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Customer Engagement

Q&A: Salesforce’s Sunil Dixit on Insurance Innovation and What Decision Makers Need to Know

As the insurance industry experiences shifting demands from customers and policyholders, Salesforce is announcing new insurance capabilities in Financial Services Cloud to provide agents and customer service representatives with the tools they need to compete in an environment experiencing disruption.

86% of customer service leaders in the insurance industry still believe their company’s customer service must transform to stay competitive, according to Salesforce’s State of Service Survey. These new capabilities in Financial Services Cloud will now work towards addressing these needs.

Insurance agents now have a 360-degree view of their policyholders — including their household relationships, coverage, claims history, life events, business milestones and more — along with artificial intelligence (AI)-powered insights to engage in the right way and help deepen customer relationships.

We caught up with Sunil Dixit, Vice President of Product Management for Financial Services Cloud, to discuss the new capabilities:

How long have you been at Salesforce and what is your role here?

I joined Salesforce in June 2018 and have spent over two decades in the enterprise software industry. I was drawn to the company because of a few key reasons. Other than being the world’s #1 Customer Relationship Management (CRM) platform, I saw that Salesforce was heavily investing in a number of different industries as well as in artificial intelligence (AI). I was really excited about these two areas, and were specifically why I wanted to join Salesforce. And in terms of my role, I lead product management for Financial Services Cloud and Einstein-driven intelligence applications for Industries.

What are some of the trends and predictions driving the work you’re doing on the industries team at Salesforce?

At a macro level, there is a tremendous amount of digital transformation being driven across industries. In financial services specifically, there are three key trends we’re observing:

The first involves the desire for financial services companies to provide a unified experience to their customers, across banking, multiple lines of insurance, wealth management and commercial banking. End customers don’t want to deal with siloed banks, insurance companies or diversified financial firms. They want to be considered one single entity, one single customer, one single-family household, etc.

The second focuses on emerging technology that is driving superior customer experience and lower cost, whether this is robo-advisors in investment management, branchless banks, digital banking or AI-driven insurance platforms that offer lower premiums.

The third is around regulations and compliance–changing laws are having a big impact, and financial services firms are facing serious pressure to modernize their business processes to be compliant.

What is the most exciting product you’ve worked on at Salesforce and why?

While we have a slate of new product enhancements, I’m most excited about the insurance innovations we’re launching today at InsureTech Connect 2019. All these new insurance capabilities, ranging from Lightning Flows to Life Events, are being driven by market insights and customer feedback. With these innovations, we’re enabling a more unified experience and creating a 360-degree view of customers and policyholders.

What is a new insurance capability you’re most excited about?

I have two – The first is the independent agent portal. With the new community portals, insurers can now provide an enhanced broker experience, and streamline their broker business.

The second capability is focused on integrated, embedded analytics. Analytics and AI are key pillars to our product strategy and are important capabilities for our users. Our Einstein applications generate insights using data captured in the applications, and deliver them to the users at the right place at the right time so every interaction is very contextual. A real life use case for this is when AI models identify customers who are least likely to renew their policies. An agent can then proactively create an action plan to retain these customers. This action plan can involve setting up a three step mini-campaign or a series of tasks and activities to proactively reach out to the customer. Because of the integration, we make AI actionable.

How are insurers thinking about the future?

Insurers are watching a couple of developments – one on the business side and the other on technology.

The distribution channel is evolving. There are academic and practicing experts who have said that more and more profits are shifting to the distribution channel. And this is likely happening as customer experience becomes a critical part of the insurance value chain. Insurers now realize that customer experience, engagement, and relationship management are becoming more important than ever before.

In reacting to this realization, insurers are partnering with start-ups and companies like Salesforce, as well as investing in their own emerging technologies such as IoT, AI and blockchain. For example, there was a recent acquisition by Prudential Insurance, in order to get a highly efficient, digital channel for direct-to-consumer offerings.

I’m sure we’ll be seeing more and more of these kinds of organic investments and acquisitions by insurers as they work towards unlocking customer loyalty, engagement and relationships.

Industries has been identified as a major growth lever for Salesforce. How do the new insurance innovations fit into the overall industry ecosystem?

It’s like a rocketship–every phase helps us get to the next level. In addition to the capabilities we’re building for insurance, we’re actually taking our strategy in the insurance industry and applying different capabilities, components and lessons learned to other industries. For example, we have this ability to track a household event in our application, whether it’s buying a home or selling a car. But this kind of ability to track a household life journey is equally interesting and applicable to banking or wealth management.

Net net is that while we’re creating innovations applicable to insurance, these capabilities can be applied to other financial services sub verticals and sometimes even other verticals like healthcare.

Can you explain how these new insurance capabilities will help unify the experience for financial companies and their policyholders/customers?

I think the best way to explain it would be to look at it from the viewpoint of an end consumer. Take a typical household with multiple lines of insurance. The average household asset list might be made up of a home, two or three automobiles, and maybe even a recreational vehicle. They would need different types of insurance from life insurance to long-term care insurance. Then imagine that this same household, that most or all of these policies were being provided by one company. Wouldn’t it make sense for them to be served by only one agent or one office?

From the insurer’s point of view, there needs to be a holistic understanding of the household’s needs. If they have a clear understanding of this, they’re in a better position to recommend the right products and services to the customer, get more business and mindshare from the customer, all while ensuring full risk coverage for the customer.

From both points of view, if there is a single pane of glass on a single system that is able to understand the customer and their entire life situation, it’s a win-win for the consumer as well as the insurer. And that’s the kind of vision that we are trying to deliver..

What advice would you give to leaders and decision makers in the insurance industry who might be hesitant about investing in these new types of insurance capabilities?

The answer is two-fold. First, IT leaders have an imperative to invest in technologies that help their business leaders and employees work very closely with customers to provide an amazing customer experience. As we observed earlier, customer engagement is critical to capturing more of the profits of the value chain.

It’s also not an option anymore to rely on legacy systems or manual processes when dealing with their customers. And as the workforce starts bringing in younger generations such as millennials and now Gen Zers, IT leaders will need to anticipate which technologies they’ll be using on a day-to-day basis in order to provide ease of use as well as the interactivity and intelligence that these young workforces have come to expect. So from a customer point of view as well as a business point of view, there is a very high bar that these IT leaders have to meet.

Anything else you want to add?

It’s a great time to be at Salesforce and working on exciting products and solutions like Financial Services Cloud. It’s particularly exciting to witness the evolution of our industries strategy. We announced this as a major growth lever for the company in 2015, and since then, we have made significant strides in just five years. In the chapter we’re in now, we’ll continue expanding our innovations primarily driven by customer and partner feedback throughout our entire ecosystem.

So I just want to leave you with saying that you should keep watching this space. We have a lot more innovation coming from the industries cloud team at Salesforce.

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