He told delegates that there are fantastic opportunities for mutual and cooperative insurers right now but said that it will take a lot of hard work to make it “our time”, which was the Conference theme, and it’s now that insurers need to start to interact with consumers in new and innovative ways.
Lucian told delegates they need to embrace digital communications and use them to create online communities with which to engage their members in their organisation. The internet today facilitates vibrant communities and allows us to interact with our members like never before. One reason for this is he believes is that we are moving towards an “age of reference” where people seek advice from what Lucian calls the “wisdom of crowds” and consult a wide community of individuals including friends, peers, the internet and social media sources for the advice and information we need.
Mutual and cooperative insurers should be facilitating greater communication from themselves with their members direct but also amongst members themselves and then back into the organisation. He suggested to delegates that organisations that do this see huge business benefits and cited the example of Amazon and Trip Advisor where customer interaction is a fundamental part of these organisations’ success. On such sites consumers will base their purchasing decisions on the reviews and ratings of others and it is an ideal way for them to seek information and also reassurance in the “the wisdom of crowds”.
He argues that in his personal experience as a consumer some mutual or cooperative insurers do not involve customers directly or sufficiently in their organisations. Indeed, many consumers see their mutual organisation as no different to a proprietary company. So our challenge is to communicate to the consumer the stories, values and possibilities for engagement that define and distinguish mutual and cooperatives.
He suggested that mutuals and cooperatives adopt ways of sharing information with members and potential customers by inviting and sharing feedback on products by existing members, particularly via the internet. In addition, insurers could offer advice sections on their websites on useful topics. For instance a motor insurance provider could offer ratings and customer experiences of local car repair providers.
If mutual and cooperative insurers can also facilitate greater communication between members and themselves by creating a ‘triangle of engagement’ this would show them as true innovators in the industry. They could even look to the co-creation of products with members. This would indeed be an evolution into true member democracy within these organisations.
Lucian concluded that it can indeed be “our time” but to create a “New Mutuality” will take courage and resolve and will require us to place trust in and engage with our members but, if we do, we can create a vibrant and relevant alternative and establish a new Golden Age for Mutuality.
Lucian Camp is a brand, marketing and communications consultant specialising in financial services. Lucian has worked with a large number of UK mutual and cooperative organisations including ICMIF members The Co-operative Bank and Engage Mutual.