. We offer a variety of options, for example our customers can choose to pay an excess which can make policies more affordable and it’s easy to change your policy at any time. It's simple to make a claim or book an appointment by phone, via our My HomeServe portal, or with our mobile app.
Communication with our customers is one of our top priorities but dealing with regulatory documents can be a bit of a regulatory quagmire. As an insurance intermediary, HomeServe must comply with financial regulations. This makes customer communications management (CCM) rather complex, to say the least.
Every year at renewal, we send out a policy communication to each of our 2.2 million customers. It tells them exactly what coverage they have and what their renewal price will be and, if they decide to continue their coverage with us, what it includes. We even have to remind them what they paid for their coverage last year. These are highly targeted and personalised transactional mailings.
We sell multiple products and personalize them multiple ways. Multiply that by the number of customers we have and the different channels they want to receive them in—things get complicated really quickly. Of course, we use technology to generate these communications. In the past, we used a spreadsheet that contained 20,000 different cells of content to compile these documents. And that’s when they were much simpler.
On top of these policy and renewal mailings, we also produce larger promotional blitzes. These are targeted by region and service. In any given year, we'll send out another 56 million pieces of direct mail.
Outsourcing the Heavy Lifting
For years, we outsourced a good chunk of this work. We used a single supplier for the annual policy communications. It's a big job. Juggling all that data into usable documents is a laborious process. You have to segment it by house type, length of coverage, and policy type among other things. And it has to be compliant.
We originally treated this process as an IT problem, combined with the marketing team doing the creative work in-house. Our team provided the copywriting, graphic design, layout, and messaging. We built the business rules that defined the market segments, and let somebody else do the heavy lifting. We handled the other direct mailings in a similar fashion, but on a less personalised scale. We set everything up, and the various print shops did the final customisation.
But in 2014, as part of a larger IT implementation, we decided to consolidate the creative and technical sides of our customer communications. We wanted to move our market segmentation process in-house to increase our speed to market, lower our costs, and better manage risks.
When we looked at all of our suppliers, they had one thing in common: They used GMC Inspire to segment our marketing collateral. It's a modular CCM platform that was recently rebranded as Quadient. After a brief tendering process that involved other suppliers, we purchased Quadient.
Bringing Quadient and the Risk In-House
Quadient helped HomeServe transform our customer communications. Old-fashioned mail merged letters gave way to dynamic graphics and personalised content. Our improved marketing collateral was colorful, informative, and topical. We had total control over the look and feel, but left the final market segmentation aspect to others. This took longer than we expected because it required a bit of a cultural shift at HomeServe.
Like it or not, our primary supplier was an IT outfit, a leading software house specializing in communications. Their team took our business rules and prepared documents that met our standards. But in the end, they weren't focused on how the creative should look and feel. They weren't thinking about the customer experience the way our marketers do.
The end product may have been fabulous, but it lacked the extra magic our creative team could have added. IT people don't think about the physical objects that end up in our customers’ hands. They worry about getting the datasets right, which is also really important, but its just one part of a great piece of marketing communication.
A Creative Approach
Coming from an IT background, I recognize that Quadient is a complex piece of software—we're not talking Microsoft Office here. Quadient is a set of modules that lets you take a deep dive into customer communications. You have to get down and dirty to get to the good stuff.
Quadient has created an excellent, user-friendly front end. Still, it requires an operator with deep-rooted technical ability—someone who can write code. But the ideal user, at least for me, is adept at design, marketing, and data analysis.
We had tremendous support from HomeServe as we brought Quadient in-house. I was allowed to handpick four of the best people from our Marketing Operations team to smooth the transition. I sought out expertise in project management, print production, and graphic design. I knew these four people had the intelligence and technical aptitude to take on these new skills. I was confident they could adopt a data-centric approach to creative work. I augmented this team with two experienced Quadient users and a consultant who ensured our IT infrastructure was up to speed.
One of the best people on my team is a former graphic designer who is now a coder. I can see he's at war with himself every day. His IT brain is writing code that places the right data in our marketing material. His designer's eye makes sure it’s aesthetically pleasing and clear to our customers.
I want people who blur the boundaries between creativity and technology. This multi-disciplinary approach has improved the consistency and quality of our CCM strategy. A purely IT or purely marketing approach can't work in an environment such as ours.
Speeding Communications to Market
Bringing Quadient in-house sped up our customer communications. Ending outsourcing alone didn't make this process any faster. Taking ownership of the entire process gave us more control, but it didn’t accelerate things. A change in the way we used Quadient improved our speed to market and led to new ways of communicating with our customers.
Merging the IT, marketing, and creative components of our CCM streamlined our processes. It's not that our IT department alone couldn't have done it, but there would be procedures to follow. We would have had to write up a brief, pick a project lead, and organize all the tasks. We would then sit through 500 meetings, and then once we got approval, we’d wait in line among other departments.
Doing the technical work within Marketing Operations boosts our response time. This has a positive impact on all our activities. The team handles every aspect of the yearly policy mailings, except the printing. The same goes for the other 56 million pieces of direct mail we send out.
We no longer have to wait for an external supplier or a separate IT team to fit our data into our designs. We don’t have to worry that someone will put something in the wrong way. The look, feel, and messaging are consistent across our printed products. We can be proud that the final piece of paper in our customer's hands is perfect.
Building an Omni-Channel Future
Bringing Quadient in-house has supercharged our direct mail. It has also transformed our digital communications strategy. Our external contractors only used Quadient on our paper-based mailings. Having it in-house means we now have complete control over all our communications channels.
It's fair to say that Quadient has helped us move a step closer to an omni-channel approach to CCM at HomeServe. We can now deploy our marketing efforts across a wider spectrum of platforms and channels. This means greater reach and more impactful communications.
In his weekly updates, our CEO Greg Reed often talks about Quadient as a key component of our future business plans. Our marketing technology and customer communications roadmap have changed because of Quadient. To give but one example, we now use text messages to reach out to our clients.
We’ve turned to SMS in response to the recent UK cold weather. Using Quadient, we sent out a text message informing customers that call volumes were high, but they could make claims online. It took us about two hours to plan and send out this crucial customer communication to give them a better experience at a difficult time.
This was no easy feat. We had to rush the marketing team into a meeting. We also brought in the compliance team, since HomeServe has to adhere to the rules set out by financial regulators. Everything we send out has to comply with all these standards.
Working together, we crafted an informative and compliant message. Everyone signed off, and we broadcast this vital communication to all affected customers. There was zero IT involvement. Having Quadient in-house, and the data at our disposal, helped us put our customers first during an emergency.
Going Beyond the Expected
As marketers, we often forget that data and creative go hand in hand. Keeping them in separate silos reduces synergies. It can dilute the effectiveness of your customer communications.
If we'd simply brought Quadient in-house, we would have achieved a lot of our goals, but with a lot more effort. Incorporating Quadient's IT component into the Marketing Operations department helped streamline our CCM. Our multidisciplinary approach has allowed us to respond faster and do more.
We need to go beyond the expected because HomeServe protects people's homes. Our coverage and services give our customers peace of mind. We're proud to help people protect their biggest investment and the centre of their lives.
Our customer communications inform and reassure. To get the right information into the right hands, we comb through vast amounts of data. We have to stay on top of thousands of policy variations. We need to respect all financial regulations. We must know the eligibility of every customer. We can't send handwritten notes to each of our 2.2 million subscribers, but having Quadient in-house is the next best thing.