SOCIAL MEDIA–What’s Happening and What’s in Store?

Steve Cheeseman (Foresters) explains how social media has changed the world in which we live and do business.
Steve Cheeseman (Foresters) explains how social media has changed the world in which we live and do business.

The Independent Order of Foresters (a large, fraternal insurance company based in Canada, with a very strong U.S. presence and international offerings) is at the forefront of navigating the use of social media within the insurance industry. As an attorney specializing in information technology, Forester’s vice president and associate general counsel, Stephen Cheeseman, provided a unique perspective on the uses of technology and social media. With YouTube clips and promotional videos, Cheeseman led participants to three main takeaways:

• Social media has created a significant paradigm shift
Cheeseman noted social media has generated not only change within every sector, but has also generated social businesses—and that journey is not yet done. As digital companies work to maximize the monetary capabilities of digital offerings, change and opportunity will continue at breakneck pace. He noted that 90 percent of affluent consumers use social media; 45 percent engage specifically with financial institutions using social media.

Cheeseman proposed the insurance industry needs to anticipate and adapt to use social businesses efficiently. To do this, the insurance industry must change traditional business processes and operational models to accommodate digital devices and the next wave of digital products and offerings.

• Social media is a bonus for complaints
Cheeseman believes social business provides a significant number of tools for the insurance industry—and specifically for those who deal with complaints within the insurance industry. Social business provides consumers with a strong new platform to be heard, and also provides the industry and regulators with a strong platform to service existing customers by handling complaints.

To effectively use social tools to handle complaints, Cheeseman cautioned all industry members at the Exchange (regulators and companies) to:
Ensure policies and procedures are in place for social business communication protocols,
Know what is being said in social spaces, and
Make sure entities and individuals employed know their rights, the law, and consumer rights before handling complaints.

Cheeseman encouraged the industry to completely understand that consumers can and will use social media to get what they want. With social business, the complaints today are bigger and better—a concept he presents as a gift. How are bigger complaints a gift? Cheeseman believes that by listening to consumers, companies and regulators will be in the position of knowing exactly what consumers want and need.

Attendees are attentive to Steve Cheeseman’s remarks on social media.
Attendees are attentive to Steve Cheeseman’s remarks on social media.

• Leverage opportunities
Cheeseman believes using social business is a skill and, just like any skill, coaching and ongoing refining of the skill is necessary. Although he urged participants to use social business by embracing the possibilities, he urged training for those who use social business professionally to help navigate the possibilities. What are the possibilities in a business application? He cited specifically:
  • Because social media has increased the profile of consumer complaints, the profile of consumer affairs has also increased—use the increased exposure advantageously.
  • Because Internet companies have enough big data to become better at insurance offerings than the insurance companies are, learn how to use big data.
  • Because qualified consumers are using social media, all companies need to get better about the conversation.

Cheeseman urged all present to get involved in the new paradigm of social business. He urged regulators and consumer affairs professionals to understand how social business will continue to change how consumer interaction will take place—now and into the future.

Click here to view Cheeseman’s presentation

Steve Cheeseman
VP, Assoc. General Counsel, US Division
Independent Order of Foresters
789 Don Mills Rd.
Toronto, Ontario M3C 1T9

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