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Independer is the winner of the most recent WUA! digital experience study of online orientation on home insurance in The Netherlands (article in Dutch). Hans de Bruin is Online Marketing Manager with Independer.nl. A talk about being the best, the search for 50 new colleagues, customer research, service that’s more important than sales, the Happy Customers director, copycats, and wanting to have in-house programmatic marketing.

Congratulations, Hans de Bruin. You are the winner of this WUA! digital experience study of online orientation on home insurance, and have beaten the direct competition. How important is it for you to be the best?
“Of course it’s very cool to be considered the best, especially if this is the opinion of the people who visit our website. In the field of online marketing, the battle against the competition will always remain a game we want to keep winning. The phrase ‘participating is more important than winning’ certainly doesn’t apply to us here :)”

You scored highest of all providers. What is going well for you?
“We’d like to rank among the top in all disciplines; this goes beyond the field of online marketing. Think of interaction design, product development, and insurance experts within our customer service. We were established in 1999 with the aim to make the financial sector more transparent and more honest. We flag cases of misconduct, compare products and services, and help people make a choice. But we do think there is room for improvement. Therefore, we’re working on an entirely new website for home insurance. We have pretty great ambitions for the future. So this year, we are searching for more than 50 new colleagues…”

What is the role of customer research and customer focus in your daily work as online marketing manager?
“Every day, we’re working with over 250 Independers to assist our customers in choosing the best insurance policy. In order to get a good understanding of this, we do a lot of qualitative research to further improve our website and services. We also continuously gather reviews about Independer’s service, but also about the insurers we use in our comparison. For my daily work, optimising our online marketing campaigns, we do a lot of testing. What ad text works best, what wording should we use to best communicate our proposition. On our own blog we write a lot about subjects our customers are concerned with. Really cool to see so many people reading it.”

What is your biggest digital challenge?
“The possibilities that new marketing technology offers are booming at the moment. Think of the world of programmatic marketing all advertisement ecosystems of Google, Facebook, Microsoft, and all the publishers who make their advertising space available. We really want to have a good understanding of this world, and sometimes we’re even slightly cocky in this regard. That’s why we do not delegate control to an external party. We know our customers and their customer journey best. It is a challenge to understand the technique itself, and to implement all these new possibilities without spending too much time or money.”

And errr, this challenge for Independer at brand level, you can see where I’m going with this… You are part of Achmea, but you also compare health insurance policies. And your TV commercials finish with the OHRA logo. You had to explain this on the blog recently…
“In order to emphasise that for every Dutch person a different insurer could prove more suitable, we have made multiple variants of our commercial where at the end of every variant a different insurer is shown. At the time we received quite a few responses about the fact we only showed OHRA. Apparently, this variant stood out the most, because all variants were broadcast the same number of times. That is interesting of course, because it says something about the strength of the OHRA brand.”

“With regard to brand communication, conveying your message remains a challenge, but at Independer we are 100% sure that the advice we give is completely objective. Luckily, Achmea gives us plenty of room to conduct our own strategy and policy. This is necessary for our survival, which is something Achmea understands very well. A supervisory board headed by Arthur Docters van Leeuwen is overseeing this. For us another important pillar is our customers’ satisfaction.”

How do you view service in relation to sales? Could service eventually become the new sales in your industry?
“We are not a sales driven organisation. Selling is not our main goal, we want to always give the best advice. Here, it is about quality as well as price. We also quite often advise against taking out certain coverage or insurance. Or we explain to them that they’d be better off choosing a different party. If we deliver fantastic service and make customers happy, those sales will follow automatically. In short: great service is more important than sales.”

I get your point. So is your model actually about eventually generating more sales through great service? Why would you provide this service otherwise?
“If you want to simplify and improve the world of finance one step at a time, it can only be done if you focus unconditionally on providing the best service. This makes customers happy, and it makes us happy too. Undoubtedly that leads to more customers, and more loyal customers. We never measured whether the costs of the extra service are recouped through additional sales, but for us that’s really not important. Happy customers are more important than sales. This is why we do have a Happy Customers director but no sales director…”

Are there any cool things in the making at Independer.nl? What digital innovations are you working on?
“In the area of online marketing, we are currently making great strides in programmatic marketing. But also across the organisation we have lots of ambitions: We have big plans in the mortgage market (see press release “Independer: mortgage advice drops to 500 euros”, MvdB), amongst other things. We continue to focus on distinctiveness and on providing added value for consumers. Many other parties are trying to copy us on several fronts, but we always try to stay one step ahead of them. Based on market share and growth in volume, it seems like we’re still succeeding :)”

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