Customers reward brands who are attuned to their needs: Aalok Bhan, Max Life Insurance

Bhan, Director & CMO, Max Life Insurance, discussed how the brand is driving customer engagement during the Covid-19 pandemic

e4m by Nafisa Shaheen
Published: Dec 7, 2020 8:33 AM  | 8 min read
aalok bhan

As many were furloughed and retreated into isolation, many BFSI brands stood up to cater to the increasing demands of consumers. Among them, Max Life has done a compelling job of driving customer engagement during the first phase of Covid-19 crisis. Keeping a real-time pulse on changing customer preferences and rapidly innovating to redesign engagement, the company has introduced various initiatives that have helped position themselves at the forefront of the longer-term shifts in consumer behaviour.

Aalok Bhan, Director and Chief Marketing Officer, Max Life Insurance, in conversation with exchange4media, discussed around how the life insurer is driving customer engagement during Covid-19.

 Edited Excerpts-

How have the past few months been for Max Life Insurance? How did it affect the brand?

Globally, through the last few months, COVID-19 pandemic has greatly affected how individuals engage with one another. In the life insurance industry, physical distancing measures transformed activities, which were traditionally performed in person, to digital and remote means. With the in-person channel removed, life insurers needed to cope with volumes, digitize operations and leverage the digital services while reimagining the role of agents in wake of the pandemic.

With the COVID-19 situations making customers more aware of life and health-related risks, Max Life with its quick-response program ‘Mission Possible 2020’ implemented a swiftly designed digital operating model for distribution. Under this program, an agile shift to remote work-enabled frontline sellers and sales managers with infrastructure and digital tools to continue work from home and support existing customers and sell remotely.

Revised ‘Digital Sales Processes’ across all channels was rolled out, under which training of more than 9000 frontline sales team and 10,000 agent advisors in the field was completed digitally in just two weeks in April. Thereafter, in the entire agency and bank-specified people were trained in the subsequent two weeks of that month. The smooth digital transition was made possible by having an optimized future outlook where our significant investments in digital technologies, including a mobile-first approach, VDI and other digital tools, much in advance, stood us in good stead for this unprecedented situation.  

How important is having communication around financial protection, and health & safety to create value and reassure customers amidst a life-altering crisis?

During the ‘Stay at Home’ phase, mindful living is the mantra, this includes physical fitness, mental wellbeing and financial protection. Safety assumes the highest priorities for consumers. At Max Life Insurance, we remain committed to reiterate the need and continued to engage customers in conversations and activities that reinforced financial protection, physical and mental wellbeing. Our e-Super Customer Week (e-SCW) is an example of how we have constantly connected with consumers, keeping our essence of customer obsession and “Always On” strategy intact. Under the e-SCW, we introduced activities such as Zumba and yoga by partnering with Anytime Fitness and focused on various segments such as nutrition and wellness throughout the last few months.

We also significantly invested our time, talent, and advertising resources towards strengthening our core messaging of financial protection. In our latest ad campaign #ProtectionFrontFootPe with Team Royal Challengers Bangalore, we aim to encourage especially the millennial audiences to secure their family’s financial future with a term plan. We believe that even amidst a pandemic, it is You who brings a difference to the lives of loved ones and is it important to lead with protection on the front foot.

Furthermore, to sell long term savings and protection solutions, “Trust” became the bedrock for all our actions and conversations. During the initial stages of lockdown, when customers needed reassurance, we enabled digital modes to service all their policy-related needs. We helped customers through ‘Self-Serve Do It yourself’ videos to guide them with the various digital servicing options on our website. We also created a separate Covid-19 section on our website to proactively take care of customer queries related to the topic.

Additionally, in order to get closer to the customer, Max Life also built a conversational interface powered by Google Cloud to solve queries and improve services. The all-in-one solution is bringing efficiency to customer services by building a conversational interface, enabling self-servicing as a way to handle customer queries.

In line with our emphasis on nurturing customer trust, we also launched a campaign with the focal point of trust - India Ke Bharose Ka number, that showcased Max Life’s superior performance with regards to claims paid ratio. The key message is that when you trust a life insurance company, it is only reassuring to have them reciprocate the same level of trust with their “Bharose Ka Number” or claims paid ratio.

What are the initiatives taken by Max Life to keep up with the real-pulse of customers in regard to the shift in consumer behaviour in the Covid times? How have the customers responded to those initiatives?

We introduced various initiatives at Max Life Insurance. For instance, the #The21DayDifference challenge received a positive response and engagement. The same was a 21-day quarantine challenge through which we stay connected with our customers. 

More recently, our e-Super Customer Week (eSCW), digitized customer engagement creatively. As operations across the value chain moved online, our Super Customer Week, an on-ground engagement initiative, which ran across 300+ Max Life offices with walk-in customers, also was translated to digital medium as eSCW. This gave us an opportunity to strengthen our customer relationship and drive the message of care that for us #YouAreTheDifference.

Furthermore, focusing on health and fitness, we partnered with ‘Anytime Fitness’ to kickstart fitness journeys of nearly 44k customers. We also initiated Max Life Smart Learning Program for ensuring continuous learning for children of almost 29k customers.

Lastly, we also hosted the first-ever customer webinar titled ‘Protection Front Foot Pe Webinar with Mandira Bedi’ for all existing customers to drive the importance of physical and financial wellness in these changing times. We also organised a contest where customers were asked to share their story on how Max Life has helped secure their financial future.

What is the advertising and marketing budget this year?

Basis of extensive research, we have taken a balanced approach towards our spends to ensure that the brand is agile in its own way. To set the context, of our total advertising expenditure last year, indicatively 50% used to be diverted towards digital and the remaining 50% was split between ATL( Above the Line) and BTL( Below the Line) mediums. However, as consumption patterns shifted, we realized that digital is here to stay and hence our budgets took a 70:30 ratio between digital versus traditional mediums. We will also be active on traditional but will remain selective in our approach and progress with a very balanced spend between offline and digital media.

What are the challenges that your brand faces in the cluttered Indian market?

As a life insurance brand, one has to dig a lot deeper to find ways to separate oneself apart from the competition because life insurance marketing programs are very similar, if not exactly the same. For instance, life insurance as a category is anchored in the “fear factor of death” conversation associated so strongly to insurance products. As a new age, forward-looking brand, Max Life managed to overcome that barrier and transition to a “positive emotive” narrative with #YouAreTheDifference. The same focused on encouraging the viewer to embrace and let one’s Real Value be a key factor in determining the financial future of loved ones when buying life insurance.

Furthermore, in order to differentiate in the segment and stand out with fresh content, we at Max Life Insurance ensure that our content is never dull. By retaining our focus on providing real value with content that solves our audience’s problems without expecting it all to translate to sales, we continue to keep audiences engaged, drive meaningful conversions and sustain long term brand loyalty. Our aim is to transition the consumer mindset from “Why Life Insurance to Wow Life Insurance”.

What should be your piece of advice for brands for any miscommunication on not sounding opportunistic but showing empathy, care and agility?

Even as brands strive for overall agility, “Care for Customers” via empathy remains the most important mantra. This is because customers reward brands who are closely attuned to their needs and respond to their changing demands. It is therefore important to stay on top of the latest trends, watch data for insight, and understand new consumer behaviours that will be key in driving successful marketing and business strategies moving forward.

The unique position we all find ourselves in has given us an opportunity to communicate more with the audiences, but brands must rethink their original strategies and align with current events to build trust and reassurance through responsible yet sympathetic messaging. Marketers will have to do what they have always done best – adapt.

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