How can the insurance industry take the steps it needs to meet modern consumer expectations and to maintain loyalty?

The insurance industry is one that operates under increasing, constantly changing regulation, and with the threat of any number of potential natural disasters on the horizon, while always mitigating risk at all costs.

It has to take an evolutionary rather than revolutionary approach to business and, as a result, has been slower than any other consumer-facing industry in adopting new practices, aligning with trends or transforming its products, services or offerings to mirror the changing needs and expectations of modern customers.

Meeting new customer expectations to increase loyalty

However, it can’t hold off on this transformation for much longer. Thanks to their experiences with other industries, from retail to banking, consumers have come to expect new levels of customer experience and personalization – even from their insurance provider.

Raising the stakes is the fact that for the majority of customers, the only time they engage with an insurer is when things go wrong – and it’s this experience most customers draw on when deciding to remain loyal.

“Historically, insurance is the industry with the fewest consumer touch points, and this means they have to be very innovative in order to learn more about customers in order to increase personalization and raise customer experience levels,” says John Thompson, Vice President Banking, Financial Services and Insurance at Sitel Group. “But the first step is going to be making sure you’re where your customers are and listening to what they say.”

The figures in the insurance industry speak for themselves

And increasingly, consumers are on digital channels – whether it’s email, live chat, Twitter or social messaging. Over three-in-four U.S. consumers want to use a digital channel for insurance interactions according to Bain and Co. Yet while insurers have expanded their presence beyond call centers, in many cases, they’re struggling to be sufficiently agile in responding to other forms of communication.

When Eptica randomly tested 100 U.S. insurers’ digital channels, 14 percent failed to respond to a query sent via email, its company website, Twitter or Facebook. What’s more, just 10 percent managed to respond to an email request within an hour. This is a crucial metric as 57 percent of consumers expect a response to an email in 60 minutes or less.

Engaging with a partner for enhanced customer engagement

“It’s not enough to simply be present where your consumers are, you have to be active and ready to respond, to maintain a positive customer experience,” Thompson elaborates. “A lack of agility can turn a touch point into a pain point. Moreover, a well-managed customer channel is a hugely valuable source of customer support and customer experience data.”

However, there are very few (if any) organizations operating in any vertical with the in-house capabilities and core competences needed to effectively map customer journeys, gather, analyze and act upon data based on customer type, demographic and channel preference to continually refine and improve the customer experience.

“This is why it is crucial that insurers look to working in partnership with an organization that can deliver these skills and can bring insights gathered from the wider industry,” says Thompson.

Focus on digital channels to add value

Being active across other channels delivers a further benefit for insurers looking to build a stronger relationship with their customers. If those channels are both active and aligned, they can deflect low-value calls away from contact centers, keeping agents free to concentrate on those engagements that represent the moment of truth for insurers – the claims process.

More importantly, an active presence across these channels can deflect low-value calls and push customers on the path to self-service and automation, leaving agents free to concentrate on that make or break customer interaction – the claims process.

How this is handled is the biggest driver of customer loyalty and, crucially, it is the one element where all consumers prefer to talk to a real person rather than use forms of digital self-service.

Improving the claim process by leveraging your digital channels

“Increasingly the insurance industry is seeing calls arriving into the contact center becoming more complex as customers are looking for First Call Resolution and seamless knowledge transfer between channels,” points out Thompson. “If all channels are aligned and an insurer has an omnichannel view of each customer, when that customer speaks directly with an agent, that agent will have a full view of that person’s communication and contact history with the company. This is crucial for delivering the levels of service the average consumer has now come to expect.”

Indeed, McKinsey’s most recent research regarding how U.S. policyholders feel about how repairable auto claims are handled, the value of settlement was only the 12th most important factor for measuring satisfaction.

The top five qualities were: speed of the claim settlement; ease of communicating with the insurer; employee knowledge and professionalism; employee courtesy; and transparency and ease of the process. In other words, qualities that are directly linked to the digital tools agents have available to deal with a customer request and to the levels of training and therefore professionalism the agent projects.

“Whether digital tools and platforms or agent training and development methodologies, insurance companies need access to the processes that will ensure they better serve their customers,” says Thompson. “By partnering with an experienced provider like Sitel Group, companies will not only improve their customers’ path to purchase but also strengthen loyalty even during those make or break moments when it is at its most vulnerable, i.e., times in which your customers are most vulnerable.”.

Learn more about how Sitel Group is helping to transform CX in the insurance industry.

Sitel Group