Your Interface Is Your Brand

One of the main drivers of change in the insurance industry is the fact that more than 80% of people in the developed world have internet access and 2.5 billion have smartphones (GSMA DataPew Research) and these numbers continue to grow.  This revolution continues to change the way that people research, buy, and manage insurance, and as a result, any new enterprise initiative should have a digital strategy as a key component. However, when developing a digital plan, it is important to understand the role a user interface plays not just in delivering your product but in how customers perceive your brand.

To illustrate this, think back to the last time that you ate at a restaurant with a great view of a city. Maybe it was the way that the clouds rolled through the sky or how the lights slowly came on one by one as the sun began to set. Chances are that you had an enjoyable meal regardless of what you ate. Good restaurants excel at creating decor designed to enhance the enjoyment of the food. This is evident in the fact that people use words such as ambiance, charm, and energy to describe a restaurant—words that say more about the environment than the food.

Restaurant with a view

This link between food and environment is an example of how your brand is dependent not only on what comes out of the kitchen but on what is hanging on the wall. If there is a bad smell or the tables are sticky, it doesn't matter how good the food is; people will be turned off by the experience. Rory Sutherland, the Vice Chairman of Ogilvy Advertising in the UK and a fan of behavioral economics, summed this up, saying, "If you run a restaurant, it is impossible to distinguish between the value you create by cooking the food and the value you create by sweeping the floor." In other words, what you deliver as a product or service to your customer is just as important as the way that you deliver it.

Applying this to insurance, we see more and more transactions handled through the internet and mobile devices. Customers can purchase new policies, manage claims, and pay premiums all without ever speaking to someone from your organization. Without a storefront or human interaction, customers are left to judge your company and brand not just by the pricing of your products and speed of claims resolution, but by their interaction with your digital interface. This is especially relevant when people are shopping for a new policy. Customers look for contextual cues about how easy it will be to work with you in the future. For example, does your site use industry terms that they need to look up, or do you use common language that they understand? When entering an address, do they have to type the entire address, or can you provide some help via autofill? When you make it easier for the customer to engage with you digitally, they have a more favorable opinion about the products that you are offering. Steven Van Belleghem, author of the book, Customers the Day After Tomorrow, put it best, saying, "People don't fall in love with the brand, but with the brand's interface."

Next time you smell freshly baked bread as you enter a restaurant or hear the sizzling of a fajita served on a cast-iron skillet, remember that the flavor of the food and the environment it is served in are one and the same. Similarly, even though you and your staff may not be actively engaging with your customers, your customers are forming opinions about your brand each time they use your digital interface.