The aim of this essay is to assess the social environment of Lifespan, a new company that has ventured into the field of insurance provision. In this regard, the essay shall explore the strategic options that may have an impact on the new company as far as its working patterns and the job market is concerned. In addition, female careerism and its role in the development of the business of Lifespan shall also be assessed, seeing that this is one of the niche markets for the company. Finally, the lessons that Lifespan may learn from an environmental scanning exercise shall be explored, especially within the context of equal employment opportunity and group coverage.
Strategic options impacting the company
There are as many answers to the questions of customer satisfaction, and these include such variables lead time, price, conformance, professionalism, reliability, and convenience (Kearney & Bluestein, 2008). It is important to note here that these significant variables also tend to differ markedly from one industry to the other. As it were, the variables that have already been mentioned above are the ones that a lot of people often look for in a product or service (Aaker, 2001; Moutinho & Chien, 2004). As such, a customer may be interested in how a given product works, what its functions are the attitude of the salesperson that is selling such a product, and how knowledgeable such a salesperson appears to be.
All of these characteristics may be controllable by an organization to some degree. However, the greatest contributor to customer satisfaction is a variable that a firm may not have full control over, but which is nevertheless quite important. This variable is the perceptions of a customer (Lancaster & Reynolds, 2002; Narula, 2006; Moutinho & Chien, 2008). Regardless of whether or not the perception of a customer rests on fiction or fantasy, it is the role of the marketing manager of a firm is ensuring that his/her department tries to identify these, and seek ways to interpret them.
In the case of an upstart company like Lifespan, image is everything for such an organization to satisfy its customers. The idea is to offer a service that exceeds the expectation of the customer, and have contented customers. These shall then ensure that they have repeat business with such an organization, in addition to bringing in some of their friends as well. Satisfying customers is not an easy job, especially for a new company (Foxall, 2005). This is because first, a firm has to identify the preferences of the customers or better still, their needs. For example, in the case study provided, Lifespan wants to venture into the insurance industry by carving out a niche market that targets work-related insurance services, in addition to the development of such novel financial services products as “housewife insurance plan”. In this case, the company needs to ensure that they offer a unique product that will differentiate them from any other insurance company, and hence their unique selling proposition.
In addition, the company has first to identify the needs of the customers, fill this need and in the process, the success of the company shall be judged by the level of satisfaction of customers. Organizations that have an interest in the quantification of customer satisfaction need to make use of tools for data gathering and analysis (Schiffman, 1993; Wansink, 2006). This is for the purposes of being in a better position to understand the ever-changing and elusive perceptions of customers. As no one tool is in a position to fully capture the necessary information to satisfactorily comprehend perceptions of customers, smart organizations make sure that they use a multitude of customer satisfaction monitoring tools.
Consumer behavior has been defined as the study of how, when, what, and where people get to buy their products and services. As such, consumer behavior integrates sociology, psychology, social psychology, economics, and anthropology (Solomon, 1994; Schwartz, 2004).
Consumer behavior is an attempt at comprehending the decision-making process that a buyer goes through, be it as an individual, or in a group setting (Stern & El-Ansary, 1992; Schwartz, 2004). For this reason, consumer behavior examines such individual consumer characteristics as behavioral variables and demographics, with a view to better understanding the needs and wants of a people.
In addition, consumer behavior attempts to evaluate the influence that the family reference groups, friends, as well as society often have on a consumer. These are the main influencing factors of consumer behavior and as such, they impact greatly on the purchase decisions that a given group of consumers may arrive at. According to Foxall (2005), consumer behavior is ‘the process and activities people engage in when searching for, selecting, purchasing, using, evaluating, and disposing of products and services so as to satisfy their needs and desires’ (Foxall, 2005).
It is important that Lifespan explores this element of strategic marketing as it impacts greatly on the purchase decision of customers. For example, since the new company hopes to offer work-related insurance services, in effect mostly targeting housewives, it would be important to get the views of say, husbands. This is because they are most likely to be the ultimate financiers of such a venture in the case of stay-at-home wives and mothers. For that reason, they will have an impact on the decisions that their wives may arrive at, with regard to the purchase of a medical insurance cover.
Even in a case whereby wives have steady sources of income, they still would rely heavily on the suggestions by their husbands regarding the decisions to make. In addition, the opinion of reference groups within the community of the targeted niche market is necessary also, since such groups have the powers to push forward a favorable agenda to their members. As such, Lifespan requires identifying such reference groups within the community and offering them their strategy, appealing to their positive perception ability.
Consumer demographics are an integral part of consumer behavior. They are more involved with such aspects of marketing as the total population of a given target market (Laermer & Simmons; Whitman, 2008). In this case, the marketing manager of Lifespan would be better off carrying out a demographic profile of the market segment into which he has any intention of venturing. In light of this, this market could be segmented based on age, gender, or social class. The latter assessment is especially important as it helps to group the population based on income and as such, may be used as a yardstick for the rolling out of the various insurance cover packages.
It is also worthy of note here that a demographic profile may also be utilized in the assessment of where and when advertising ought to be placed, for purposes of attaining maximum results (Hisrich, 2000; Haynes & O’Dougherty, 2007). A new company has to appeal to the market through advertising and as such, it is important that the advertising mode so chosen appeals to the target audience, as this is the one gateway to the popularity of the organization. Seeing that companies spend a lot of money on advertisements in order to familiarise their products and services to the target market, there is nix, therefore, to ensure that the advertising medium captures the desired target market. In addition, the demographic profile should be such that it manages to appeal to such as the target market (Hallman & Rosenbloom, 2003).
In the case study provided, the new insurance company wishes to provide health care products to career women. Knowing the age bracket of the targeted career woman will help in the establishment of the best medical insurance cover that would suit them. For example, mothers would be more likely to purchase a medical cover that includes their children and spouses as well.
In addition, the earning power of a working wife and mother will also determine the nature and kind of health care insurance that they are in a position to purchase. Career women and quite knowledgeable and as such, they have a higher likelihood of also shopping around for comparative assessment of related products. It is therefore important that a marketer provides them with as much information as possible the first time, in order that they may make a more informed decision.
Impact of the emerging social trends on customers
With the global financial crisis has made its impact, it is important that businesses take precautionary measures about the future spending habits of their customers. In the case of a new company, there is an even dire need to understand the emerging social trends in the market, so that such a company may align itself in such a manner as to launch easily and gain popularity. To start with, we can all appreciate that an increasing number of people are becoming more health-conscious by the day (Hallman & Rosenbloom, 2003). What this means, therefore, is that an increased number of people are more likely to apply for health insurance cover.
On the other hand, with the prevailing state of the economy, the cost of such health insurance may turn out to be the deciding factor as to whether or not customers remain with a given company, or they make a decision to switch medical cover providers. In light of this, it may be important for Lifespan to take this into consideration. Another emerging trend is that more and more consumers are today altering their spending behavior, opting instead to save the little that they have fro a rainy day. As such, even investing for a health care insurance may be tantamount to a luxury. As such, it is important that they get the best value for their money. Otherwise, competition may offer them a better deal.
The observed social trend today that more and more companies are cultivating customer loyalty, as a result of stiff competition from within the market (Aaker, 2001; Cochran, 2006). As such, companies are ensuring that the deliver what they promise their customers. Otherwise, the customers have an alternative to walk away to another company that offer him/her a quality product at a competitive price. This trend has especially been fuelled by a rapid increase in the number of knowledgeable customers.
The customer of today, unlike that of the yesteryears, know what they want for this reason, it is the duty of the respective managers to go out of their way to satisfy their customers. As it were, it is quite easy for a company to lure customers but the hard bit comes when they have to convince such customers to remain with them in the face of enticing competitors that are capable of offering them a better deal that you already have. At such a point differentiation becomes the foreseeable option, as it set the products of a company apart from those of the competition (Hisrich, 2000; Foxall, 2005).
Female careerism and its role in development of business
Over the last coupe of years, women in the United Kingdom have secured postions in the job market at a higher pace than any other time in history. This is one way of their personal development that has seen them augment their skills and talents, in addition to improving on their identity and knowledge. With employment comes the building up of a human capital and in the process, the female employees realizes an enhanced quality of life, dreams and aspirations. Maslow’s hierarchy of needs provides that after the needs of man have been satisfied, the next category therefore is the wants.
When we have an increased number of working mothers, what this therefore means is that there has resulted a dramatic rise in the number of households that have a higher disposable income (Bush, 2007). Not only are such household better able to cater for food, clothing and shelter, but they are also in a better position to invest in health care insurance, as opposed to those households that have a stay-at home wives and mothers. Thanks to technology, there is also a rapid increase in the number or work-at home mothers from the United Kingdom. This crop of workers is able to juggle the responsibility of taking care of their families while at the same time also telecommuting.
One of the key advantages of this form of working arrangement is that the mother is in this case is quiet flexible, and so they are better able to manage their affairs. In addition, the ensuing daily expenses are drastically reduced. What this means to a start-up company like Lifespan is that this group of female workers may be the best to target for their new products.
Unlike the working mothers at the place of work who have a higher likelihood of having their employers foot their medical insurance bills, most work-from home mothers are often employed on contractual basis, (Hallman & Rosenbloom, 2003), with no benefit allowances such as health insurance. As such, it is upon them to foot this on their own.
Given that Lifespan have resolved to curve a niche in the category of the working mothers, an increase in the number of working wives and mothers in the United Kingdom is a welcome respite to this company. There are a number of questions that when addressed honestly, may help Lifespan company to enter into the market and succeeded in the face of competition. For example, what kind of healthcare would a working wife go for? What is the price range of a health care that a working other would be comfortable paying for? How does the salary scale of the targeted working wife differ? How price and /or value conscious could is the targeted career wife and mother? What are the different types of information that she is likely to use prior to making a purchase? Cochran (2007) has also suggested that companies need to investigate on the different types of services that their would-be customer may prefer. If at all the new company is able to answer these questions, what then remains is for the company to prepare health insurance packages that are pocket-friendly to all the customers that the company has set its eyes on.
Lessons for Lifespan from the environmental scanning exercise
It is not unusual today to see companies declaring that they are an equal opportunity employer. This is because over the years, more and more women have joined the labour market. In addition and perhaps more importantly, the knowledge and skills of the women are now at per with those of the men. Asides from the compliance with affirmative action, it is worth appreciating here that the women in the job market today are by far proportionately higher that at any other time in history (Bush, 2007). This should act as awake up call for companies to realise that today, a woman is very much a bread winner as a man may be.
Gender is therefore no longer a discriminatory factor as far as employment is concerned. Historically, women have been discriminated against in the workplace on the basis of their gender, along with other forms of biases like race, colour and creed. However, the declaration in 1965 of the equal employment opportunity by the then president of the United States, Lyndon Johnson, acted a foundation for the emancipation of women from this bondage (Bush, 2007).
The need for gender equality amongst the various societies has also played a significant role is shaping of the current situation of equal employment opportunities. Furthermore, from an economic point of view, having similar and equal job opportunities for both men and women means that the job market shall be competitive, resulting in a productive workforce and consequently, higher salaries, such higher salaries may then enable such a workforce to afford heath care insurance (Moutinho & Chien, 2008). With regard to groups coverage insurance, this is the form of insurance that a union or company may opt to offer their members. As such, this type of insurance cover tends to be cheaper and therefore affordable (Evans & Moutinho, 2008).
As a start-up insurance company, Lifespan would be better off targeting to cover this form of a groups. In addition to its affordability, the ensuing benefits are exceedingly higher than those of an individual health insurance.
Besides, individuals having a higher likelihood of defaulting on their medical insurance payment, as opposed to a union or company. More often than not, the individual medical cover tends to be quiet limited, in terms of benefits offered (Kearney & Bluestein, 2008), when compared with the group coverage insurance. The implication here is that the latter is more likely to appeal to the people, as opposed to an individual medical insurance cover. This, coupled with its affordability makes the group coverage insurance a better bet for a company that is venturing into the medical cover insurance business.
This essay aimed at exploring the social environment of Lifespan, a new company that has ventured into the field of insurance provision. To start with, strategic options that may have an impact on the new company in as far as it’s working patterns and job market is concerned, were explored, and these includes consumer behaviour (Haynes & O’Dougherty, 2007), customer satisfaction (Foxall, 2005) and the impact of the merging social trends on customers were explored, within the context of the new medical insurance provider; Lifespan.
The number of career women in the United Kingdom has risen drastically, and this may be seen as a welcome respite for Lifespan, as the working woman is one of their target markets. As a result of an environmental scanning exercise, Lifespan stands to benefit from valuable lessons, such the impact of many companies now being equal opportunity employer, in essence bring to an end discrimination of the basis of gender in the place of work (Bush, 2007). In addition, an exploration of a group cover reveals that this approach may be the cheaper option not just for the insurance company, but also for their beneficiaries.
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