At a glance
- UK SMEs have embraced the online market leading to a host of business opportunities.
Over 60% of SMEs polled by Zurich last year identified themselves as taking part in the web economy, whether conducting their back office operations, sales transactions or ordering stock online.
SMEs in the UK have really embraced the emergence of modern technologies that are changing traditional business models. Today, business conducted on the internet in the UK accounts for a higher proportion of the total economy than in any other G20 country.
With new technologies come new risks
It is critically important that the advice provided by brokers keeps abreast of these emerging preferences and their clients’ changing operational models.
But beyond helping SMEs through this changing risk environment, these trends also present another significant opportunity for the broker to develop new ways to engage with their clients, add value and improve the customer journey.
Recent research found that over half of SMEs have contact with their broker only at the point of policy renewal. As sole traders and small businesses shift their own use of technology to mobile devices, tablets, online services such as web applications (apps), and social platforms, brokers have the opportunity to increase engagement with their clients, while maintaining low operational costs and efficiencies.
While tablets, apps and mobile devices give rise to a more complex risk environment for the small business, particularly in regards to data protection, these platforms also provide an interesting new opportunity for the broker to enhance its role as the trusted advisor and add value – in the digital realm.
Apps offer a strong medium to deliver pre-packaged advice and guidance, with a great user experience. For the broker, tablets and hosted services may provide a path to greater mobility in the future, the ability to spend more time with clients while ‘bringing the office with you’.
Keeping up with clients
One key statistic is that small businesses in the UK using Facebook now outnumber those using traditional directories. Social platforms and marketing offer new routes for more refined customer target marketing and personal client (‘social’) engagement.
Perhaps the most interesting area is IP video conferencing; primarily Microsoft’s Skype and Apple’s FaceTime applications. Personal use of these services is growing at a phenomenal rate, and across all age groups. The services are easy to adopt for businesses, have little operational impact and widespread use among customers is already underway. What was once a telephone-based transaction can now be a face-to-face engagement, with little to no operational impact.
Video-conference-based servicing can help build stronger customer relationships with smaller transactional customers, while adding additional servicing flexibility among larger and more complex customers – for instance, during a major loss event.
Over the last 20 years, Zurich has seen how technology has provided a means to grow sales volumes in a more scalable and cost-efficient manner. Core to this has been a move to self-service for the customer, notably in Personal Lines.
Many of the SME technology trends now emerging, however, present the opportunity to grow customer value and experience within the broker-client relationship. These shifts will become increasingly important in the coming years as direct business models contest distribution in the SME market.