Seamless Service: The Value of an Omni-Channel Approach in Insurance

Too often, channel inefficiencies are a very visible source of friction for the customer. Providing holistic, well-integrated service is possible by transitioning from a multi-channel approach to an omni-channel one.

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Customer experience (CX) and customer engagement are phrases commonly used these days in the insurance industry. Yet there are risks with too narrow a focus on channel-centric experiences rather than on a holistic engagement model. Considerations for channel-specific CX  may miss more valuable opportunities for customer engagement at a deeper and broader level.

Engagement happens when a customer is so compelled by the experience (or the value that it provides) that the customer makes the brand part of their daily life. As customers progress along the customer engagement continuum, they turn to a life insurance brand on a regular basis, looking for a partner in overall and financial wellness.

Engagement requires going beyond channel-centric, traditional interactions. Engagement requires managing and coordinating all interactions holistically, from a customer’s point of view for the entire organization, to provide seamless service experience.

Too often, channel inefficiencies are a very visible source of friction for the customer. Providing holistic, well-integrated service is possible by transitioning from a multi-channel approach to an omni-channel one.

Multi-Channel vs Omni-Channel

Your customers—and prospective customers—want to engage with their insurance companies via their preferred channels, just as they do with other companies across industries. Engagement with a brand is greatest when interactions—via agents, websites/portals, mobile sites or apps, call centers, social media, or (more likely) a combination of channels—are all coordinated and linked. Customers need to be able to engage channels at their convenience, in a manner that meets their preferences for education, services, and purchasing insurance products.

With a multi-channel approach, data is often duplicated in each channel, rather than being integrated across channels. All channels are available to the customer, but the channels aren’t coordinated or connected. If the knowledge of your touchpoints isn’t linked, if it isn’t tied to the personas or archetypes of your customers, it is a multi-channel, not omni-channel, approach. This can create disjointed, siloed experiences, resulting in frustrated customers who are less likely to fully engage with the brand.

Omni-channel is about making sure all channels are available, integrated, and coordinated. Customer-centricity is a foundational element of an omni-channel approach. This requires determining (and providing services that meet) the needs of the customers from their view of the entire engagement with your brand. Omni-channel relies on this user-focused viewpoint; on recognition of the various devices the customer is using; and on aggregation of information from several domains, including but not limited to your customer relationship management (CRM) solution, policy and admin records, affiliates and trusted voices, and certain third-party partners. This requires investing in systems and software to bring them in line with omni-channel goals—a prime example of how to focus digital investments to support customer engagement.

The Opportunity of Omni-Channel

Life insurers today have a huge opportunity in front of them. Oliver Wyman estimates that US households are underprotected by $19 trillion. American face shortages in life insurance, disability insurance, and long-term care coverage. Today, most insurers aren’t optimally structured to reach these increasingly digitally savvy new customers. This gap presents an opportunity for the insurers who best identify how to create true engagement with customers.

This underserved cohort may rely on a variety of sources when they want to understand protection products: agents/brokers, financial advisors/personal bankers/investment managers, friends and family, and internet sources. Many are already digitally connected to multiple key channels, providing more than one approach for reaching them.

Though price is the chief consideration in a buying decision, experience and engagement can help mitigate price sensitivity. Insurers, then, must be attuned to the customers’ perspectives about how easily and quickly they can engage with the brand. An omni-channel approach can help extend digital reach of a brand and provide the best-in-class service necessary to reach consumers and demonstrate value.

Principles for Creating Omni-Channel Engagement

Integrating channels can provide the most robust and integrated experience for customers. Consider these four key principles for serving and engaging customers.

  • Consolidate a common service disposition. Key to omni-channel: ensuring that information appears consistently across channels, irrespective of how the process may have started, in order to optimize the service experience for the channel of the customer’s choice. Executing this may require updates to your technology stack, marketing tech stack and CRM system in order to rely on a single data source about the customer and their account. In addition to an integrated tech stack, a united approach to service is crucial. Get to know the customers and what’s important to them in order to personalize and customize services for them. A common service disposition helps ensure that the customer doesn’t have to invest time or energy repeating interactions as they move from one channel to the next (e.g., from web to phone).
  • Acknowledge customer diversity. Invest in and develop the customer personas and archetypes that you will serve. Various factors (including cultural differences, generational preferences for different engagement channels, past experiences with or knowledge of insurance products) will influence each customer’s interactions with your organization. Additionally, different needs may drive each customer’s journey. These may include milestones (such as the birth of new child and the ensuing need to save for college) or may be defined by approaches to engaging with an insurance provider (such as a channel preference) or by an overall need for peace of mind in providing for the insured’s family.
  • Enable self-directed, automated self-service. Where appropriate, make automated functions available to your customers. For life insurers, these may include direct to customer (D2C) sales and/or self-service options for beneficiary and policy changes, coverage and premium reviews, or initiating a withdrawal. Allowing self-service functionality can help lower the friction of interacting with your brand, facilitating more frequent touch points for engagement opportunities. When services do require human interactions (with an agent, with your billing department, etc.), follow omni-channel principles for these interactions as well.
  • Track feedback. A true omni-channel approach requires a business-wide initiative. It isn’t a responsibility of any one team—CX, marketing, or teams managing each of the channels. Erase the internal silos that all too often given customers the (often correct) impression that, behind the scenes, systems aren’t integrated. To bring teams and initiatives together, establish a plan for tracking feedback—from customers and from internal stakeholders—and adjusting your initiatives as needed.

An omni-channel approach can help extend digital reach of a brand and provide the bests-in-class service necessary to reach consumers and demonstrate value.

The Life Insurance Customer Engagement Continuum: 4 Steps to Relevance


Dan McCoach // Dan McCoach is Head of Insurance Markets for Life & Health, at Celent. McCoach focuses on IT and core systems transformation, new business and digital engagement, analytics, and InsurTech. Prior to joining Celent, he was CIO at Nassau Financial Group and a director in Global Insurance Advisory at PricewaterhouseCoopers.

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