Transparency through technology
Man holding a phone and looking at the claims he has made on his Feather account

Transparency through technology

We’ve written about the dangers of growing a company too quickly, how to know if a company is worth joining, and what people get wrong about company culture. Still, the most common question we’ve been getting has been about how our technology supports our values and how we plan to keep it this way as we add more insurance plans. 

As we mentioned before, one of the main ways we’re staying honest and simple is through incentive structures. Our bonuses and incentive structures are based on reviews and not sales commissions. If you just have a quick question about liability insurance, and the salesperson keeps telling you to get life insurance, it’s going to make you and the salesperson feel bad.

Our customer service team’s performance is based on good reviews, so they provide you with the best information to fit your needs quickly and honestly.

The insurance industry still has a bad reputation

Since we’re in the industry, we would be lying to ourselves to think that we didn’t have an upward battle regarding reputation building. That makes staying true to the principles our customers depend on even more important than companies in other industries. 

One of the reasons that our industry is known for being so bad is because of how vital insurance products are. That means if anything goes wrong, it tends to go really really wrong. People hear about these horror stories, and it leaves a lasting negative impression. This combined with the fact that even simple things like policy documents and quotes are nearly impossible to get means people sometimes hesitate to get the coverage they need.

Many of the people who use our technology and services are also from the United States, which we all know has quite a few issues with their health insurance system. We’re trying to help bridge the gap between the insurance a person has in their home country (whether that’s the United States or somewhere else) with the services and expectations of Germany.

Technology can help

Because people are used to talking with sales representatives or insurance brokers, who are incentivized to sell as many plans to them as possible, we want to make insurance information easy to access for everyone. 

We don’t hide behind technical language or loopholes. We want signing up and submitting claims (and even canceling) to be as simple and honest as possible so people have the right expectations. We believe that if we’re honest and provide people with the plans they actually need, then they’ll recommend us to others, trust us and maybe even sign up for another plan. 

To increase trust, we’ve created digital tools that require very little information about the person to provide them with insurance recommendations. We’ve done this already for our public health insurance, private health insurance, and life insurance pages. If you enter in random information on one of the pages, you can get a quote (without giving us your name, email, credit card, etc.). 

Our most powerful tool is our recommendation tool. It requires a bit more information, but still nothing that requires a commitment or personal contact details – that means you can enter in a few numbers to see what might change if you earned more, had a bigger apartment, or even had children. 

Also, just a quick hint, we’re currently revamping the recommendation tool to include insurances we don’t yet offer, so you’ll get honest and simple information about insurance you might still need outside of Feather like pet liability, freelance IT, electronics insurance, etc.

The recommendation tool

It took a bit of problem-solving to be able to put together the recommendation tool. First, we had to find a way to match similar questions from different insurance plans and see how they impacted the price recommendations and why someone may or may not need a plan. 

Once we found out which questions had the biggest impact (like date of birth), we asked a few others that might only be required for liability, life, or household contents insurance. Now, customers can see which plans we recommend for their lifestyle and why. 

To make things even more transparent, we also added blog posts to explain how each of our insurance plans work and what people should watch out for. And, for those really interested in the fine details, we’ve translated the German contracts into English to make the information more accessible. This is also given to everyone before they purchase the plan.

Still not convinced?

We understand where you’re coming from. Many of our current team also felt the same about insurance before joining, and we changed their minds by telling them that if they worked at an insurance start-up, they would be able to make a lasting and positive impact on the people who depend on these plans. A few members of our team actually purchased insurance through us before checking out the career page and applying.

Another way that we’ve been able to change people’s minds about insurance is through really positive word of mouth. Even though we don’t have a referral bonus, the customers who join tell their friends about us pretty often. We also have really high retention rates for our plans. Our most popular add-on insurance is dental, and since offering it, less than 5% of people have canceled their plans. Keep in mind we’re in the expat market, so the people who did cancel might have also moved out of Germany.

Our online Google Reviews and TrustPilot reviews are almost 5 stars. We got there through the positive vibes in our customer support team and being true to our honest, simple motto.

“I’ve been using Feather since I moved to Germany nearly 1.5 years ago. They’re providing excellent service and helped me navigate the German health insurance system from day one. They’re accessible, English-speaking and all digital (no small feat in Germany) and are ready to assist with any questions, even well after you’ve already enrolled in a plan.” – (Wout Vergauwen, Google Reviews, February 2022)

Where companies go wrong

If a company is too focused on numbers and forces people to chase after metrics in their silos, everyone quickly loses sight of the larger goal. So, instead of optimizing for one number or another within a specific area and being driven by someone else’s success metric for you, it’s important that each team is thinking about the bigger picture and how current metrics prove you’re doing the right thing for bigger goals. 

We keep this in mind while we’re growing our technology and team as well. We admit that it’s still an easy thing to achieve because we’re still a small company, but we appreciate how hard this becomes the larger you get. Especially when it comes to making sure every position has a clear vision of how their work plays a role in the interests of the whole company and not just for the one metric that’s important in their area.

How bootstrapping helped create the Feather we know today

Feather wasn’t initially picked up by investors (we know Rob mentioned it was easy in the previous articles, but we also said insurance (even with cool technology) wasn’t very sexy. That played a role in how many investors we attracted). Because of this, we had to bootstrap for ages. It builds a lot of humility as a founder and a company because you appreciate how hard growth is without shortcuts. 

We weren’t able to throw money at different technology and projects in the hope that we get interested customers. Our team had to sit down and find real problems to solve to grow. While bootstrapping, we ended up going through several phases. It was almost like levels in a video game where you start off with almost nothing and slowly level your character up, getting extra money, armor, etc., along the way. 

We’re also under no illusion that what we’ve achieved to this point means there are no more levels in front of us. We have an incredible amount of work to do, and that’s both exciting and terrifying. Still, that’s what makes working at a company so incredibly rewarding – especially when you’ve had to fight for every success.

Our most ambitious project

When we started Feather, we didn’t have our motto yet, but we were trying to create something honest in insurance to help people. We worked on this for a while until we began to see how big of an issue the simple part of insurance is. 

We could have kidded ourselves at the beginning if we had investors backing our technology and continued to focus on the honest part without realizing the need for the simple part. This would be a lot harder to fix if we already had created the entire website, our mission statement, and our company culture. 

Instead, we had to focus on real numbers: how many people were using the recommendation tool? We optimized based on this. In the beginning, we were working with incredibly simple tools, so our recommendations were just linking out to other websites where people could get the insurance plans they need. 

Those were pretty nerve-wracking days because we barely got any feedback until one day, Rob got an email from someone who said they’d purchased insurance from the recommendation but that the backlinks were all broken and thanked us for the advice. It seems pretty small, but he knew then that we were building something that people actually needed and gave us a lot of confidence going forward. Now, it’s clear there is a huge need for a recommendation tool and technology in the insurance industry, but in the very early stages of a start-up, that’s hard to determine yourself. 

You can see the current version of the recommendation tool here (with the revamp coming soon!)

Interested in joining the team?

We’re scaling and taking on some pretty ambitious technology-based projects, and we need help! Take a look at our career page to find out more.

If you have experience tackling real-world problems but never got around to getting a degree or finishing it, that experience should matter more than the degree itself. Much of what we learn to do our jobs is either self-taught or from a mentor (whether from academia or on the job).

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