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Go Digital (as Long as the Fries are Hot)

Robert Regis Hyle | August 26, 2014

Are you still wondering if digital capabilities are worth the effort for your company? If so, consider that fast-food chain McDonald’s recently announced the hiring of a vice president of digital. Julia Vander Ploeg left Ticketmaster and joined McDonald’s to work on customer engagement, e-commerce, service delivery, and digital content.

Now McDonald’s is a Fortune 500 company and that’s bigger than midtier insurance carriers, but when you consider how restaurants do business and how insurance carriers need to do business, it’s time for carriers to make the leap. They don’t have to create a new title, but they better have someone that understands the new digital culture.

The service delivery aspect of the McDonald’s article on the CNBC website caught my attention. A McDonald’s executive explained the fast-food company wants to revolutionize how it interacts with its customers by “removing physical boundaries to allow our customers to connect to and order McDonald's any time or place, globally.”

If I buy a burger and some fries from McDonald’s, I can’t imagine a more effective way than to get in line at the drive-thru or inside the restaurant. I say this for one simple reason: The food quality at McDonald’s and its competitors is at its apex within the first two minutes of being handed to you on a tray or in a bag.

Really, is there anything worse than getting fries from McDonald’s that aren’t piping hot? Some people look through their bag at the drive-thru just to see if everything is there. I taste the fries. If the grease does not burn my tongue I tell the clerk I want some new fries and they invariably comply.

McDonald’s likely will find more value from a digital strategy in ways other than ordering Chicken McNuggets. Identifying the nearest restaurant for customers craving a Big Mac is certainly important in an age where GPS systems are at everyone’s fingertips.

For insurance carriers, though, the digital future needs to be all about transactions. As The Nolan Company’s Chad Hersh told ITA contributing editor Michael Voelker for an article in the September issue of ITA Pro magazine, insurers shouldn’t get carried away with the non-transactional arena.

“Non-transactional capabilities are great for driving adoption or policyholder stickiness, but failure to offer transactional capabilities will cost carriers customers,” says Hersh, who recently joined Nolan as senior vice president after leaving Novarica. “In terms of whether or not ROI matters, that’s a great debate,” says Hersh. “Frankly, in many cases, mobile apps are simply a competitive necessity.”

McDonald’s is wise to understand that traditional brick and mortar companies have disappeared over the last decade and they don’t want to be left behind. So maybe we’ll see a McDonald’s food truck roaming the streets and handing out Big Macs. Just so long as the fries are hot, I won’t mind.

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