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The options for digital communications keep expanding. Insurers’ mobile interactions with prospects, producers, and policyholders have become common, while methods like e-mail, web portals, and even fax are extensively used. Now, there is a whole new world of messaging platforms, chatbots, business texting, voice assistants, and more. All of these methods are in widespread use in the world today, but not necessarily in insurance. It raises the following questions: how do you, as an insurer, determine which methods to employ, for which types of interactions, and for which constituents?
These are important questions since many insurers have implemented various newer communication technologies only to find that the take-up was low. This was a painful discovery after significant effort and dollars were spent to develop and roll out the new digital communication option. There is no magic answer to this dilemma, but the key to success lies in taking an outside-in approach. Traditionally, it has been more common to design system capabilities from an inside-out approach—taking into consideration the organization, products, IT systems, and channels to reach out to external parties. These are critical factors to be sure. But the better approach is to lead with an understanding of customer needs, customer journeys, and the value that customers place on specific capabilities. It is more than just asking the customer what they want. Whether the party receiving the communication is a prospect, producer, policyholder, or even an employee, it is best to gain a more thorough understanding of segments, relationships, and needs.
During our recent Digital Communications Virtual Event Experience, SMA asked insurers about their interest and objectives for digital communications, with nine possible responses to the question. The top two choices were overwhelmingly 1) that it is a vital part of the overall digital transformation strategy (83%) and 2) that digital communications will help to improve the customer experience (75%). Forty percent said reducing internal operational expenses was a key goal. Surprisingly, expanding capabilities for policyholders was way down the list, and expanding agent capabilities was even lower. Incorporating new communications into the overall digital transformation and improving the customer experience are admirable goals. But it seems to me that to achieve those goals, it is critical to provide agents and policyholders with new capabilities.
This doesn’t mean just throwing out a new option like a chatbot because others are doing it, and it seems like a good idea. Decisions should be made in the context of an overall assessment of agent and customer needs. Insights from three lenses should be used to inform the decisions on specific technologies and use cases:
- First, look at what interaction methods they are actually using today and throughout the lifecycle. This needs to be done in the context of each segment.
- Second, do extensive research to determine what new modes they would value for various types of transactions and interactions.
- Third, evaluate what others in the industry are doing – not just what capabilities they have released but what kind of success they have had (to the extent possible).
Finally, be sure to build in flexible configuration capabilities to enable individual users to customize their communication preferences. In the increasingly digital world, placing an emphasis on providing a rich set of communications options is an important ingredient in improving experiences, which leads to both top line growth and profitability.