Powering Human Experience

Dr Eric Lennartz - ERGO

Ray Poynter
April 19, 2021
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Here is Ray Poynter with another Potentiate Powering Human Experience Podcast. Today Ray is delighted to be speaking with Dr. Eric Lennartz from ERGO in Germany. Hi Eric!

Below is a transcript of Ray's interview with Dr. Lennartz.

[Dr. Eric Lennartz] Hi Ray, I’m looking forward to telling you how we deal with customer feedback and put our customers into the centre of our actions. To briefly introduce myself: I am Eric Lennartz, Head of Market intelligence at ERGO Germany. And, in this role, I am responsible for all market research, especially consumer insights. My main goal is to translate consumer insights into solutions for our customers.

[Ray] For our listeners from outside Europe, can you tell us a little bit about ERGO?”

[Dr. Eric Lennartz] ERGO is one of the leading insurance companies in Europe and in core markets in Asia, with more than 20 billion € turnover. ERGO has more than 40,000 employees worldwide, working for our customers. With our insurance solutions, we guide our customers from the beginning ‘till the end’.

We do so by offering the full range of insurance solutions, from life to property and casualty insurance.

Customers may come to us in any situations of their life. We can offer appropriate solutions and support. At ERGO, the customer is really at the centre of our actions. Our philosophy is to manage their risks in a way that they may create their own worlds unconcernedly.

My role in this process is to bring customer feedback to life. Together with my colleagues, I gather customer feedback, link it to other data, and derive the correct conclusions for ERGO, so that ERGO can support its customers in all life situations. And we have a strong mother that supports us: Munich Re Group, the world’s largest reinsurer.

[Ray] Thanks, and can you outline the role of insights at ERGO and your role in that process?”

[Dr. Eric Lennartz] At ERGO, as outlined, the customer is in the centre of all our actions. Customer insights are the key to that. They provide the necessary guidance in any topics. Hence, together with Potentiate we created a community among our customers. Almost 6.000 customers support us here. This is (to our knowledge) the largest community of any insurance company in Europe. These customers provide us with insights – mostly quantitative, but also qualitative research. They do so deliberately, without large financial incentives.

The community itself is very active. In 2020, our customers participated in 24 studies during 280 field days. In addition, their response rate is quite high with 26%. This is much larger than response rates (about 3%) that we normally see in online surveys of insurers. This enables us to get in-depth feedback on many issues, especially where other studies or data may not provide any details.

Through this community, we are pretty agile. We can be as fast as three days from developing a questionnaire to having results. This is much faster than working with an external market research provider. Here, these processes normally take one to two months. That makes us much faster concerning customer feedback than companies that do not have such a community.

Our role is to translate customer feedback into solutions. We gather customer feedback, analyse it, and provide our units with the right conclusions from these insights. While our community provide us insights, we use them to answer the questions from our colleagues from other departments. Thereby, we enable them to put the customer in the centre of their actions.

Altogether, we deal with a broad range of topics and broad range of units in ERGO. Let me give you two very different examples.

Product development in our motor tariffs. ERGO was losing customers in motor for quite some time. Cheaper prices could not be our solution, but understanding customer needs could be. In a continuous approach, we have developed a new product. At every stage of that process, we tested and included customer feedback in the development process. We as market intelligence developed surveys for each stage. Conducted these among our community Analysed the insights and data. And gave our product development concrete feedback on which points need to be adjusted. Potentiate - especially our key account Anne-Catherine – supported us. The result is a product that meets the customers’ needs and is quite successful in the German market. We are one of the few insurers in Germany to have net gains in customers for motor insurance – for a second year in a row. Our main competitors, however, lose customers.

A second example comes from our innovation and sales teams. Throughout digitalization, voice assistants such as Alexa or Siri, play an increasingly important role. So, we tested the potential use for us at ERGO and asked our customers in different steps about it. The results are “voice skills” that enable our customers to order their insurance via voice assistants. E.g., for our travel insurance, we have a voice skill that enables customers to order a travel insurance on demand. Therefore, they may book their travel insurance easily when they are already at the airport, by simply using their voice assistant. Again, we as market intelligence unit gathered the feedback and derived conclusions.

These topics may be very different, but both show the worth that customer feedback has for us.

[Ray] Because of COVID, 2020 and the start of 2021 are difficult times. How have insights and your insight community helped during that period?

[Dr. Eric Lennartz] We thought a lot about the impact of COVID and how to deal with customer feedback in these times. Our community consists of customers that deliberately give us their feedback.

At the centre of our thinking was: Firstly, will customers still provide feedback, especially after long hours in home office? How will our response rates change? In addition, secondly, how much “Corona” are our customers capable of?

For the first question, we could see that customers still provide us feedback. The overall response rate sank a bit, but still stayed at a very good 26%. Compared to normal online response rates of 3%, that is a very good value.

For the second question, we decided not to put COVID too much in our focus. Otherwise, customers might have refused to participate in our surveys. Only in selective surveys, did we include Corona. These were those topics where we expected large changes through COVID. For example, in one of these studies, we asked our customers about how customer interaction will change after COVID. Most of our customers have a personal agent. Before COVID, customers and agents communicated by personal means. If a consumer needed a product, he would have gone to the agency and talked to our agent personally. With COVID, that is not possible anymore. Lockdowns have restricted personal contacts to a minimum. Customers nowadays have to use digital means to communicate with their agents. However, one thing we did not know: Will that change be permanent? Or will communication get back to normal after the lockdowns?

While these questions may seem trivial, they are not. If consumers continue to demand digital channels in customer interaction, this has effects on many areas. Importantly, cost-implications may be high. Here, we found out that for some products digital communication may be an option, even after Corona. For these products, we are now able to prepare digital communication channels for the Post-COVID-time.

[Ray] The global trend in insights is to become more customer-centric and to focus on people not products and services. How has this impacted what you do at ERGO?

[Dr. Eric Lennartz] For us there is no contradiction in both, looking at people and looking at products and services. At ERGO, the customer is at the centre of our actions. So, when developing services or products, we do so from the customer perspective. Our community is a key in that process. At every stage of the product or service development, we have the chance to include our customers and their feedback. And we do so in a very systematic way: For the start, we normally conduct basic studies. Here, we find out which products and services we have to look at. Then, we ask them about how we need to design a specific product or service; e.g., we ask about which parts or steps are mandatory and what is only nice to have. Finally, we can test a prototype of our product or service. This enables us to adjust the final products or services.

Personally, I am always excited to help combine these insights and translate them into products and services that our customers actually need.

[Ray] Let’s hope the later part of 2021 is a much better year than 2020 for the world. What are your hopes in terms of insights and your customers for the coming year?

[Dr. Eric Lennartz] First, I hope that all of our customers stay safe and healthy. Despite the situation, I think we are looking forward to very interesting times. The “normal” of tomorrow will definitely be a different “normal” than today. In that terms, customer needs will also change. I am looking forward to link these new customer needs and translate them into solutions - solutions that shape this new “normal”. For example, we see that customers need different insurance products. I am keen to help provide insights on how these products might look.

[Ray] Finally, which new tools, approaches, ideas are you most interested in exploring in 2021?

[Eric Lennartz] Topic wise, I expect digitalization to stay a “hot topic” in 2021.

As said, we have developed several skills to take out insurance via voice assistants. Ten years ago, no one would have expected to do so. It is clear that digitalization will stay vast. Here, I am very interested in the new ways that the future might bring. Which new digital measure will come and how can we get consumer insights on them? Most importantly though, our community will stay the key to these insights. Hence also in 2021, my key interest will stay on how to involve our community members – especially in a more digital, post-COVID world. Only if they provide us with insights, can I bring customer feedback to life and translate it into solutions.

[Ray] Thank you Eric, that has been very helpful and I am sure our listeners will both enjoy it and find it useful.

[Dr. Eric Lennartz] Thank you Ray, it was a pleasure talking to you and it is a pleasure working with you guys.

About Dr Eric Lennartz, Head of Market Intelligence at ERGO

Already in school, I was fascinated by market research and the question: What does consumer data tell you? My key interest has always been how to bring data to life. After a respective research period at the University of Cologne, I am now leading the market intelligence team at ERGO – one of the leading insurance companies in Europe and a daughter of Munich Re Group.

At ERGO, I am able to follow my passion. Consumers and consumer insights are in the centre of our actions. Thus, departments all over the company ask my team and me for insights. We “supply” those insights: We generate them and translate them into actions. In that way, we bring data to life – everyday a bit more.