Accenture’s 2020 Belgian Market Pulse Survey (MPS) interviewed 400 SMEs of different sizes and maturity levels across various industries in Belgium about their insurance experience and needs. The survey reveals that although the majority of the SMEs are satisfied with the services provided by their insurer, they are struggling alone in the insurance landscape. What they miss is experienced guidance, easy-to-use digital capabilities, and the right products and services to support them at each stage of their insurance lifecycle.


SMEs have specific needs & challenges

SMEs come in many different shapes and sizes. Whether just starting out or already on the road to becoming a market leader, all SMEs have specific needs and challenges. In the launch phase, these challenges are linked to managing day-to-day activities. In the growth phase, SMEs need more support in increasing their customer base and achieving specific growth objectives such as building brand notoriety. SMEs also operate in just about every industry, each with its own characteristics.

During our research, SMEs told us that they expect insurers to have a deeper understanding of their specific business needs/industry and to offer insurance products and services tailored to their risks. By gaining a thorough understanding of their customers’ businesses, insurers can spot SME risks, develop specific value propositions and operating models to successfully serve these diverse sub-segments.

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of SMEs that responded to our survey are satisfied with their insurer and intermediary. Whilst traditional elements such as quality, price, speed and efficiency remain important acquisition and retention drivers that underline the need for insurers to get the basics right, there are important gaps to close in terms of simplicity and accessibility of information, digital capabilities and proactive advice.

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The majority of SMEs (89%) have a good view of the insurance products they own, yet they have much lower knowledge of whether these products cover their legal requirements well or recommended risk coverages (37%). For startups in the launch phase, these percentages are even lower (28% and 24% respectively).

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These findings indicate that insurers have a key role to play in helping SMEs to better understand what risks they are legally required to cover.


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SMEs expect insurers and intermediaries to recommend insurance products to them proactively at their different stages of maturity. Sixty-five percent of SMEs express an interest in receiving specific content about different products and risk coverages, 62% in receiving an overview of legally required coverages, 48% in simulation tools to compare different products or to identify their specific insurance needs (45%).


Proactive servicing

Our survey highlights that insurers are not proactive enough in terms of risk advisory. When we asked SMEs whether and when they had recently reviewed the implications of new risks at key moments, their answers reveal that SMEs only do this for half of all key moments of truth. This percentage is even lower when it comes to assessing risks relating to reputation (26%), a lawsuit (39%) or moving to a new office (40%).

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IN 85%

of cases, the evaluation of risks is initiated by the SMEs themselves. Insurers and intermediaries therefore have a clear gap to close when it comes to proactive communication and servicing, as this leads to them missing out on opportunities to cross and upsell. Only 45% of SMEs responding to our survey are currently satisfied with the proactive communication they receive. Further interviews reveal that SMEs expect their intermediary or insurer to regularly and proactively check up on them in order to understand how their business has changed, which new risks have arisen and to assess whether they are still properly covered.

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These findings point to a real need for insurers to invest in the right underlying capabilities (CRM & Customer 360°) and develop the right partnerships to detect and take action at key moments of truth for SMEs. In an indirect model, insurers need to equip their agents or brokers with the right tools during the sales process: reminders to follow up specific accounts, proactive lead opportunities based on data & events, customer dashboards, etc.


A blend of human and digital experiences

To deliver a consistent level of service across all touchpoints and delight SME customers, insurers should use all their distribution channels in harmony and interact with SMEs in a way that blends the best of the digital and physical experience.

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Our survey reveals that on average, 16% SMEs have an appetite for digital channels across each stage of the insurance value chain.

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At the same time, 1 out of 3 SMEs (33%) still prefer physical interaction for pre-sale activities such as advice, asking for a quote and making a purchase, indicating once again that insurers, their agents or brokers do have a clear advisory role to play. 

To establish a perfect ‘phygital’ experience, insurers should review their overall services distribution channel strategy and invest in creating a fully digitized insurance offering, where expert advice and face-to-face interactions supported by digital tooling are available on demand. Investing smartly in digital capabilities includes tools to provide pre-purchase advice and support intermediaries in lead management and client advisory; a digital self-service capability focused on quotation, policy servicing, filing and following up on claims; and general data-driven capabilities (internally and via partnerships) to detect key moments of truth for SMEs across the insurance value chain.


Beyond insurance services as differentiator

SMEs face specific challenges in their business activities, which offers insurers an opportunity to broaden their services and support them in new ways. This is especially true amongst the small and medium-sized segments of SMEs, for whom insurers can become the go-to provider or orchestrator of additional services. In our 2020 MPS, 28% of medium-sized SMEs indicate they are willing to purchase additional advices and support services in the field of regulatory compliance as well as support with annual tax returns. This number rose to 36% for work accident prevention workshops. Among smaller SMEs, 26% are attracted by support for employee benefits packages.

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This level of interest among SMEs indicates an opportunity for insurers to provide new products and services that remain nevertheless close to their core business.


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It’s time for some soul-searching

Whilst the SME segment has been largely overlooked by Belgian insurers in the past, our survey strongly suggests that there is trapped value to be captured. It starts by insurers exploring the SME soul to gain a deeper understanding of their specific risk coverage needs. Then by focusing on becoming value-adding partners, able to proactively advise SMEs at their key moments of truth, offering a fully digitized insurance experience with expert advice available on demand. We observe a strong appetite among SMEs to buy services from insurers that would provide them with advice and solutions that are close to the insurance  core business but requiring insurers to go beyond traditional insurance services and collaborate with broader ecosystems.

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This article has been co-written by Sofie De Bock, Céline Chesterman and Laurence Vanhove.


Nicolas Pireaux

Managing Director – Insurance Practice Lead

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