What the Life Insurance Industry can learn from Walt Disney

What the Life Insurance Industry can learn from Walt Disney

Walt Disney did many things right in his lifetime.

First and foremost, he is the creator of one of the most loved cartoon characters – Mickey Mouse. Just as notable, he is the mastermind behind the “happiest place on earth” – Disney World. With his superior people-management skills, storytelling abilities and creativity, Walt Disney was able to build a world-renowned brand, create timeless characters and foster an organizational culture that promotes innovation, inclusivity, and ingenuity.

One of the biggest challenges life insurers are trying to solve for is how to deliver superior customer experience and engage the next generation of consumers. So, why not learn from the man that built the company that has been at the forefront of digital innovation and customer engagement? A company that sets the bar for the entire entertainment industry when it comes to tech, product, experience, and excitement. A company whose current target market is same demographic the life insurance industry needs to capture in order to survive.

To find out what lessons life insurance can learn from Disney, Equisoft invited Doug Lipp, the former head of Disney University, to this year’s flagship customer appreciation event – Elevate. Doug spoke to our customers and executives about the secrets behind Disney’s extraordinary success and how the life insurance industry can tap into the practices and behavior that make Disney so successful.

Here are the top 3 lessons that the life insurance industry can learn from Walt Disney:

Lesson #1: Walk the Park

It was not irregular for Walt to walk through the Disney park, talking to customers and front-line employees about their experiences and feelings – looking for problems and improvements. While it’s easy to identify facts, you never know what people are thinking or feeling, or how to make a positive impact without listening to what they have to say. As an empath and excellent listener, Walt knew that engaging with people would provide him with a fresh perspective on where changes and improvements could be made.

Walt’s strategy of walking the park began before Disneyland was even open to the public. With children as his target clientele, Walt was determined to see the park from their perspective – how else would he ensure every detail was magical and extraordinary? This often resulted in him squatting down and looking up at buildings from the vantage point of a child.

Walking the park was later adopted by Van France, the founder of Disney University. In similar fashion, Van could often be found walking around Disney Park with a camera in hand (this is before the days of iPhones, of course) as a way to get customers talking. Van would approach families and ask if they’d like their photo to be taken – then use that as an opportunity to ask them about their experience and gather information on what was working and what wasn’t.

How life insurers can benefit from walking the park

As a life insurer, how much do you really know about your customers and employees. How often do you talk to your customers about their experiences, likes and dislikes? Life insurance is tricky because there aren’t too many customer touchpoints that we can leverage, however, it’s still important to find ways to connect with people in order to improve the product, underwriting process, and the few touchpoints that customers do have.

Just as important is talking to advisors and call center employees. These are the people that customers interact with the most. They have the most insight into what’s working and what isn’t. When was the last time you visited your call center and had a conversation with your front-line employees? How often do you talk with advisors to find out what they feel and need‒ what they hear from customers? There’s a lot to be learned from those interactions.

Lesson #2: Adopt a “Yes, if” mentality

Walt Disney could not have single-handedly built the Disney brand and theme park. His team was essential, and he made them even more effective through his encouragement and willingness to listen and seriously consider all their incredible ideas.

Walt was someone that hated negativity and believed that creativity could solve anything. One key way that he kept his employees engaged and active, was through the encouragement of ideas, as opposed to shooting them down. Doug Lipp described Walt’s approach as replacing the phrase “No, because” with “Yes, if”. This requires always keeping an open mind to others’ ideas, and responding with “Yes, if” in a manner that adds on to them – not immediately shutting them down and pointing out the roadblocks.

How can life insurers benefit from a “Yes, if” mentality

It’s no secret that the life industry has a long way to go when it comes to digital enhancements and catching up with customer experience expectations. Since we’re playing catch-up, we’re in need of bright, new ideas. This is where adopting a “Yes, if” mentality will work wonders.

The industry is standing at a pivotal point. On one hand, we have executives who have been in the industry for as long as they can remember and have always done things a certain way. On the other hand, we have new minds entering the space with big, creative ideas. While it’s human nature to try to mitigate risk and even shy away from the unknown, adopting a “Yes, if” mentality creates an openness to those unexpected ideas and views that can lead to big, new advances.

Lesson #3: Think big, act small

Walt Disney was a dreamer, but he didn’t let his dreams get in the way of reality. His leadership style emphasized the importance of small acts, and he stressed the significance of making deliberate steps towards a greater goal. This mantra goes hand in hand with the “Yes, if” mentality discussed above.

Not every idea is the next big thing but having the courage to explore creative ideas in a controlled space is what will bring you success. This is why Walt Disney created his Disney think tank. He understood that even engineers were nervous about making mistakes and he wanted to create a space where people were free to innovate without restriction.

Can the life insurance industry benefit from “think big, act small”?

There are three compelling reasons a company doesn’t innovate.

  1. Fear of the discomfort
  2. Fear of failure: a drop in productivity and quality
  3. Fear of feeling silly!

When it comes to digital transformation at life insurance companies, all three reasons are at play. A lack of experience with modernization and fear of the unknown place a lot of pressure on executives. Fear of failure makes the entire project seem daunting. The large scale of the project is intimidating. Executives are afraid of hurting the company and their careers with a failed project.

For those caught in the gap between vision and action, the “think big, act small mentality” can be a game-changer. A full digital transformation, data migration, and integration are the big picture, but how can you start small and start today?

Let’s put all 3 together

The life insurance industry is currently at a crossroads. Customer expectations have skyrocketed, and the next generation of consumers are looking for seamless, streamlined sales and service processes. Companies like Disney are setting the bar for innovation and customer experience.

On one hand, people can enter Disney World and be completely immersed in the narrative of their dreams. Every detail is optimized for the ultimate experience. The My Disney experience app includes real-time information about ride wait times, park events and added features like mobile food ordering. Guests wear smart MagicBands that contain their tickets and enable them to seamlessly tap through rides and food orders.

On the other hand, applicants can wait weeks to hear back about their life insurance policy. Customers are expected to print out documents, visit the doctor’s office, wait on hold lines to speak to advisors and commit to weeks of back-and-forth conversation. If there’s ever a time to start your digital transformation journey, it’s right now.

Walk the park and take input from all your stakeholders – truly understand what they need.

Say yes to the big ideas. Create a culture in which taking risks is not punished and potential failure is accepted in order to grow and thrive tomorrow.

You can think big – full digital transformation, access to all data, full integration of all solutions – so long as you start small and start today.

Related Articles

Artificial Intelligence 1920x1080

Future of Insurance

Insights from 8 Industry Leaders on Digital Acceleration in Life Insurance

Equisoft conducted a series of interviews with eight industry experts for their insight on key aspects shaping the future of the life insurance industry.
Read Article
Opening Caribbean Office PR Card image 640 x452

Future of Insurance

Equisoft’s Global Presence Expands with the Opening of New Office in the Caribbean

This is Equisoft’s tenth international office and marks an exciting milestone for the company as it celebrates its 30th anniversary.
Read Press Release
Guardian Partners with Equisoft Card Image

Future of Insurance

Equisoft Continues Successful Implementation of its SaaS Policy Administration System for Guardian Life Limited (Jamaica)

Providing a high degree of flexibility, configurability, and automation, Equisoft/manage, a cloud-based SaaS solution, will enable the Caribbean insurer to consolidate legacy systems, drive operational efficiency and quickly evolve its product offering.
Read Press Release