Our “Coffee break with” series gives the floor to influential and inspiring personalities from various sectors. They enlighten us with their expertise about challenges, experiences, and business trends and opportunities. Today, Xavier Van Caneghem, PR & Market Analyst at Europ Assistance Belgium, is sharing important insights from his career.
With 30 years of experience at Europ Assistance Belgium, Xavier Van Caneghem is a reference in his field. After 18 years in the information service and becoming the head of the department, Xavier Van Caneghem has been PR & Market Analyst since 2009. He explains the evolution of his job, of the sector, their way through the crisis, and his vision of the future.
How have you adapted your way of working, thinking, or managing projects and teams due to the COVID-19 crisis?
It was vital for us to adapt immediately. We are available 24/7, with no possibility of delaying our interventions. We obviously opted for teleworking as soon as possible and had to make a leap in technology to allow it. Some of our employees were already teleworking, but we went from 20-50% to 100% of the time at home. That was a big change.
“I think every crisis is an opportunity. The pandemic has made us re-evaluate the way we work, start thinking differently and be creative.”
The company’s investment in modern technology has helped us. The competition and our leadership also forces us to do so, we have no choice.
Have you had to make major innovations or adapt your service offer due to the crisis? If so, how did you experience this?
We had already launched a series of new services. We have now services that cover other aspects of our customers' lives: mobility with Bike, health via MediCall, and – a gamble – IT assistance with Safe & Connected.
How do you win the customer's trust when you are faced with agile competition and such a fast-changing industry?
“What comforts us is to see that we have not lost the trust of our customers. They are still there, despite the crisis, and they still need us. We have earned this trust, it is not something that appears overnight. We have capitalized on our 50 + years of experience.”
The customer is much more volatile than before, he is constantly comparing a brand with its competitors. This is why we must accompany them through difficult times and anticipate their needs.
Empathy is important, being attentive to customers and their demands, while remaining vigilant to what our competitors are offering. As long as we keep the customer's trust, that we remain open to their questions and needs and that we address them, we remain successful.
What are your future challenges in these particularly uncertain times?
The major challenge is the globalization of services: via the Internet and the large economic groups, we are seeing a globalization of the services offered throughout the world. We have the advantage of being part of a large international group which supports us. However, a potential risk for the future would be large tech companies offering assistance services over several markets, and thus eating up the local markets. But they don't have the proximity that we have with our customers. We can also envisage the arrival of a group from another part of the world that would attempt to take over part of the Western market...
You are PR and Market Analyst for a leading travel assistance company. How has the industry evolved in 30 years?
The travel (and insurance) industry has always had to adapt to the evolution of society. It is not by chance that Europ Assistance was created in the 1960s, which coincided with the first boom in tourism. Then came the arrival of affordable mass tourism. At the same time, the technological evolution – i.e. the arrival of the computer – changed the sector completely. We are forerunners in cancellation insurance/assistance which have become our flagship products, with the launch of NoGo, 20 years ago; a purely insurance business. The world has become a village. Another major change I have noticed is the diversification of products, with, in particular, (soft) mobility, the medical sector, IT, ...
“The mission of an assistance company is to be open to all these changes in order to best serve its clients.”
What is the place given to communication in your company? Has it increased or decreased since you started?
Communication has certainly become increasingly important with the emergence of the internet and other communication channels. We observe the importance and the evolution of the budget allocated to it as well as the emergence of content marketing, which allows us to be at the side of our customers and to foster our expert positioning. Our presence in the media in the north and south of the country as well as in social media is of crucial importance.
What place is given to local communication in an international group?
We make a distinction between the corporate communication of the group and of each entity, which has the freedom to express itself independently on its own products. We all have to follow the same procedure and strategy. If the communication involves the group's strategy, it takes the lead, while remaining aware that the two levels must coexist. It is true that it is not always easy to find a place as a small entity within an international group.
How do you see the new generation of public relations professionals?
They are going to do an exciting job, with a lot of challenges, in a constantly changing world. Beyond selling products, you have to keep in mind that you have to be very present alongside your customers, understand their evolution, the evolution of the tech challenges, the public, and the image you want to convey. With the right support, a budget and a vision, we can move in the right direction.
What does it mean to you to celebrate your 30th anniversary at Europ Assistance?
It is something special, it allows me to take the time to look in the rear-view mirror to see how far we have come and how we have evolved. I joined Europ Assistance before the Internet was a thing, so a lot has happened in the meantime! Today's needs are not the same as they were before.
What are your personal goals for the future of your career?
“My objective is to have the chance to continue to live through these changes, to accompany them and to be part of them. To perpetuate Europ Assistance's mission to help customers, to keep spreading the image of an assistance company that is close to its customers, that is an expert in its sector and constantly evolving. I have been working there for 30 years, I love the company and I want to contribute to it and continue to meet the challenges.”