How VGZ managed to connect emotionally with their customers

by eltine van der veer (braingineers)

Health insurance contest

In November of each year, perhaps the biggest client carousel known to the Netherlands takes place. This mass rotation of clients is ushered in by health insurance companies presenting their insurance plans for the upcoming year. Whereas regular service providers can easily take an entire year to inform and attract new clients, it has been noted that 1.1 million Dutch people change their health insurance plan within a period of less than two months. More importantly, over 50 percent of them switch companies during the last week of the year. It is therefore safe to say that attracting clients on the health insurance market is like an olympic sport. There is but one moment, one exertion of power to reach the podium. Otherwise, you will fall short.  

Nearly two-thirds of all health insurance contracts are taken out online, which is why the online experience of a client is now crucial to each provider. With a market share of 22 percent and around 4 million policyholders, VGZ is also giving customer experience high priority. 

At VGZ, they were quick to realize that initial opportunities for client conversion arise at an early stage in the customer journey, namely during the orientation phase. When  potential clients are searching for new health insurance, a positive customer experience usually increases the chances of them choosing a particular company later on. Experience shows that the orientation process often takes place outside of VGZ’s  website, and is therefore only partially under their influence. So, how do they go to measure the effectiveness of an orientation flow with the absence of a direct call-to-action? Especially before the race has started, and when there is still an empty podium. 

Deeper into the brain

By using regular tests and data analytics, VGZ managed to uncover at which stages during the orientation flow dropouts occurred, and which web pages were visited more regularly or poorly. Yet, the underlying questions that could not be answered from this data remain: Why? How can certain customer behavior be explained? The flow seemed okay, but was it intuitive as well? And more importantly, how do you measure all of that while minimizing the risk of bias or socially desirable answers? 

To dig deeper into the brains of their customers, VGZ applied neuromarketing research. Way before the infamous client carousel started, VGZ conducted neuro usability (UX) research on their health insurance orientation flow. Letting users experience VGZ’s deep care for clients subconsciously, and ultimately making the search for a new health insurance plan more pleasant, were their main research objectives. 

In their research partner’s neuro lab in Amsterdam, test participants were asked to orientate themselves on a health insurance plan on the VGZ website. During the process, their emotions and subconscious behaviors were measured by means of EEG, eye-tracking and click-tracking technology. Besides positive and negative emotions, the technology also measured the ‘cognitive load’ that participants experienced whilst processing the information on the website. This provides insight into how attention is best kept and which information is considered to be cognitively fluent. This in turn influences emotions regarding credibility (Unkelbach, 2006). 

New insights

The emotion data showed that an overview of the standard insurance evoked positive emotions in the user’s brains. However, the information pertaining to additional insurances was perceived as unclear. Through a combination of eye-tracking and emotion data, VGZ’s online marketing team was able to determine which elements should be optimized in order to improve the orientation flow. 

“Thanks to these neuro usability insights, we have been able to make an important step in further optimizing our orientation process. Not only by allowing new clients to select a health insurance that suits their personal situation well, but also by letting them decide in a more simple and humane way.”

Jochen van Dijk, Sr. Online Marketeer at VGZ

Since the study was based on an orientation flow, there was no point in A/B testing different versions. The emotion data indicated which bottlenecks occurred during the orientation flow, and VGZ decided to conduct a Customer Effort Score (CES) test. Measurements were taken before and after the optimizations, and the latter demonstrated an impressive 53% increase in CES. This research method is typically used to measure customer experiences on a conscious level. However, it has been proven that 95% of our decision making happens subconsciously (Zaltman, 2003). A final test on conversion rates had to be conducted.

The proof of the pudding… 

During the annual autumn insurance rally, VGZ kept a close eye on the conversion rates of their enter-a-contract flow. They assumed that if orientation would proceed more fluently, and if the client’s expectations were met, this could positively impact conversion. This hypothesis was proven correct: VGZ saw their conversion increase by 3%, by which they fortified their position on the podium. 

A holistic approach

It turns out that emotion data can provide useful insights on a conversion level, but it can also provide new insights into the emotional experiences of customers, which allowed VGZ to better adjust themselves to their clients. VGZ thus takes a more holistic approach to data when compared to other ecommerce companies, and it enables them to fully embed their company identity (care for clients) into their online environments. 


Zaltman, G. (2003). How Customers Think: Essential Insights into the Mind of the Market.

Unkelbach, C. (2006). The Learned Interpretation of Cognitive Fluency. Psychological Science.

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