Designing a Customer-Driven Experience:
Using service design to renovate current models of how customers obtain the insurance they need

Our client, a North American insurance company, engaged us to help them understand if and how the customer purchase experience could be a significant differentiator for them, and to design and build a customer-driven sales experience that could be tested.

We had 6 months to deliver that design at a time when a number of financial institutions like this one were under deep scrutiny in the media for aggressive sales practices. This design opportunity addressed this negative story head-on, putting customers at the centre of the research and design.

The challenges facing our client were many. Insurance is often considered a grudge purchase; few people want to buy it and most find it difficult to understand, but people have to have it, both for peace of mind and for legal reasons. Emerging competitors had already begun to change the insurance landscape, challenging mental models of how home insurance can be purchased and what the value of advisors is. Regulatory barriers created constraints on possible changes, and a history of negative insurance stories had created a perception of mistrust regarding insurance companies in general.

For this project, we created a joined up team with our client core team members; we did almost all of the design work together, getting into the mess of research and design with them as partners in process and outcomes. Their business expertise and our design expertise created a powerful team able to execute on great service design and navigate the inner workings of a large financial corporate environment. Together we designed an ethical and dynamic process focused on people. Our clients demonstrated excellence and rallied the team behind the work, securing buy-in of the project where it was needed — making it easier for them to do more great work going forward.

Given the tight timelines to move this project from discovery to prototype, we built a rapid sprint-based approach that had 2 main phases: research and design. We began with individual design research interviews with target customer segments followed by a series of group research sessions to further explore and test what we understood about the customer journey through a purchase process — from the initial trigger to the final purchase. This phase resulted in design principles, value drivers, clarity on the customer journey, and nine critical customer insights to propel us into design.

From there we took our research outcomes and applied them to the design and execution of a stakeholder and customer co-creation event. Using a designed set of product and experience cards, we asked customers and advisors to create a call experience that addressed all of the customer insights — one that they would tell their friends and family about later. Once the prototypes were done, advisors and customers tested them through role-play in real-time. Then, our joined up team took the insights, opportunities, and learning into creating a more refined purchase experience prototype. As a result, eight “Idea Suites” were developed and tested for feasibility, with three coming together to form the basis of the next iteration.

The final design of this purchase process, currently in the iteration and testing phase, challenges a number of mental models of the insurance and financial world, allowing key stakeholder teams and front-line advisors to keep the customer at the centre of their efforts. It has implications across stakeholder groups including pricing, IT, the call-centre, and the product team. But the real impact of the high-touch customer involvement in this project as well as the final design outcome was keenly felt on the front lines. Advisors said this about the prototyped design: “Right now, I’m just a salesperson. If we can do some of these things, I can really call myself an advisor again.”