One of the most fundamental milestones on the road to insurance customer centricity is providing an effective user experience. To get some insight into the fundamentals of “UX,” Insurance Innovation Reporter (IIR) recently caught up with Wendy Aarons-Corman, president of UX Game Changers, a services firm focused on helping insurers deliver state-of-the-art user experiences for the web and mobile devices.
Insurance Innovation Reporter: What is the role of user experience (UX) within the broader picture of customer service?
Wendy Aarons-Corman: A great UX is an offering that provides capabilities and flow that “work for the user.” Users desire the ability to get through a task or find information that does not require time and help. In addition, users require an experience that feels good to them. This would include what we know of as the “look and feel.” Are the colors compelling? Is the information accessible? Is the site map clear? While providers can strive to make a website optimal for the user, meeting all needs of all users requires mastering the call center and other surrounding capabilities.
IIR: What technical limitations have typically challenged insurers to deliver an excellent UX, and by extension to deliver quality customer service in general?
WA-C: There are all types of devices and operating systems in the hands of end users. With that comes the challenge to providing an optimal user experience on these devices that have different requirements for appearance of information and workflow. Providers need to decide what devices and operating system versions they will support and then develop solutions. A solution that runs on an Apple device is not going to be the same for a Windows device. A solution that runs on a small device is not going to be the same for a larger device. A solution that runs on a handheld device will have different requirements than a website solution. Keeping up with all of these needs verges on impossible. The introduction of HTML5, a delivery mechanism that can support all of these device types, will help in eliminating this issue. The question will be how long it takes for the industry to adopt HTML5 and for the industry to learn about its limitations. And, of course, when that happens, there will be a new technology to contend with.
IIR: What is the cost of poor UX and what are the metrics of failure?
WA-C: Providers can lose thousands of dollars when delivering a poor UX. Lost dollars come from the lack of use in using the offering and the continual efforts to redevelop the offering to satisfy the end user. The loss can be measured in the resources used in the development phase. That includes resources (both business and IT) involved in the requirements, coding and testing of the offering any software and hardware expenses and any lost business due to delays or frustrations. Providers must listen to their customers and find out what they desire from the UX. Making assumptions about user preferences results in the loss of interest and frustration. If you build it without them, they will not come.
IIR: What gains, then, are to be made through better UX, and what metrics can demonstrate that?
WA-C: It’s critical to undertake the up-front work necessary to ensure a delivery that will be embraced by users. Part of that is getting users to participate in the testing and delivery of solutions. Metrics are the success are the mirror image of the metrics of failure that we discussed a moment ago. Money spent properly up front will result in business being processed and serviced the way the customer desires it to be.
IIR: What are technical best practices for delivering quality UX?
WA-C: I’ll call these soft technical requirements. It is important to include user experience experts in the requirements cycle to help evaluate usability and overall quality of experience. UX Experts also know how to insert the end user into the delivery cycle. Best practices include: (1) Evaluation of the Existing Site (2) Requirements (3) Feedback (4) Development (5) UAT (6) Delivery – again with the UX Experts and the end users included in the cycle.
IIR: What are some metrics that demonstrate the quality of UX at insurance carriers? How should carriers evaluate their UX?
WA-C: Providers should measure quality of UX by talking to their users and getting feedback. Surveys (with incentives), live one-on-one discussions and focus groups are the best way to evaluate the site. In addition, analytics that provide feedback as to who is visiting the site, what pages they are viewing and how long they remain on site are useful. In addition to that activity, the insurer must ask: If they leave, where do they go? Otherwise, the basic fundamental of revenue gain is a great way to measure quality.
IIR: What ought to be table stakes of UX? What are examples from other industries that insurers should use as models?
WA-C: I don’t think there is a choice of table stakes. In time it will be about the distribution channel and where they want to go to do business. No distribution channel, no revenue. The best industries to follow are those that provide consumer products, such as retail sites. Ease of doing business for these sites include remembering the user’s shopping experience, making recommendations, ease of finding information or help, and eliminating the number of clicks required to process business.
IIR: What is a good example of a carrier delivering a quality UX?
WA-C: The team at Esurance put together an offering that was only done via the web. Because of the heavy focus being on the web at a time when insurance providers were lagging, Esurance was able to “get it right” in time. Allstate was smart to acquire Esurance, as the insurer not only got the book of business but also ended up with a team of portal and UX specialists with years of experience.