(Image credit: Shutterstock.)
Companies like Netflix and Amazon have completely changed how customers buy and access services. They brought the practice of self-serve to life, and now consumers happily go online to find whatever they want or need on their time, on their terms, without going through sales people, account representatives, or agents.
The self-serve movement currently extends well beyond consumer-focused industries to encompass places like IT help desks, where 67 percent of people recently surveyed claim to prefer self-service over talking with company representatives. As people increasingly want to help themselves, organizations, in return, are able to save on resources while increasing efficiency. It’s a pretty good value proposition from a business perspective.
The self-service model has been a boon for many industries—those in which customers proactively come to a website or work through an app. Insurance, however, is not one of those industries. The digital journey in insurance is unlike any other, presenting unique challenges and opportunities, particularly for agents and brokers.
Many of the most vital moments in the customer journey are initiated by the insurer, not the customer. The most effective agents and brokers proactively connect with clients at critical junctures: suggesting annual reviews, explaining rate changes at renewal, recovering late payments and more. What makes these moments vital? These are scenarios where you could win or lose a customer. And for claims—for both the agent and the claims adjuster—there are numerous moments throughout where proactive engagement can drive faster resolution and a better experience.
Forward-thinking insurance organizations are taking a broader view of digital transformation. Self-service portals (for simple quotes, policy changes, proof of insurance requests, etc.) are being augmented with proactive omni-channel engagement. This hybrid approach helps the insurer create meaningful, personal connections while still providing the client autonomy where expected. Imagine: a digital transformation program that focuses on empowering agents, adjusters, and underwriters to connect better with customers!
Focus Less on Documents, More on Customers and Journeys
Historically, inbound and outbound communications in insurance revolve around document and information exchanges. Potential customers want to know more about policy offerings or they need to sign forms. Paper documents once sent via snail mail are now attached as electronic documents. This offers no meaningful interaction, which is a problem because client and agent expectations have changed.
Two-way conversations that once happened over a dinner table or in an agent’s office now happen over social media, text, or email. The paper documents were never meant to be the key focus. The most important part of the client journey has always been authentic engagement between agent and customer.
Insurance is intangible and complex. Timely advice and comfort provided by an experienced agent or an empathetic adjuster can still create a customer for life. Digital technologies can provide agents and brokers with the means to reach customers and prospects in a more effective and scalable way, extending conversations and helping clients achieve their goals in a highly personalized way.
To implement a comprehensive and effective digital engagement strategy, start with two questions:
- Who in my organization interacts with customers (e.g., agents, adjusters, underwriters, etc.)?
- How do those customers want to engage with us (may include: self-service portal, in person, phone, email, text, social media)?
The best digital engagement strategies, which provide customers the most consistent experience across the board, blend both proactive and self-service models. This hybrid yields more frequent interactions and creates important touchpoints. Doing so requires an omni-channel approach that enables agents, adjusters, and others to provide a seamless experience for customers across all communication channels from text, emails, and phone calls coming from any member of the agency staff, corporate contact, or claims center.
The Power of Experience
The people who interact with customers—the agents, brokers, adjusters, underwriters, call center reps—are the epicenter of Customer Experience. In today’s highly competitive atmosphere, experience reigns supreme; their experience reigns supreme. One study conducted by Walker found that customer experience will become a brand’s biggest differentiator, trumping price and product, with an overwhelming number of customers (86%) willing to pay more for a quality experience. Empowering insurance teams with better digital engagement tools is paramount to getting customer experience right, which will contribute directly to improved retention, operational efficiency, as well as lower costs.
This may sound like a tall order—nailing the customer experience through a hybrid approach of people + self-service. Fortunately, new technology platforms can help facilitate and navigate this new digital frontier. Such tools can serve as a type of a type of air traffic control to ensure that every component of the customer experience is in place, and every member of the team knows when and how to proactively engage with customers in a compliant manner, making the process both simple and meaningful for the client. Such tools can be incredibly useful when broadening a digital transformation strategy to accommodate for insurance needs in the modern world.
Digital engagement in insurance today is about far more than self-service—the Netflix and Amazon model will never work. Insurance will always be about trust and relationships; there needs to be more than a portal and a chatbot to achieve that. A better approach is to balance digital investments in order to focus on ways to deepen human relationships, not replace them.