Assurant’s CEO and President for Europe, Andy Morris, recently shared his views with leading Italian publication Apparecchi Elettrodomestici on how the latest technology trends are impacting consumer behaviour and the service they receive when it comes to domestic appliances in Italy.

In recent years has technology changed the after sales service? In a world in which technology is constantly evolving and consumers have ‘connected’ lifestyles, it would be impossible for it not to have had an impact. Here at Assurant, we must be ready to respond to customer needs; after all they are relying on these products every day to run their lives smoothly. We should consider how after sales and service can influence consumers to buy certain products. Today in Italy, more and more additional services are made available 24/7. Alongside the traditional protection products and services that Assurant offers its clients such as policy administration, repair and logistics and claims service, there are additional products and services, which have been developed as a result of our ability to turn client and consumer insights into transformative solutions. These include solutions such as our trade in and upgrade programs for mobile devices which can bring significant value to both our clients and their customers. We offer a customer feedback function to understand how we can continually improve our products and services to deliver an even better level of service.

Has ecommerce changed customer expectations? Certainly. One of the benefits of ecommerce channels is that offers can be easily changed to reflect customers’ needs. Unlike conventional stores, virtual online stores do not offer physical access to products and services, nor face to face contact with sales people. Rightly so, the success of ecommerce channels is tied to excellence - not just with the products - but with the after sales service. Customers rely on this service in the case of defective products, for general assistance or to receive the all-important information about shipping and delivery. The sales process, from placing the order, through the purchase and traceability of the shipment to the delivery of goods, must be as efficient as possible to provide an excellent "customer experience".

How much do companies rely on technology to capture feedback from service users which can then be used to improve their products? Technology presents us with opportunities to collect consumer insights to continually evaluate and improve our products and services. Traditional management platforms have been enhanced with multi-channel components to collect requests, feedback and suggestions from customers, which feed into the product lifecycle. This helps to ensure products and services continually evolve to meet consumers’ needs. It’s a process that always focuses on the customer and their needs.

Do you think that as connected ‘Internet of Things’ devices become even more commonplace, the after sales process will become more automated?

Assurant has a passion for delivering transformational and innovative solutions that meet the needs of our clients and their customers to continually improve the customer experience. Developing protection solutions related to Connected Living, including smart devices and related equipment represents a major part of our business. The expansion of connected technologies undoubtedly represents growth opportunities for companies. The Internet of Things (IoT) provides businesses with new ways to engage with customers, to develop more efficient business models, as well as to optimize the interaction with customers by collecting more detailed information on their needs and requirements. It is therefore essential to provide consumers with reassurance about privacy and security risks, as this is a key factor in order for the connected ecosystem to flourish.

How important is the after sales process for a customer when choosing to purchase a product from one brand or retailer over another? Based on our experience, especially in the mobile sector, the choice of a product is strongly connected to the after-sales service. Companies must strive to maximize the "customer journey" to provide an outstanding customer experience regardless of the sector.

Are after sales communications targeted at more ‘lucrative’ customers?

Yes they are, but surely the trend should be to provide high quality post sales service to all customers. Assurant has developed, in partnership with clients, differentiated post sales services to suit individual consumer needs. We believe that the logistics is key to customer satisfaction in order to minimise the impact on their daily lives, whether at home or at work.

What key initiatives is Assurant focusing on for 2017?

Assurant is focused on delivering an excellent customer experience on behalf of our clients, and using client and consumer insight to continually develop and implement market leading extended warranty programs and protection/upgrade solutions for mobile devices. A strong emphasis will be on looking at smart and M2M (machine to machine) technologies for connected devices and equipment. As with everything we do, we will use our insight to develop innovative protection solutions to meet our clients’ and their customers’ needs.