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Friday, November 13, 2009

Marketing Mix in Insurance Industry

The formulation of product mix for the insurance business makes it significant to take a look at the services and schemes of insurance organisations. The product portfolio is known and the process of formulating a package should be known. It is natural that the users expect a reasonable return for their investments. It is quite natural that the insurance organisations want to maximise profitability. Both of these dimensions are found interrelated.

It is well known that the key objectives of insurance business are mobilisation of savings and channelisation of investments. This makes it essential that insurance business is made lucrative so that the users /potential users get incentives to buy a policy or to invest in the insurance organisations. The insurance organisations also need to promote the underwriting activities, which would activate the process of arresting the regional imbalance. In the context of formulating the product mix, it is essential that the insurance organisations promote innovation and in the product portfolio include even those services and schemes which are likely to get a positive response in the future.

The corporate objectives indicate that the insurance organisations are required to be careful, especially while launching a new policy. The policies should not only generate enough premium but it is also important that the policies cover persons working in the informal sector, serving as porter, working as manual labourers, or engaged in farm sector. It is the need of the hour that the insurance organisations make their service internationally competitive. This makes a strong advocacy in favour of innovative product mix strategy for the public sector insurance organisations. Thus the formulation of product mix should be in face of innovative product strategy. Strategies of foreign and private insurance companies should be taken into consideration while initiating the innovative process.

The formulation of product strategy should assign due weightage to the rural segment emerging as a big profitable segment especially in the 21st century. The policies and schemes should have rural orientation so that backward and neglected regions of the country get priority attention and the regional imbalance is minimised.

In this context, it is also pertinent that the insurance organisation make possible welfare orientation and include in the product portfolio even those policies and schemes which become instrumental in safeguarding the interest of the weaker sections of the society.
The formulation of package is also found important. Designing a package on the basis of the needs and requirements of the concerned segment would make the product mix more competitive.

The partially tapped or totally untapped profitable segments of the future should be identified and tapping the potentials optimally is also important.

A sound product portfolio is the need of the hour and therefore the regulatory barriers or constraints in activating the innovation process should be minimised.

Product Planning & Development
The purpose of insurance business is to generate profits besides subserving the social interests. The present business is likely to be more competitive.
Product is like a stage on which the entire drama of successful marketing is acted. It is like an engine that pulls the rest of the marketing programmes. It is in this context that the product management in an insurance organisation needs an intensive care.
Yesterday, the policyholders had limited hopes and aspirations but today they expect more and they would even like something more tomorrow. This focuses on the fact that strategic decisions are influenced by the environmental conditions.
The product development needs a new vision, a new approach and a new strategy. Till now the public sector insurance organisations have made possible an optimum utilisation of their marketing resources especially in rural areas where tremendous opportunities are available. Thus they should assign due weightage to the development services /schemes which cater to changing needs and requirements of the rural segment.
In the development of product, the corporate investments need due priority.
Channelising the corporate investments influences the rate of profitability of insurance companies and also contributes considerably to the socio-economic transformation process.

Thus the product planning and development should:
Give due weightage to the socially and economically backward classes
Maximise the mobilisation of savings by offering lucrative schemes.
Assign due weightage to interests of investors.
Maintain economy in business by promoting cost effectiveness.
Act as a trustee of policyholders.
Keep in mind the emerging trends in business environment.
Improve the quality of customer / user services.

With the advent of private players in the insurance, companies resort to rampant promotion. Promotion mix for this sector is as follows:

Advertisement can be done through the telecast media, broadcast media and print media. Insurance companies have been making optimal use of all the three kinds. Use of World Wide Web, as media is almost negligible and will not be very frequent in the near future considering the fact that the majority of customer base of these companies is not yet exposed to the Internet. The telecast media has been the most effective of all in case of the insurance sector. Most of the companies have their separate advertising section to take care of this aspect. An important consideration while making the decision as to the selection of the media is budgetary constraint. Since the insurance companies work on a large scale, usually this constraint does not stand as an obstacle.

It is a device to promote business without making any payment and therefore it could be also called as unpaid form of persuasive communication bearing a high rate of sensitivity. Developing
rapport with the media is an important aspect of publicity. This makes it essential that the PR officers working in the insurance organisations maintain contacts with the media personnel, organise press conference, and offer small gifts and momento to them. These days LGD marketing is gaining popularity the world over. It also can be applicable here. At the apex and regional levels, the PRO’s bear the responsibility of projecting positive image of the organisation. Thus it is necessary to select suitable personnel for this. They should be in particular taught to deal with people, simple things like talking, greeting etc.

Sales Promotion
Incentives to the end users for taking the policy play an important role in promoting the insurance business. Since the insurance business is also related to achieving of a particular target, it is pertinent that the policymakers assign due weightage to the same. The offering of small gifts during a particular period, the rebate, discount, bonus can increase business of organisation by leaps and bounds. Besides, there can be gifts for the insurance agents also.

Personal Selling
Personal selling in case of the insurance organisations is quite important considering the existence of the insurance agents spread at all levels. Selection of these agents, their training is responsibility of the organisation. There is difference in urban and rural market. Rural customers might be uneducated / uninformed etc. compared to the urban customer. Hence the organisations will have to make selections of the rural and urban agents accordingly.

Word of Mouth Promoting.
The word – of- mouth communications result into wider publicity, which substantially sensitise the process of influencing the impulse of users/prospects of the insurance services. The satisfied group of customers, opinion leaders, the social reformists, the popular personalities act as word of mouth communicators. The advertisement slogans may be insensitive, the publicity measures may be ineffective but the positive feelings of friends and relations communicated cannot be ineffective. This makes it clear that the most important thing in the promotion of any business is the quality of services.

With the development of satellite communication facilities and with the expansion of the television network, we find telemarketing gaining popularity the world over. The insurance organisations in general need to promote telemarketing. The foreign insurance companies have been assigning due weightage to this and in India this is beginning to gain importance with the advent of competition in this sector. The telemarketer is supposed to be well aware of the telephonic code so that the task of satisfying the customers/their queries will not consume much of time.

World Wide Web
In banking as well as insurance, more and more importance is being given to online contact facilities whereby complaints/comments could be sent through an email. Email is fastest written mode of communication and since it has been recognized legally, its use to clear doubts has been in full swing.

In the insurance business, the pricing decisions are concerned with the premium charged against the policies interest charged for defaulting the payment of premiums & credit facilities, commission charged for underwriting & consultancy services. The formulation of pricing strategies becomes significant with the viewpoint of influencing the target market or prospects. To be more specific in the Indian context where the disposable income in the hands of prospects is found low, the increasing inflationary pressure has been instrumental in contracting the discretionary income, the increasing consumerism has been making an assault on the saving potentials of masses, it is pertinent that the insurance organizations in general & public sector insurance organizations in particular adopt such a strategy for pricing that makes it a motivational tool & paves the ways for increasing the insurance business. Of course, a motivational pricing strategy is required to be given due weightage. This necessitates a new vision for setting premium structure & paying the bonus & charging the interest.

The strategy may have a new vision in the sense that the insurance organizations prefer to make a mix of high & low pricing strategy. The motive is to make the premium structure commercially viable so that the insurance organisations succeed in having a sound product portfolio besides fuelling development orientation. The pricing decisions make it essential that the insurers keep in their minds the nature of policy vis-à-vis the segment to which the prospects belong.

In the tangible products, cost of production is taken as the basis for fixation of prices. Even in the insurance business, it is found to be an important consideration & a dominating base. This makes the cost of insurance a decisive factor for charging premium. The important bases for determining the cost are rate of death, rate of interest & the expenses incurred on the insurance business. The mortality table helps the determination of death rate. It is to predict future mortality. The best method of construction of mortality table is to select a large number of persons at attained age, which is meant age close to the birth rate. The second important element is the rate of interest. On the basis of mortality rate, it is estimated that when & how much amount is to be received as premium & would be paid as claims but on the basis of interest rate, it is estimated that how much interest can be earned by investing the insurance funds. The last element is cost which focuses on different types of expenses. There are certain expenses, which incurred at the time of inception of the policy. This necessitates determination of the nature of expenses. The determination of expenses according to occurrence & equal distribution of the expenses every year for equitable distribution of loading are found significant to make possible a sound management of expenses.

The process of rate of fixation in the insurance organizations is not so scientific & identifies the cases of moral hazard. It is easier to identify the physical hazard but the task of identifying the moral hazard is found difficult. The premium charged is to be made rational to cater to the payment of claims on a priority basis including the catastrophic losses, management expenses & margin of profit. It is essential that various related to both the hazards are estimated in a scientific way. The actual process of rating consists of three steps, e.g. classification, discrimination & scheduling.

The price mix decisions are:
Making possible cost of effectiveness
Restructuring of premium
Due priority to profit generating investments.
Rationalizing or optimizing the social costs
Paving avenues for channelising the productive investments
Assigning dude weightage to the policies meant for the socially & economically backward classes
Making the ways for maximizing profit

The first component of the marketing mix is related to the place decisions in which our focus would be on the two important facets – managing the insurance personnel and locating a branch. The management of agents and insurance personnel is found significant with the viewpoint of maintaining the norms for offering the services. This is also to process the services to the end user in such a way that a gap between the services- promised and services – offered is bridged over. In a majority of the service generating organizations, such a gap is found existent which has been instrumental in aggravating the image problem. The policy makers make provisions; the senior executives specify the standards and quality and the branch managers with the cooperation of the front-line staff and others bear the responsibility of making available the promised services to the end users. The public sector insurance organizations have failed in both the areas. The agents, rural career agents, the front-line staff and even a majority of the branch managers have become a party gap.

The transformation of potential policyholders to the actual policyholders is a difficult task that depends upon the professional excellence of the personnel. The agents and the rural career agents acting as a link lack professionalism. The front-line staff and the branch managers are found not assigning due weightage to the degeneration process. The insurance personnel if not managed properly would make all efforts insensitive. Even if the policy makers make provision for the quality upgradation, the promised services hardly reach to the end users. This makes it significant that the insurance organizations in general and the public sector insurance organizations in particular keep their minds in changing the expectations of customers and the prospects. The behavioral profile of insurance personnel is studied in a right fashion and the changes required due to the changing perception of expectation are incorporated. It is essential that they have rural orientation and are well aware of the lifestyles of the prospects or users. They are required to be given adequate incentives to show their excellence. While recruiting agents, the branch managers need to prefer local persons and by conducting refresher courses to brush up their faculties to know the art of influencing the users/prospects. In addition to the agents, the front-line staff also needs an intensive training programme. This makes it essential that the branch managers organize an ongoing training programme, which focuses on behavioral management.

Another important dimension to the Place Mix is related to the location of the insurance branches. While locating branches, the branch manager needs to consider a number of factors, such as smooth accessibility, availability of infrastructural facilities and the management of branch offices and premises. In addition it is also significant that the branch managers assign due weightage to the safety provisions. The management of offices makes it significant that the branch mangers are particular to the office furnishing, civic amenities and facilities, parking facilities and interior office decoration.

Thus the place management of insurance branch offices needs a new vision, distinct approach and an innovative style. This is essential to make the work place conducive, attractive and proactive to the generation of efficiency. The motives are to offer the promised services to thee end users without any distortion and making the branch offices a point of attraction. The branch managers need professional excellence to make place decisions productive.

People are most important component of marketing mix for the insurance industry. Sophistication in the process of technological advances makes the ways for the personnel in such a way that an organization succeeds in making possible a productive utilization of technologies used or likely to be used. Professional qualification requirements change as technological develops & evolves. The use of computers microcomputers, fax machines, sophisticated telephonic service, e-mailing, intra-net service have been found throwing a big impact on the perception of quality of service. This makes it essential that the insurance organizations also think in favour of developing personnel in line with the development and use of information technologies.

The front-line-staff as well as the branch managers are required to be given the training facilities so that they in position to make possible an effective use of the technologies. The insurance organizations bear the responsibility of developing the credentials of their employees. In this context, it is also significant that they think about the behavioral profile of insurance personnel. It is pertinent that the employees are well aware of the behavioral management. They know & understand the changing level of expectations of users & make sincere efforts to fulfill the same. In this context, it is also significant that the senior executive while recruiting, training & developing the insurance personnel make it sure that employees serving the organization have a high behavioral profile in which empathy has been given due place. The psychological attributes become significant with the viewpoint of influencing the prospects or retaining the users. It is in this context that the insurance companies need a rational plan for the development of insurance personnel.

Physical evidence includes facility design, equipment, signage, employee dress, tangibles, reports & statements.

Signage personifies the insurance company. It gives an identity by which users recognize the company. A signage depicts the company’s philosophy & policy.


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