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Episode 11: "Customer Experience" and the insurance industry

In episode 11, hosts Sarah and David welcome guest Steve Mast, President and Chief Innovation Officer at Delvinia. Steve defines the concept of “customer experience” and how employee engagement contributes to it.
And now for something completely indifferent

And now for something completely indifferent

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Episode 11 Transcript


[0:00:14.9] SM: Hello and welcome to another episode of GSC’s Podcast; And Now For Something Completely Indifferent, where we will be discussing the hottest topics and trends in Canadian health benefits. I am one of your hosts, Sarah Murphy.

Before we get started with today’s episode, we would like to remind our listeners that the views, expressed in this podcast are those of the individual speaking and not necessarily the views of GSC. We may talk about possible controversial subjects and therefore, reserve the right to potentially offer some listeners, but are apologizing for it upfront.

You can download this podcast from our website at\podcast, or subscribe to it from wherever you get your podcasts. We also encourage you to read our publications, the inside story and follow the script, which you can also download from our website. Please be sure to follow the conversation no Twitter and LinkedIn.

Now, let’s get started. Today’s episode is hosted by David Willows; GSC’s Chief Innovation and Marketing Officer. Hello, David.

[0:01:16.1] DW: Hi Sarah. This is another instance where the podcast that's being put out to the world has actually already been recorded, and then we're coming in to do our little intro after the fact. It's good that we're doing it this way, because I attempted what I'll call humor at one point in that podcast.

[0:01:38.5] SM: Attempted. Yeah.

[0:01:39.5] DW: Yes. You gave me a very stricken look after I made this particular “joke” with our guest, Steve Mast, who people are going to hear in just a second. There's an old joke, very old joke and I'm a very old man, about –

[0:01:53.8] SM: No comment.

[0:01:54.6] DW: - having a face for radio. I think the modern equivalent of that joke is boy, you have a face for a podcast.

[0:02:01.9] SM: Right. Totally.

[0:02:03.4] DW: Certainly with me, it's demonstrably true that I have a face for podcast.

[0:02:08.8] SM: This is really putting me into a corner here.

[0:02:12.1] DW: Yeah. Now you have been on stage basically your whole life, so you've passed the threshold where we can make that joke about you. As a singer and actress, you have been in front of many, many audiences, so we can't make that joke about you. The joke I made was that Steve Mast, our guest this week was almost too handsome to be on a podcast. I suggested maybe he was the most attractive guest that we have had, and I think you thought I was suggesting that our other podcast guests who trust me, never listened to this again, could be offended –

[0:02:43.7] SM: Fair enough.

[0:02:44.7] DW: - that I was suggesting that they in fact were better in podcasts than out front. I want to make clear to all listeners and those nine guests –

[0:02:53.8] SM: 10. This was the 11th episode, 10 episodes before it.

[0:02:58.4] DW: More important I guess, for the lawyers, tis hat they are highly attractive people who did terrific on the podcast. Even if we videotaped them, it would have gone just as well.

[0:03:09.8] SM: Yes. I have two comments in response to this. The one person I think of all of our guests that might have a lawyer, it would be Peter Gove for sure. Even though he's an employee of GSC–

[0:03:19.5] DW: We had a lot of civil things going on. He sues and is sued. He’s a double trump of maybe in benefits.

[0:03:26.3] SM: He’s the one I'm concerned about to take exception to that comment. The next person is Ned. They both sit very close to me. They're colleagues and I just don't want to have to deal with them after the fact.

[0:03:35.1] DW: I think Ned is very confident in his looks. He's the pocket square king, so –

[0:03:39.7] SM: He'll be fine.

[0:03:40.1] DW: He knows I'm not talking about him.

[0:03:41.3] SM: Yeah, exactly.

[0:03:42.4] DW: Enough about that. I think I've explained the joke when it happens towards the end.

[0:03:47.2] SM: No offense meant.

[0:03:48.4] DW: Yeah. I am not going to have my lawyer on speed dial quite yet, but let's let people listen to Steve Mast talk about something more important than this, which is the customer experience in the insurance industry.


[0:04:03.5] DW: Okay, so in the studio/wellness room today. We have a friend of GSC and someone that does a fair bit of work in our industry, but it's not of the benefits industry, Steve Mast who is President and Chief Innovation Officer at a company called Delvinia. Steve welcome.

[0:04:21.2] SM: Thank you.

[0:04:22.2] DW: Our host Sarah has moved us around and we're all sitting in different seats today, because I usually sit in the seat across from me and our guest usually sits in the seat that Sarah is sitting in. I'm happy that where you're sitting, you have a very clear direct view of the defibrillator. Because I know you reacted to the first podcast where we announced that we actually have this medical equipment, so I'm hoping you're at ease knowing it's –

[0:04:46.3] SM: I've never felt safer doing a podcast ever. I have to say to the bed that I'm about to go lie down on is amazing.

[0:04:54.1] DW: Yeah. People think we're joking about this. There's a bed right here.

[0:04:57.2] SM: No, no. There's a bed, there's a defibrillator. And a soft brown throw. Can I call it a throw?

[0:05:02.7] DW: Yeah. Sarah's nodding yes. She just doesn’t want to get in this conversation at all.

[0:05:07.4] SM: Does anybody knock on the door and just say, “I need some wellness.” You guys in the middle of a podcast, or that's never happened?

[0:05:13.3] DW: That is treated very harshly, if anybody is sick when we're podcasting. That is not allowed and the staff here knows it. Steve, you work for a company called Delvinia. Tell us about that company, give our listenership some idea of what you do and we're going to link it to the financial services/insurance industry as well.

[0:05:33.5] SM: Sure. Yeah. I really do have the greatest job in the world. My official title is President and Chief Innovation Officer for Delvinia, which really means I get to lead this group of designers, developers and dreamers, which is the most amazing opportunity. Delvinia really focuses on primarily around transforming how we collect and use data to make better decisions. All of our clients, including yourselves, we work with, it's really focused around that area.

We have three core businesses we've created over the last 20 years. One is called Asking Canadians, which is a million-member based community people. You can ask whatever questions you want. If you're looking for women in Saskatoon that chew bubblegum and have three kids, we can speak to a woman in Saskatoon that chew bubblegum and have three kids.

We have another business called Methodify, which is really focused around automating that process of being able to speak to consumers on a very quick basis. Typically a research process takes somewhere between four to eight weeks; we've got that down to 24 hours. Then we run a consulting group called DCS, which really works with GSC for the most part, which is our innovation arm. I still own and operate that part of the business, which we get to do all kinds of things, like digital strategies, get to work on some really interesting studies and get to build new things for our customers and for ourselves as well.

[0:07:04.9] DW: Is it fair to say you've done some specialization, or you spend a lot of time with folks in the financial services industry?

[0:07:10.4] SM: Well, my dad was a TD banker for 30 years if that counts. That's a good start, yeah. Well actually, it was an interesting story because I never really wanted anything to do with the financial services industry. It was really primarily because I saw my dad working within it and he was a builder. He built amazing furniture and he built extensions on our homes. I guess, his hobby was his passion, right?

I really picked up that passion and I went to school to be an architect, which we won't get into that because you do not want me designing buildings. Designing apps and websites and those things, absolutely. It turns out that when Delvinia was formed 20 years ago, one of our first customers was RBC Royal Bank. This was early days online and we helped them with bringing in online banking to their customers and help them ramp up to the first million customers using online banking. This is really early days, and it was really, really interesting work at the time.

What was interesting though was that became the best clients, and we've since then had a mainstay of all the major banks, large insurance companies like yourselves really dug deep into the financial services space. I used to think, “Oh, that's probably because we're based in Toronto, we have offices in Montreal and Dallas and things.” I thought, “Oh well, it's really because we're based on Toronto.” I think it's just we really understand how to solve the complex problems that exist within financial services and insurance base, right? In particular, how you use digital technologies to solve those problems.

[0:08:43.2] DW: Great. For anybody who's listening, we don't want to make this too much our commercial for Delvinia, but if you go to our corporate website, or our SureHealth website where we sell our individual products, or our HBM+ website for that part of our business, Delvinia was our partner there, especially if you go to the corporate site, I think you can see where they really helped us bring our brand to life. We're going to take credit for all the funny stuff that's on there. We write the jokes.

[0:09:07.4] SM: You should.

[0:09:07.9] DW: You certainly helped us present it in a way that I think people have enjoyed to some degree. You're here today to talk about the concept of customer experience and it's a bit of a buzzword out there. Certainly, when folks talk about innovation and innovation and in our space, a lot of it gets back to the experience that our customers are going to have. What does that term actually mean to you, where it's so central to what you're trying to create for your business partners?

[0:09:36.4] SM: Well, I think number one, I think people have really created customer sense and really over complciated what it really means, what it really is. I don't know if you've recently heard Doug Ford going around recently talking about promises made, promises kept, right? A good friend of mine, Michael, he’s a customer experience guru, and he actually coined that years ago and used to talk about it as it relates to customer experience. When you really think about it, that's really what we're trying to do.

The brand really puts that and says this is the promise we're going to make to the customers, right? Then the organization, including its employees have to deliver on that promise, right? Promises made, promises kept, which I think is really the simplest way to look at customer experience. The more complex reality of it it's really about stringing together all these various different touchpoints your customers have.

Often, the brand has no control over many of those touch points, but you have to play a role in those touch points, particularly you can thank social media and other ratings and reviews and all these great things that people can put out there. How do you understand what those touch points are? How customers or consumers are interacting with those touch points and then fit the brand within those touch points? That's the longer part of it.

I think what's really interesting is the evolution of customer experience was really focused on the customer. Everybody was like, “We're going to dive deep and figure out exactly what we need to do and create these moments of delight as people would talk about it and we're going to do these journey maps and path to purchase maps,” always great things that created, which are great artifacts.

Then something happened a few years ago, which i think was really fascinating, where people realized to keep the promise. It was really the activation part of it, which was really the employees. Now there's been this huge movement towards employee engagement, and I don’t know if you've noticed the HR departments being completely upended, which is I think fascinating.

What I thought was really neat and manifests itself last year was the chief marketing officer of Sha communications took on an additional role, which was chief marketing and employee officer. I'm probably got that wrong, but it's something to that effect. Essentially, what what his role was to blend the – he wasn't in charge of HR. What he really was doing was he was like, what's the experience for the customers and what's the experience for the employees and figuring how to blend those together.

You look at companies like WestJet, I've done a brilliant job of that in terms of really having their employees activate things and bringing the brand to life and representing the brand, right? To me, when you get those two pieces working in tandem, you're going to create a great customer experience. Starbucks is another great example of being able to do that. There's lots of brands out there that have been successful with it. If you always look at it, it usually starts within first and then manifest itself out to the customers.

[0:12:36.5] DW: Okay. In our world, in financial services and I'm going to broaden that out to maybe be more specific around the Canadian insurance community, I think a lot of thought around customer experience and certainly where we've come to you, instead of online presence, and I'm sure it probably extends into call centers and things like that, what is your view of the state of the world customer experience in financial services/insurance in Canada, where is that industry at? I know you've worked with a lot of us.

[0:13:05.2] SM: Well, let me actually start with a little bit around, we actually did collect some data recently around what is the general population, or the average Canadian feel we’re at with. I'd say this general sentiment at the top of the house is a lot of things on the front end, if you will, so communicating the benefits, even stripping down some of the heavy legalese things and creating plain language, those kinds of things, they feel you're doing a better job of it. We've noticed an ongoing trend.

Even things like your websites and mobile apps and those kinds of things are getting much better. Where it starts to lose a little bit is that as you move through the process, particularly the purchasing process where it still is complicated as we know, it's not a seamless process. There's still some challenges in that area, right? Then when it comes to fulfilment, if it's a fairly simple basic fulfillment, most organizations fulfill those things pretty good.

Where it starts to fall apart is where you get into more complex areas. I mean, it is a complex business. It’s not something, right? It's not something you can simply flip a switch and turn on and off, right? Particularly when you talk about health and life insurance, there's a lot of things going on with that. I'd say, and I don't want to use the term front end and back end, but it does feel like the front end part of it, the consumer experience is getting better. As they move through business, it seems to get a little more complicated and we start to see it downward.

What's interesting is that's a general population, and we split out for example boomers and millennials. Millennials feel you're doing a much better job and they feel that there's a lot more activity going on, particularly around the middle ground. Getting things like quotes and understanding the path to purchase and what's expected, they feel it's actually being communicated really well. The boomers are a little more not feeling that the experience is totally there yet, which I thought was fascinating. I don't know if that's just the reality, or there is been more attention being done on these digital experiences and online experiences. There is a difference between those two groups.

[0:15:22.9] DW: Do you think we just mentioned that state of insurance has its complexities, there's legal components to it. Does that inherently limit the amount of innovation there is a disruption that can come quickly to our industry?

[0:15:39.4] SM: I think everything is ripe for disruption. I think it's more around the appetite for the organization and the leadership to say that we're going to look at things differently and we're going to challenge a little bit of the way things have it done. I know when it comes to highly regulated – that's why you have a complex industry, highly regulated government-driven organizations, it's very difficult to get innovative, or at least I think people think that.

Again, PNC is very different than what your business is, but if you look at organizations like Trove, for example, I don't know if you're familiar with Trove, but Trove is ensure your stuff right? They're moving towards this idea of zero-based friction, right? We always talk about frictionless experience and figure they're moving towards this. A lot of what they did was around changing the way the legal paradigm works within that space. They worked there first and then they were able to connect in their app and all their digital experiences on top of it. I think it can be done.

[0:16:49.3] DW: Is there just enough of that boring complex legalese in what we have to do that makes it inevitable, that some component of the experience is going to suck with us. No one is clever enough to take out the suckiness factor of insurance.

[0:17:06.2] SM: Yeah.

[0:17:06.6] DW: You say no.

[0:17:07.3] SM: Yeah, I say no. I don't disagree it sucks, but I do think that and part of it too, is you think about the majority of people when it comes to providing things like health claims since we’re at it. It’s like, just make it happen, just stay out of my way, right? That's the majority of what they really wanted. Obviously, when things get complex that there needs to be conversations and dialogue, those things.

The better organizations, which I think you guys do a fantastic job, whether it be your call center, your online, various different channels, basically communicating and helping people through that experience, right? Of course, it's going to suck a little bit. It's like going to the doctor, or the dentist. It's always going to suck a little bit, right? There's always going to be part of that.

I think the again, back to what I said about the leadership and an organization is say no, we are going to make an effort on making – I think, amazing plain language, those kinds of things were great ways to create an easier way for people to understand the process, understand the terms, because of what they're really – but that's one small part of it, right? It really is looking at the entire underwriting process and all those parts of it to say we can we can do this differently and better.

[0:18:20.3] DW: Looking across the Canadian insurance landscape and I'm going to invite you to use very broad brush here, what are things that these companies are not doing that they should be able to get to fairly quickly, that are just obvious in terms of improving the customer experience in this country?

[0:18:36.7] SM: Yeah. I think going back to what you said before, I mean, if you look at what Canadians are looking for and which is interesting, I think things like the understanding the quoting process and making there's lots of organizations including yourself with with surehealth are doing a great job with that, but there's lots of organization, where just seems to be low-hanging fruit.

You should be able to provide an easy experience around giving someone quick and fast quotes. It shouldn't be difficult to be able to do these kinds of things. I think that's part of it. I think it's that communication gap as you move down through the process as well through the underwriting process. Some do it really well, where there's just constant communication coming back to the end user or customer. I think that's something that's low-hanging fruit as well, but people get caught up in there's various different silos and things like that. I think that part of it is something where it's more low-hanging fruit. It's a little more downstream versus again, the upstream stuff where it's the outward things I think are pretty well, but as you move into the organization, it gets a little tougher.

[0:19:38.3] DW: You mentioned this before and I think most organizations have a bit of an obsession around the generations to come and I'll start with the millennials and then who's coming after. What do companies need to think about for people younger than us in this room?

[0:19:53.8] SM: Just going back to that data, and I'm assuming you're referring to me.

[0:19:58.9] DW: I was making a judgement just by – if people want to go actually to the Financial Post, they were a spread about you and an interview and a very nice picture of you. I would say, you're almost too good-looking for a podcast, but usually we try to get people in here that clearly have to be in a studio and you're right on that line. I am guessing, knowing your cadence –

[0:20:17.9] SM: I feel like a hug is coming.

[0:20:21.0] DW: I think you have teenage children, stuff like that. People be below us, Sarah's really angry right now. Yeah, what should we be thinking about for them? Are their expectations actually fundamentally different than the generations that have passed before us?

[0:20:38.0] SM: This is a bit of a cop-out, but yes and no, which is a terrible answer, right? When you look at across the board in terms of the various different, particularly around things like technology, or even things like for example, we looked at reward programs, like what really resonates, right?

There's definitely when it comes to millennials, they're way more interested in gaining rewards for sharing data, right? Over half said that they were willing to provide their data in exchange for some reward, right? This is within the health insurance context as well, right? Versus less than a quarter said that within the Boomers, right? There just is more suspicion around the data, right?

When it comes to things like using more advanced technology like chatbots, and when I say chatbots, I mean true AI and not chatting as and you're actually chatting with a real human being, but actually with chatbots. Again, millennials two-thirds of them are like, “Yeah, I'd love to have a conversation about my health issues, or problems, or to solve things. I have no problem doing through.” Versus way less than half in the Boomer area, where we're okay with that. They felt like they needed to speak to human to solve these complex problems. That's where the yes, there are differences.

The no part of where their differences is where you look at things around reviews. Reviews of what is the the best insurance programs out there, or maybe health advice, those kinds of things, they’re that equal. Both of them look at them, both of them use them in their decision-making process, equally very high. In fact, actually both were up over two-thirds said that they both use it.

Even something like, which I was surprised with this a little bit, mobile experiences. I'm not just talking about apps alone. Mobile experience meaning, mobile ready website, so any of those kinds of things. The use of mobile, both were over two-thirds were saying that they prefer that as a channel for them when they're communicating. There are some differences and I think the difference to speak towards their millennials comfort with sharing data and information. When it comes to the online experiences, they're starting to get more comfortable.

There was something interesting though out of a piece of work with do with yourselves, which I won't get into the details of it around, and it came down to a hamburger menu. For your audience, a hamburger menu is a little – those little lines that are up in the right or left corner. It was really interesting, the millennials are like, “We love this on the websites and those kinds of things.” The boomers are like, “Yeah, I’m lost. I don't know where I'm going with it.”

It’s just an interesting user experience thing, right, that I thought was funny. I will say, I know we talked a lot about millennials and we talk a lot about boomers and these – and that's really your core audience, and millennials are your new, but this generation Zed that is the next gen, or my kids are firmly within that, that's where you're going to start to see I think really significant differences. These are people that truly grew up with digital out of the womb, right? They literally had a smartphone coming out of the womb, right?

They also lived through some very significant events, 9/11 being one, and more importantly 2008, 2009, these financial meltdowns where they sat around, even though they were probably really young, my kids were probably between 5 and 8 at that time, but they heard mom and dad talking about, “Wow, what's going on with this mortgage crisis? We're really concerned and debts out of control.” There was a lot of real concern.

This shaped their mindset and they have this very different way of looking at things. They're incredibly resourceful, they're very entrepreneurial mindset, they're socially minded, so organizations that have a strong, like yourselves, nonprofit socially-minded, change age and thing, that's the organizations they're going to gravitate towards, because they want to be associated to those kinds of organizations. I'd say yes, there's a lot of talk about this generation, but look out in 10, 15 years, this generation Zed I think is going to be really, really doing some interesting things.

[0:24:39.7] DW: Can you even guess at this point what the technology implications are for companies like us to be ready for that generation? Is that things we haven't even dreamed of yet? Are there steps we can be taking now that are just so obvious that we should be?

[0:24:54.1] SM: Yeah. I mean, yes the short answer is, but I don't want to start saying, “Yes. You need to be into virtual reality and create a, I don't even know what that even means as it relates to yourselves,” but that point about the data and the comfortability. Generation Zed, like I've seen studies around them and say how they're even more comfortable around sharing, giving data and things. I don't think they're old enough to really understand what that even means.

I think what's going to happen is you're going to start to see them saying, “You know what? It isn't about me just giving away my information without knowing what the value exchange really is.” They're smart, right? My son is 15. He gets this and he asks every single time, if I give you a piece of information what am I really getting at as an exchange, right? The millennials has had before you, as awards and things like that, but they're really deeply sensitive to it. I think something that's going to really start to happen is you're going to see where they want to own their actual personal identification information and then the brand has to opt-in to obtain that information.

Versus right now, you go to the brand and you flip some switches and opt into what they’re – it's going to be the other way around, where it's going to be you're going to have to go and request, “Hey, David. I need this information in order to do this.” You're going to give out a little bit information, but there's always going to be an incredible value exchange happen. That whole transfer of data and information, I think is going to be hugely different for organizations. You think about the amount of data that you guys do in an exchange on an ongoing basis, and insurance base, right? Definitely something that has to be thought about in the health industry in general, right? Yeah.

[0:26:30.4] DW: Okay. That's very interesting. Any last thoughts? We work with you folks a lot. We have these conversations all the time and we are thinking about things downstream that can try to meet some of the things that you're talking about here. Any last words for folks in our industry, about what they should be thinking about near term and longer term as they look at this journey?

[0:26:54.1] SM: Three things, and I think I already touched on a couple of them, but that first one around the customer experience, or that journey continues to evolve. Again, customer experience is not going away. You just will not be in business if you don't figure this out and get this right. Really how is it evolving, continue to evolve it, I think that's something that continues to need work and will always need work. The other one is back to this value exchange, I think it's about providing that additional value. Organizations really got stuck in for so many years about the idea of we're going to – we have a product and that's the value exchange. You give me money and I do it, but it has to be much more than that, right?

Rating your health providers and providing these kinds of things, you really have to not again fit into that customer experience, but it differentiates yourself. It's things that these are what consumers are looking for to help them through that process. Providing more value I think is the second big thing. It's not necessarily a value exchange by providing more value and what can you do around that. Do it strategically, it fits into what your overall brand promises, I think is really important.

Oh, and just one more thing about that, you look at – we were talking with RBC before. It just popped in my head, but RBC created this venture group, and they've been in the news a little bit. One of the products they came out with, you’re talking about adding value is something called butter. They've branded – it's not branded RBC, it's an organization. I think they bought and then built it up, but you don't see RBC entering.

Really what it does is it manages your subscriptions. I thought to myself, “Manage your subscription. Well, how about it?” It really scrapes through your credit cards and scrapes through your accounts and it pops up at Netflix and you have iTunes and you have – I'm thinking, how many do I have or read? I had 18 subscriptions, right? Some of them, I had no idea that I was still paying for.

I think I'm a fairly bright guy, but these things just get lost. It's $2 here, or $3 here, or $4. It just gets lost, and it manages all those things. Their whole connection is if you bring in all of your various different data points, whether it be credit cards from our organizations, or accounts wherever, we can then get through that. They're one click away from providing you other additional banking services, right? There's something called butter. I thought, brilliant. That's adding value.

They're actually going to, which is the craziest thing. I think they're leaning towards providing it as a subscription service. That was ironic. Anyway, so that was this example. The last in the three and the third thing was and I brought it up before is I think for particular financial services and potentially the insurance company is absolutely to differentiate yourself, you're going to provide that additional value, find ways to differentiate yourself, but when it comes to the everyday business, removing all that friction, right, any friction, and we look at this idea of zero-base friction, I think that is something.

Take a look at Trove, I think is a great example where what they've done now is when you purchase a product at a retailer, they've done deals now with major retailers that it's immediately if you have Trove turned on, it immediately gets covered, right? If you buy something over a certain value, it's immediately covered in. There's there's nothing for you to think about, right? It's that embedding yourself into these various different customer touch points, you would have never thought about in the past, which I think is something brilliant. That to me is zero-base friction. You just stay out of their way and and let them live their lives. Those are the three things, I would say.

[0:30:30.1] DW: Okay. Great, thank you. Great food for thought. We wanted to have you in for a long time.

[0:30:35.4] SM: We didn't have to use a defibrillator, or –

[0:30:37.4] DW: I know. We’ve survived yet another GSC podcast. Thanks Steve. Talk to you soon.

[0:30:42.7] SM: Thank you very much.


[0:30:47.4] SM: Thank you to our listeners for tuning in to another episode of And Now for Something Completely Indifferent, a Canadian health benefits industry podcast. To be sure to get future episodes, please subscribe to this podcast wherever you get your podcasts, or visit our website at\podcast to download. As a reminder, we talk about these issues consistently in our publications, which are available on our website, as well as on social media, so be sure to follow the conversation. Thanks for listening and we'll talk again soon.