(Image credit: Adobe Stock.)
The customer relationship is central to any organization, and the most adept companies understand that the well-being of the employees who manage these customer relationships is a mission-critical ingredient for success. Indeed, the relationship between employee engagement and customer satisfaction is well established, and that link is twice as strong when employee satisfaction is particularly high.
Nowhere is this connection more crucial than in the insurance industry, where the employee/customer relationship is often especially close. From the elevated emotion of experiencing a claim after a car accident, theft or other incident; to the patience required to get through the quote process and paperwork to set up policies—customers rely heavily on an insurer’s employees to support them across a range of emotionally charged experiences.
Against this backdrop, making sure that employees stay engaged on the job is a critical ingredient for building and maintaining successful customer relationships in a competitive industry with low switching costs.
To Understand Customers, Listen to Your Employees
The most successful customer experience (CX) programs look beyond customer feedback and draw on the incredible insights held by their collective employee base. Customers are good at telling insurance companies about what went wrong, but they have a harder time identifying the underlying root cause or management processes that led to that breakdown in the experience. That’s where an employee’s perspective, along with all their knowledge of internal workflows and policies, becomes invaluable.
Take, for instance, a customer who provides feedback about how long it took to receive a final settlement payment once the claim was resolved. On the surface, this might indicate that the insurance company should review their payment processing guidelines. However, an additional layer of feedback from the adjuster handling the claim highlighted that this customer requested the funds be deposited in a foreign bank account—which triggered additional regulatory and compliance procedures. With this new insight, the insurer can now focus on addressing the right problem, say, by setting clear expectations upfront with customers who hold foreign accounts, instead of reworking their entire settlement process.
There is another major benefit to getting regular feedback from employees about the customer experience—it makes for a more committed and engaged workforce. When employees are given a voice and consulted for ideas, they are more likely to buy into operational decisions and ensure that plans are executed successfully, regardless of whether or not their suggestions were ultimately chosen.
What’s It All Worth?
There is tremendous value to be unlocked by insurance companies who can scalably activate the power of customer and employee insights and make it part of their operating model. Collecting better insights not only reduces decision-making risk, it also leads to more accurate, informed innovations that can be quantitatively linked to the impact they’re having on business outcomes. More engaged employees are have higher productivity and turnover less, which means they can deliver better experiences for customers. In turn, more satisfied customers typically stay with their insurer longer, are more likely to buy multiple policies, refer more business, and cost less to serve than their less satisfied counterparts.
The impact doesn’t just stop there. Many of the challenges facing the insurance industry today, from digital transformation to an evolution in risk modeling, require a fresh set of skills that are in high demand. Attracting talent has always been a challenge for the industry. Some insurers are spinning up innovation labs and digital business units to attract talent, but that’s only part of the solution. Building better workplaces and having a strong customer reputation that employees are proud of is the only sustainable solution to the talent gap in the long run.
From Theory to Practice
While the approach will vary from company to company, the best operating models for engaging customers and employees share a number of commonalities. First, they solicit feedback from a broad set of customers and employees on a regular basis—those annual employee surveys or innovation contests aren’t going to cut it. Next, they take advantage of powerful technologies that can analyze massive amounts of data and serve up tailored business insights to thousands of employees, from the frontline to the executive team. When all of this is happening in real-time, it’s embedded into the operating rhythm of the company instead of a periodic science project and powerpoint exercise.
If you’re struggling to see how this could work in your organization, look beyond for inspiration. There is a lot insurers can learn from industries such as hospitality and retail, where firms live and die based on their ability to deliver great experiences. There is no need to reinvent the wheel—technology firms are releasing insurance industry-specific template configurations to deliver tailored expertise.
In the face of a quickly changing landscape, engaging every customer and activating every employee is a surefire way to optimizing every experience and winning in the market.