Customer service interactions are a pain point for customers and employees alike. The systems most insurers and other businesses have in place for customer interaction are fragmented and inefficient, which can turn away customers and wear down service representatives. Sixty percent of customers say that when they contact a company they do business with, “it generally feels like they’re communicating with separate departments, not one company.” At the same time, it’s getting harder to retain contact center employees, with average turnover rising from 35 percent in 2021 to 38 percent in 2022. The result is lost customers, lost revenue, and missed opportunities for growth.
Why are contact center experiences so challenging? Data flow is a major problem.
Most of us have called into a service hotline, entered a claim number or customer number into the interactive voice recognition (IVR) menu, and then had to share that information again as soon as we reached a person. That’s a common example of how data fails to flow through most contact center processes and systems. The result is the customer is already frustrated by the time they speak to an agent, and the agent is already at a disadvantage when it comes to pleasing the customer because they lacked the right data at first contact.
Silos are one reason for that fragmentation. Different functions in an insurance company, like claims, billing, and sales, may all have their own contact center organizations, processes, and in many cases their own technology platforms. As a result, the customer experience isn’t consistent across the enterprise.
Technology fragmentation is also common. The pandemic pushed insurers, like many businesses, to adopt self-service apps to avoid the need to interact with a human representative. That was critical, but many of these new channels merely mimic the phone channel, so they are not servicing the customer well. A recent survey that found that 70 percent of all people that start their interaction with an insurer on a self-service channel still ended up calling in to get the solution they were seeking. That’s costly for the insurer and inconvenient for the customer.
Data flow improvements for better CX, EX, and cost savings
Timely flow of relevant data can improve the experience for customers and employees by reducing the number of times customers reshare their data during each new interaction. However, many contact centers have legacy technology stack that were bolted together over time, so they’re not fully integrated and are typically not the most efficient solutions. Rethinking how data flows through the contact center also requires rethinking contact center processes and IVR flows with CX in mind, and how to best use automation and AI to leverage the customer data insights that you have.
Contact centers have some of the highest employee attrition rates because the customer-facing work customer service reps (CSRs) do is frequently challenging, stressful and full of ambiguity, especially when employees have to work with processes and technology that don’t support them effectively. When contact center workers have the data they need to fulfill their goal of first-call problem resolution, they’re happier and less stressed. That can reduce attrition while improving the customer experience. When employees have these kinds of positive experiences, they’re more likely to stay and grow with the organization.
Rethinking the contact center experience
Rethinking the contact center and the role it plays in the overall experience can turn it into a place where insurers manage the entire customer experience and significantly improve the employee experience. That requires better processes and technology, unified data, and bringing together all the service channels in one place, so that the necessary data flow happens, and the experience is harmonized across channels.
We cab call this the “experience hub” concept. Creating, enabling, and transforming a contact center into the main hub for all customer interaction and experience with journeys and technology that not only delight customers but also relieving CSRs from monotone tasks and better support them. The challenge is making this transformation in a way that’s invisible to customers and minimizing disruption for already stressed employees.
The benefits of the transformation include cost reduction through less time spent serving customers in the phone channel. This is because in an experience hub, customers can be better and more efficiently directed to the most appropriate employee or self-service channel possible, and these employees or self-service channels are equipped to resolve customers’ issues faster.
Creating an experience hub can also allow companies to harvest synergies across technology, processes, and maybe even people, depending on how big their operations are and how specialized people need to be. It can better align customer contact data across the enterprise and align them with quality and workforce management data to optimize workforce performance. Those improvements will serve to create a continuous feedback loop that both improve overall service levels and reduce cost.
On the technology side, having one consistent and well-designed platform is less costly than maintaining multiple platforms and paying license and service fees on all of them. A single platform also allows for end-to-end experience design that elevates CX. With all the data in one place, insurers can use customer insights more easily for service, cross- and up-sell as well as marketing. For example, a positive contact center experience can also become an opportunity for highly personalized offers that are relevant to the single customer and their unique situation at the time of interaction.
One more important benefit of unifying processes, technology, and data is better compliance practices. When operations are consolidated into fewer centers, processes are streamlined and talent is brought together, it’s easier to standardize ways of work to follow best practices, internal compliance requirements, and regulatory requirements.
Futureproofing through experience hub development
Developing an experience hub makes it easier to train employees to evolve from basic service tasks to brand ambassadors who add more value to the customer experience. In addition, consolidation helps to expedite the identification and implementation of Generative AI use cases helping employees serve customers more efficiently. Lastly, it enable insurers to adapt to hybrid work environments and support employee development across those environments, even as those environments and ways of working continue to evolve.
For example, one midsize insurer adopted the experience hub approach to differentiate through excellent claimant service. Unifying their processes, revealing cost synergies, standardizing processes, and consolidating data allowed them to bring their customers and contact center staff close to their claims adjusters for speedier and more transparent claims processing. It also gave the insurer the ability to merge their claims and policy contact centers to deliver a more unified customer experience that stood out compared to their competitors.
Planning a contact center to experience hub transformation
Bringing together fragmented contact teams, technologies, and processes is a complex undertaking that can be a multiyear journey, so it’s important to start with a clear vision of the end result in mind. With that vision, you can create a plan that includes process and data flow understanding, and then determining your order of changes.
For example, you might decide to concentrate on unifying the customer experience first, or the employee experience, but either way, you’ll need to develop a roadmap and find the resources you need to execute it. That includes oversight and program management, regular progress reviews, and an agile mindset that allows you to augment your goals and pivot if new requirements arise during the process. This is especially important in light of how fast generative AI capabilities are evolving, so you can ensure that your experience hub gets the most value from this technology.
Making the shift from a set of disparate contact centers to an experience hub is a lot of work, but the payoff include competitive differentiation through better CX and through employee engagement and retention, as well as cost savings, better compliance, and revenue growth through better customer understanding and personalized contact center engagements.