The Insurance Customer Relationship: Steady Eddie or Mr. Right Now?

Maybe it’s time for more insurers to stop looking at the app-centered way banks communicate with their customers as the gold standard and start delivering in the ‘micro moment.’

(Image credit: Adobe Stock.)

This analogy might seem a bit risqué, but hear me out: A customer’s relationship with a banking app is like a marriage; it’s an important part of her day-to-day life, and she counts on the fact that it is going to be there. Whereas her relationship with an insurance app is more like an affair—she doesn’t think she needs one, until she wants one, then she needs it right away. But once she has had it, everything being said and done, she wishes she never needed it.

It makes sense if you think about it. A banking relationship is an everyday thing—we interact with the app weekly if not daily and we depend on it. On the other hand, we turn to our insurers most often in a time of personal crisis—an eventuality of at type, we hope, is few and far between. However, when we need that coverage, we really need it! It’s not something you wish for, or want, but it quickly becomes all you can think about. So maybe it’s time for more insurers to stop looking at the app-centered way banks communicate with their customers as the gold standard. Banks are Steady Eddie; insurers are Mr. (or Ms.) Right Now.

How Consumers Think About Their Insurance Coverage

The Mr. Right Now analogy extends beyond apps—it’s also a fair description of how people think of their insurance coverage as opposed to how they feel about their banking relationships. Customers buy insurance for specific needs, covering a home, a boat or a car, for example. And unfortunately for insurers, who are hoping to build lifelong relationships, policyholders often view the relationship as temporary, spurning their present insurer for a relationship with a new one without a second thought.

So how can insurers overturn the perception of their role as a temporary presence in their customers’ lives? Ironically, the best approach may be to embrace their role as Mr. Right Now and build a communication strategy that makes sense in that context. What would that look like? Well, for one thing, it would include outreach across multiple channels in response to specific customer needs, and less focus on an app.

Personal lines insurers whose customers come and go as if through a revolving door are in desperate need of a relationship makeover, and technology can help. Being there in the “micro moments” of customers’ lives is the key. Google defines micro-moments as the fleeting, mobile-fueled instance in which customers make decisions, acquire knowledge and take action. Insurers who want to win the micro moment should be prepared to respond to customer needs with relevant content in real time, i.e., right now.

While smartphones drive micro moment decisions, insurance companies should consider all the platforms they can use to connect with customers rather than focusing exclusively on apps. They should find out what channels customers prefer for communication on, and reach out to customers on their own terms at critical junctures throughout the customer journey. Voice messages and SMS text messages can be highly effective tools to connect with policy holders in the right time and place.

The first step is to ensure that customer data is up-to-date and to collect customer permission to make contact, including their preferences for communication channels. That can be a challenge for insurance companies, which often don’t have contact with customers between claim transactions. But with a concerted in-house effort or with outside assistance, insurers can clean up existing data and start collecting detailed contact information (e.g., mobile numbers, etc.) and preferences for new customers.

Seizing the ‘Micro Moment’

With clean data in hand, insurance companies can start seizing the micro moment and building the kind of long-term relationships they want. Examples of proactive, omnichannel communications might include a voice or SMS message to deliver a quote or policy application acceptance message to a customer. It could include texted claim prevention tips, appointment or payment reminders, and impending disaster alerts when severe weather threatens—letting customers know the company is there for them after the storm.

Omnichannel outreach can also include text or voice messages notifying customers when a claim is closed, a proactive way to reach out and finalize a transaction on a positive note. Short voice surveys are also a great way for insurance companies to get feedback and continuously improve. These personalized messages, sent over the course of the policyholder journey, can help companies connect with customers as they experience life changes that affect their insurance status.

The technology to automate outreach to customers throughout their journey exists today, and it’s an investment that is likely to return more dividends than an app that is only downloaded in a time of crisis. By embracing the role of Mr. (or Ms.) Right Now, insurers can deliver what customers need when they need it—and on the communication platforms they prefer. That’s what winning the micro moment and improving the customer experience looks like, and there’s no time like right now.

Tara Kelly // Founder, President & CEO of SPLICE Software, Tara Kelly, has a passion for enabling clients to engage in a meaningful, Data Driven Dialog with their customers. As a serial entrepreneur who has developed three companies including one outside the technology field, Tara's expertise is multidimensional but focused on creating businesses that use technology to enhance operations, service and the customer experience. As an open source activist and recognized user experience designer, Tara Kelly served as a board member for the International Board for Voice User Interface Design and the Canadian Cloud Council. In addition to running SPLICE Software, Tara is an advisor for the Special Olympics Toronto, serves on the board of directors for Technology Alberta and is a member of the Entrepreneurs Organization.

Comments (2)

    • Thanks, Barry! I think Tara makes a great case here. At first I thought this might be at odds with the kinds of IoT-related services we commentators have been talking about, but I don’t think that’s the case. At any given moment, “Mr. Right Now” can be there to help policyholders manage risks in their environment.

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