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Digital transformation and innovation at Plymouth Rock


Digital transformation and innovation at Plymouth Rock WRIT TEN BY




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Tom Lyons, Chief Operations Officer of Plymouth Rock Assurance’s Direct Response Channel, discusses how an agile, creative approach has allowed the insurer to adapt its offering to a changing market



oday, customer service is all about choice and innovation and the increasingly competitive insurance sector is no

exception. Consumers want to communicate in the most convenient way for them, and they expect personalized service as well as products tailored to their specific needs. Across an increasingly demanding landscape, auto and home insurance carrier Plymouth Rock Assurance has stepped up to this challenge and adapted its offering to survive – and thrive. Tom Lyons, Chief Operations Officer of Plymouth Rock Assurance’s Direct Response Channel, has closely watched the changing industry over his 12 years at the company. He has observed key consumer habit changes and notes an important shift: consumers increasingly want the ease of doing business through a distribution channel of their choice. This is the very reason the Direct Response Channel for Plymouth Rock was born.


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“That’s the key to direct distribution: how do we make it easy for the consumer to buy the product, while still feeling well informed?” — Tom Lyons, Chief Operations Officer, Direct Response Channel, Plymouth Rock Assurance

“In New Jersey, property and casualty insurance market share has evolved from being independent and exclusive agent dominated to more direct dominated,” Lyons explains. For example, in 2003, New Jersey was 71% dominated by independent and exclusive agents. Today those same agents make up around 47% of the market. In comparison, the Direct market share in 2003 was 29% and now stands at 53%. Plymouth Rock has had to adapt to this transformation in the industry while continuing to invest


in and support its independent and Prudential exclusive agent networks. Traditionally, the insurer distributed its products solely through an agency model. In order to step up and compete with the evolution of direct writers, a key element of Plymouth Rock’s transformation was to build a direct capability that complemented and strengthened its agency distribution offering. “Within our geographic footprint, you’ll see that a lot of the big, national direct writers entered our markets and began gobbling up market share from the agency channels,” Lyons comments. “To combat that, we piloted building out a direct-to-consumer

CLICK TO WATCH : ‘PLYMOUTH ROCK ASSURANCE 30 SECOND TV SPOT’ 07 response channel about 10 years ago

its agency channel, as opposed to

to see if we could make the economics

a competing business. “From the initial

of growing through direct distribution

launch of the Direct Response Channel

work. We also needed to help our

through today, our focus has been

agency channels compete in a digital

helping the Plymouth Rock Enterprise

marketplace.” While initially a pilot

compete in this evolving digital land-

venture, failure was not an option.

scape. We are continually on the hunt

Plymouth Rock needed to build an

for new marketing sources, partners,

economical and scalable direct

and technology to leverage for the

business to compete in the market-

benefit of our agents,” says Lyons.

place and to fuel growth. Over the past

Since being founded in 1982,

decade, it has transformed into

Plymouth Rock has expanded signifi-

a multi-channel distribution model.

cantly across the northeast US. Initially,

Plymouth Rock’s goal is for its Direct Response Channel to be a partner to

Plymouth Rock distributed its products in Massachusetts and eventually w w ymo ut hrock. com


moved into New Jersey in 1992. It also

have economies of scale in terms of

has been active with independent agents

their marketing and telesales acquisition

in Connecticut and New Hampshire for

dollars,” says Lyons. “In many cases,

more than 20 years. Currently, Plymouth

they have thousands of sales reps

Rock’s Direct Response Channel is

in their sales centers and very large

actively writing in New Jersey, Pennsylva-

national advertising budgets.

nia, Connecticut and New Hampshire.

To compete with that, we have to be

The company plans to enter New York

extremely targeted and selective about

in the latter part of 2019.

where and how we spend our marketing

As the market changes and develops,

dollars and how we sell our product.”

Plymouth Rock no longer just competes

In many ways, Plymouth Rock is

with local rivals. National and global

maintaining an entrepreneurial startup

companies also have become competi-

mentality as it grows. It is careful how

tors. “Our direct national competitors

it spends its money and the relationships

it forms, and it is adept at listening to

or tablet and buy the product online or

each colleague within the fast growing

over the telephone. However, they still


seek the comfort and confidence of

A significant advantage for Plymouth

knowing that there’s a licensed agent

Rock is its deep understanding of the

ensuring they make the right decisions.

market and how consumer needs and

That’s the key to direct distribution.

expectations continue to evolve. Lyons

How do we make it easy for the

is keenly aware of the shift to self-serve

consumer to buy the product, while still

in the market and what this means for

feeling well served and well informed?”

his organization. “Back in the old days

In order to provide the best possible

of insurance, it was routine for customers

experience for customers in a changing

to go to their local agent to buy insurance

landscape, Plymouth Rock has worked

products, face to face. Nowadays,

with innovative startups that might

many customers want to be able

otherwise be seen as disruptive

to transact right from their smartphone

competition. “We’ve worked with a lot

E XE CU T I VE PRO FI LE Tom Lyons Tom Lyons is the Chief Operations Officer of the Direct Response Channel for the Plymouth Rock Management Company of New Jersey. He is responsible for all aspects of Plymouth Rock Assurance’s auto direct‐to‐consumer marketing and sales efforts, marketing analytics activities, and inbound and outbound Sales Center operations. He also oversees all aspects of Teachers’ Insurance Plan of NJ. Tom joined Plymouth Rock in 2007 as a Marketing Representative in the Prudential Agency Management Division. The following year, he became the first Supervisor of Plymouth Rock’s Direct Sales Center, eventually being promoted to the Director position. In this capacity, he built out and oversaw the growth of the inbound, outbound and telemarketing sales operations.

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“What sets Plymouth Rock apart from our competitors is that we try to form really strategic partnerships with these companies: it’s not just one size fits all” — Tom Lyons, Chief Operations Officer, Direct Response Channel, Plymouth Rock Assurance

and how we integrate with them,” Lyons emphasizes. There’s a fine line to those arrangements, but several have worked out well for Plymouth Rock and its partners. “Transparency and collaboration is at the forefront of how we form these strategic partnerships to ensure win-win relationships,” says Lyons. As well as startups, Plymouth Rock maintains relationships with more established tech partners in order to leverage the latest technology for a truly superior customer experience. Working with, a customer relationship management

of insurtech companies both from a

(CRM) system, gives the company a

technology and a distribution perspective,”

unified 360-degree view of both

says Lyons. “What sets Plymouth Rock

current and prospective customers.

apart from our competitors is that we

“We monitor the customer journey all

try to form tailored strategic partnerships

the way throughout their lifecycle with

with these companies. It’s not just one

us through every touch point,” Lyons

size fits all.” For example, the insurer

explains. “We understand if they like

has partnered with other alternative

to communicate with us via email, chat,

distribution partners, which it calls

text or phone, so we can tailor the

Super Agents, throughout the country.

customer experience specific to those

The company has integrated with these

individuals. In addition, partnerships

partners through LeadCloud, a leading

with IBM and Acxiom are instrumental

data integration partner. “Regional

for data management. We are pursuing

direct writers need to be scrappy

multichannel marketing, where we

and agile in how we form partnerships

execute a variety of different marketing w w ymo ut hrock. com


channels to fit customers’ needs. Some consumers would prefer we market to them through email and display advertising, whereas others prefer direct mail or social media advertising. It’s about tailoring our messaging and approach to fit the needs of the customer.” Another interesting area of partnership Plymouth Rock is beginning to explore is with financial institutions. “This is an area of expansion and growth,” says Lyons. “We’re finding that these financial institutions are 12

able to round out their client base by offering a Property and Casualty insurance product with us, and in doing so, improve their customer retention. The strategic partnerships we form are key to what Plymouth Rock does. Our partnerships are not about ‘you do this and we do that’ – they are creative and agile. Plymouth Rock is currently working with many financial institutions in this regard and is actively seeking out new partnerships to advance our respective businesses.” Internally, Plymouth Rock’s research and development team is always on the lookout for emerging technologies. Its agile, flexible approach allows new

“Regional direct writers need to be scrappy and agile in how we form partnerships” — Tom Lyons, Chief Operations Officer, Direct Response Channel, Plymouth Rock Assurance

ventures and solutions to be piloted quickly before successful initiatives are rolled out across the organization. Every innovation implemented is measured in relation to its impact on customer experience, which is closely monitored. “We do customer surveys and focus groups to understand what customers like and don’t like about being insured with us, and we often make changes based on that. Keeping our finger on the pulse of consumers and being responsive to their needs helps keep us competitive and at the cutting edge of innovation,” Lyons says. Another key element to finding the best solutions for its business and customers is Plymouth Rock’s culture of collaboration. It is not only external, but permeates the internal organization as well. “We have a culture where everybody in the organization, regardless of rank, feels empowered to give recommendations or suggestions,” Lyons says. For example, the popular Get Home Safe® benefit that’s unique to Plymouth Rock allows the company’s customers access to a free taxi ride home as a safer alternative to driving when necessary. This innovative service was suggested to the CEO w w ymo ut hrock. com



Year founded


Approximate number of employees



Woodbridge New Jersey

“Plymouth Rock was founded on the principle of putting service first. That is still part of our DNA.” — Tom Lyons, Chief Operations Officer, Direct Response Channel, Plymouth Rock Assurance

by an employee in the lunchroom many years ago. It has now been rolled out across the enterprise. “We have a culture of collaboration and transparency across our various business units,” Lyons says “These units empower an entrepreneurial spirit and an innovative approach to all of our business initiatives. And there is always collaboration to ensure the best practices of the various groups across Plymouth Rock.” Through this entrepreneurial spirit and a commitment to collaboration,


the Plymouth Rock Direct Response

“Plymouth Rock was founded on the

Channel has grown significantly.

principle that a higher standard of

“We plan to grow our business quite

customer service would make us stand

rapidly over the next several years

out in an already-crowded industry.

and feel our multi-channel approach

Treating our customers with courtesy,

to distribution should fuel growth in

valuing their time, and understanding

these new states for both our direct

and empathizing with their issues has

and independent agent channels,”

been crucial to our success. That is still

Lyons explains. Throughout this

part of our DNA. We respect the brand

journey, he is confident the organiza-

equity that Plymouth Rock has built since

tion will not lose the unique touch that

day one and honor our cultural values.”

led to this success in the first place, with customer service being at the forefront of everything it does. w w ymo ut hrock. com

Plymouth Rock Management Company of NJ 581 Main Street, Suite 400 Woodbridge, NJ 07095 USA T +1 866-INSURANCE

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Plymouth Rock Insurance brochure – April 2019  

Plymouth Rock Insurance brochure – April 2019