Clearsurance may do for Insurance what Glassdoor did for recruitment

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Clearsurance is using policyholder reviews to pull customers who prefer to research Insurance products before buying them.  Carriers who embrace this early could do well, as the approach has worked well in many other markets such as recruitment (Glassdoor).

In today’s day and age, consumer reviews are everywhere.  They are a driving force in the decisions we make before we decide to buy something (Amazon/Google reviews), eat somewhere (Yelp) or travel somewhere (TripAdvisor).  

The great thing about (good) consumer reviews is they not only give you a rating/score of the ‘thing’ you are looking to spend your money on; they also give you comments and context for the ratings/score that was given.  

How about when it comes to Insurance?  Where do consumers go?

Sure, aggregators help.  These are primarily focused on price and features, though.  

How about carriers?  How do they get context of what their customers think about them and how can they better benchmark against their peers?

Clearsurance is trying to tackle all of these questions with their platform.

Based in Massachusetts, Clearsurance is a U.S. based startup providing crowdsourced consumer reviews for auto, home and renters Insurance.

This week, I had the opportunity to discuss the Clearsurance proposition with Co-Founder and CRO, Todd Kozikowski.

Clearsurance’s History

Todd and Michael Crowe (Co-Founder and CEO) founded Clearsurance in August 2016.  Todd is a veteran from the tech industry and Michael from the Insurance services industry. “One mutual friend put us together and said ‘the two of you should consider working with one another’”, Todd explained to me.  

At that moment in time, the Insurtech movement was in the early growth stages.  Michael and Todd looked at all that was happening in the space and noticed that many industries had successes in crowdsourced reviews (TripAdvisor for hotels/travel, Glassdoor for employers) and thought, ‘Why can’t we create a similar platform for insurance consumers?’.

‘We live in a 5 star world’, he said.

Further he went on to say that ‘we started searching for Insurance companies and reading their reviews. Overwhelmingly, they were negative and myopically focused around claim settlements’.  

Todd, being new to the Insurance industry, was surprised by this.  He didn’t understand why the reviews were so poor when ‘they (Insurance companies) have been business for decades. You clearly know that they’ve established themselves as a leader.’

With all of this information, Michael and Todd decided that if individuals would share their detailed experiences about Insurance, then they could build a robust platform for consumers to review and research the Insurance that they have or are thinking of buying.  ‘That was a big if, because it wasn’t like it was a restaurant or hotel that was exciting to eat or share a picture of, it’s insurance – and also episodic’, Todd said.

In December 2016, Clearsurance launched with a seed investment of $2m and a first milestone goal, set for April 2017.  ‘If we could get to April 2017 with 10,000 reviews, then maybe we might have something that we could learn from the data, to better understand the market, that might guide consumers or even give insights to carriers’, Todd told me.

‘And sure enough, we actually crossed over 10,000 reviews on over 220 carriers at the time.  What we found was that 80-90% of the reviews were positive and it was because we were capturing feedback across the entire customer value chain, not just getting a review when they were upset with the bad claims experience like most other platforms’. 

From there, the team knew they had something and continued to further develop the platform and tools for both consumers and carriers alike.  Last week, Clearsurance announced milestones of more than 105,000 reviews with 76 Insurance carriers subscribed to their platform.

Interesting note – Their Board of Directors includes both Chuck Wallace, Co-Founder of Esurance and Neal Conolly, former President of Wright Flood Insurance. Tim Anderson, former executive with Glassdoor was also on their board.   This team is extremely well-rounded.

The Clearsurance Platform

The Cleasurance platform is currently for auto, home and renters Insurance and with tools for both consumers and carriers.  

Their focus is on getting insights from the whole customer journey, including purchasing, customer service, price and claims.

For consumers doing research

Individuals can search for Insurance offerings in their state, city and/or zip code through the Cleasurance landing page.  

Once they submit their location information, the individual will be directed to a page which shows the Insurance companies that have been rated in their state.  They can see the full list and click on individual company profiles.  

The individual profile pages have a very Amazonesque feel to them (I am literally writing this blog after I just made a purchase on Amazon) and include the aggregate company rating (out of 5 stats), % ratings from customers willing to renew their policy, recommend the company to a friend and whether they would rate their claims experience positively.  

Further information on the company is below these reviews, including what types of coverages they offer.  

This does not have information on the specific coverages themselves, though. Clearsurance is focused on review of the company and consumer interaction with them. However, they do offer a variety of educational blogs to help consumers better understand insurance.  

Quoting Michael from this article in Coverager from December 2016, ‘Insurance companies are excellent at measuring your risk, bringing together all kinds of data points about you before offering coverage. Now, we’re turning that concept around, and helping consumers measure the risks of insurance companies. There’s a new question to ask before buying insurance – how does it rate with Clearsurance?’

Review form and analytics

The Clearsurance review form is what powers the platform to provide the insights for all parties involved.  

As mentioned above, the review caters for questions across the value chain.  

‘With each review, there’s what we call unstructured data (text) and formalized questions (ratings, likelihood to recommend to a friend, etc.)’, Todd went on to explain.  Further, he added, ‘with the text we’re able to data-mine and apply our algorithms to that text to look for certain propensities – for example, the number of times they mention the words love or hate or X or Y and then we can cross correlate and segment based on their shopping behavior and their economic behavior’.

These analytics is also broken down by geography (Clearsurance asks for the individual reviewer’s zip code).  

For consumers, this allows them to get the specific reviews on the Insurance company in their state.  

For carriers (who can subscribe to the Clearsurance platform), they can also know if there is a need to proactively target certain areas/parts of the value chain depending on the analysis they are getting.  Todd shared that one of the carriers that is using their platform did identify some interesting customer trends in billing and post-storm response based on the data from Clearsurance. Carriers can also reply to customer reviews through the Clearsurance platform.

‘Looking at different points of their customer service chain, what areas are at risk and what areas are doing well and then frankly benchmarking those service or those scores relative to their competitors and even doing it even in a geo-targeted way’, he added.  

Lastly, he shared that all reviews are individually approved and flagged (in the case of something suspicious).  ‘If they just put a 1 down with little data or few words frankly there’s no value to the review and therefore may not be published. Likewise if somebody puts a 5 down with no review, we will not publish that review because it’s adding any meaningful insight. What we’re trying to do is learn why is it a 5 or a 1? That’s something our compliance team faces every day’, he said.

In the pipeline

Todd shared with me that they do not plan to increase their coverage of lines of business in the near term.  However, they will continue to develop their questionnaires further for more detailed data, as well as create crowdsourced reviews for agents and agencies. They recently added profiles for companies in the online marketplace space – such as Coverhound and Compare.  He shared some other things too, but this was all that I’m allowed to write for now 🙂

Summary

Insurtech is changing the way our industry interacts with our prospective and current policyholders.  It gives us more ways to distribute and service policies as well as offer new product coverages and make the claims process easier.  

While this is all great and there are some tremendous solutions out there, I personally don’t see enough solutions out there tackling the problem of consumer education of Insurance.

Explaining how Insurance products work to individuals that don’t work in the industry (and even ones that do) is one of the hardest things in our business.  Just ask any agent, financial advisor or call center executive who has done it before (I can attest as I have done all 3).

What Clearsurance has done really helps to push the education needle forward.  The format of their reviews is robust and something we, as a society, are used to (i.e. my Amazon example above).  Not only does it give a great resource for consumers, but a tremendous one for carriers who are trying to understand (and react/be proactive with) what their customers are saying.  

But don’t just take my word for it, have a look at how Security First is using Clearsurance.  

Stephen Goldstein is an experienced Insurance executive and Insurtech dealmaker with a core focus on growing revenue, launching go to market initiatives and advising industry leaders.

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