Multichannel? Shopping and buying preferences have matured and moved beyond multichannel to an approach called omni-channel. Omni-channel is the juxtaposition of opposing market forces that when properly aligned provide consumers with the choice to buy how, when and where they want to buy; providing an insurer with the best opportunity to sell.
Given that all the rage in the insurance industry is customer-centricity and the ideal customer experience, multichannel just won’t cut it anymore. In fact insurance customers do not think of “channels.” We do in the insurance industry, at least most of the time, and therein lies a fundamental problem. If the objective is to give customers what they want in product, process, and service, an insurer needs to offer more than anytime, anywhere sales and service. Insurance sales and service also now need to be delivered any way the customer wants and for any product the customer wants.
The insurer needs to provide an experience that enables customers to buy through a seamless route – of their choosing – between any and all channels to complete the process, regardless of the product (or products) that are part of the transaction. In other words, insurers need to be prepared to provide an omni-channel experience – much like the highly flexible, yet simple buying experience consumers have come to expect from retailers like Amazon, Expedia, and Zappos.
Multiple Quotes for Any and All Products
Omni-channel has quickly become a trend in the retail industry, but why should a consumer expect anything less from the buying or servicing process when it comes to personal and commercial lines insurance? Insurers need to think more like the insurance buyer who wants a process that allows them to obtain multiple quotes for any and all products they are looking to buy – even if those products come from different insurers. For example, we have seen a tremendous uptick in “transparency,” especially pricing transparency and insurers better be prepared for more. It’s coming fast.
Seamless Application Process
Buyers also expect a seamless application process regardless of the channels. A consumer may start the application process in one channel, maybe online via their smartphone, and then choose mid-stream to switch to their laptop, and then decide they need the help of a live agent on the phone or in a storefront. The process needs to be flexible enough to pick up the application wherever the buyer left off and reentered the process, without requiring the buyer to re-enter any data.
Once the consumer has made their buying decision, the insurer needs to be able to immediately bind the simpler products and streamline the underwriting/binding process of the more complex — and, do it all at 3 AM if the buyer wants.
Insurers need to come to the realization that they can no longer force buyer behavior. Buyers are now demanding to get things done when they want them done, and how they want them done. Sure technology is an important part of the answer, but the greater hurdle is cultural: insurers need to start rethinking people and processes and being willing to sell differently. Nothing less will constitute a real commitment to doing what it takes to give customers what they want.
Do it now or do it later, but to remain competitive insurers are going to have to adapt to the new way – one that offers an omni-channel experience.