Taking customers on the product development journey

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When designing a product, or an evolution of an existing product, it’s the customer engagement and testing tools that will create real value.

These days, it’s not new to involve customers in the product development process. Human centred design activities and focus groups have long moved away from being the sole domain of marketing teams, and are now embedded in the day to day practices of many functions across a business.

However, just going through the process, or ticking a box, isn’t enough. It’s critical to ensure we’re ‘getting it right’ when it comes to engaging with customers. This can only be achieved by identifying and focusing on the right issues, asking the right questions, using the right processes.

Of course, there are some challenges in applying these fundamental principles to life insurance product development. After all, we aren’t Apple. Sadly, it’s rare to have customers racing to be part of the next evolution of a life insurance product!


The adage that you never know the value of something until you need it is never truer than in life insurance, and this can be challenging when we’re trying to engage customers in product evolution.

When designing a product, or the next evolution of an existing product, we have four core principles to ensure we’re getting the fundamentals right and creating fair value to our customers, while also being mindful of the needs of all other stakeholders including the regulators:

  • What are the product’s features – are they unique and differentiated?
  • Does it serve a specific purpose? What customer need does it meet?
  • Who is it suited to?
  • What’s the operating environment, including legal, regulatory and market conditions?

However, this is only our starting point and reflect the fundamentals of good product design.

It’s the customer engagement and testing tools that, when applied effectively, create real value. Some of the ways we pursue tangible customer advocacy include leveraging unique capabilities for competitive insights and the expertise of those who may work closely with the customer.

Leveraging unique capabilities for competitive insights

In the process of developing a new product, we believe it’s critical to tap into people with Human centred design expertise. Human centred design uses an established process and creativity to combine the needs of people with the possibilities of technology, while ensuring a product is viable from a business perspective.

When used effectively, the results exceed what a person’s imagination could put on a PowerPoint slide. At CommInsure, we benefit from being able to tap into the capabilities of a team who are experts in Human centred design operating out of our Innovation Lab.

Getting closer, every day

In addition to leveraging the right people with the right capability to gain customers’ unique insights, we also leverage the expertise of those who may work closely with the customer.

In our business, this is the claims team. The insights we receive from those who are at the forefront helping customers at their critical time of need is invaluable.

We deem this so important, it’s now embedded as a daily activity. Every day, the product team meet with those who are involved in complex claims.

There are many insights but the most valuable is ascertaining real time feedback from the customer about the product and their expectations. We can then leverage this learning and apply it into longer term product development and improvement processes as well as immediate corrective actions, should they be required.

For example, we’ve developed a comprehensive Back to Wellness program that supports customers affected by a mental health condition, and a new Tele-claims service to make the process of making a claim faster and more convenient.

It’s not the ‘what’ but the ‘how’ that will lead to successful product development.

For my team, we leverage the right people with the right skills and the right insights. When done well, the picture of the customers’ expectations is even clearer.

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By Frank Crapis, Head of Life Product and Strategy, CommInsure


Important Information
This article was prepared by The Colonial Mutual Life Assurance Society Limited ABN 12 004 021 809 AFSL 235035 (CMLA) which is a wholly owned but non-guaranteed subsidiary of Commonwealth Bank of Australia ABN 48 123 123 124. The information is of a general nature only and should not be regarded as advice, financial or otherwise. CommInsure is a registered business name of CMLA.



Taking customers on the product development journey
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