Customer expectations have forever changed, as companies like Amazon and Google set new standards for speedy, efficient and, above all, personalized service. Today, consumers expect communication from brands to be relevant, timely and tailored to their unique needs. In the insurance sector, vendors unable to provide top-notch customer interactions will soon be left in the dust.
The 2014 Capgemini World Insurance Report featuring information obtained from over 15,000 customers worldwide found that only 32 percent of global insurance customers had positive customer experiences with their insurer. While insurance providers are scrambling to improve customer experiences, their ratings have improved at the slow rate of just two percent per year.
The stakes are high in the battle to meet customer expectations in this new, personalized customer service landscape. Accenture estimates that $400 billion in insurance premiums could switch hands over the next 12 months, after identifying that two-thirds of personal and small commercial lines insurance customers would consider purchasing insurance products from organizations other than insurers, including Amazon and Google, which are known for providing a superior customer experience. It can seem like an overwhelming task, but insurers can be just as targeted in their approach. There is still time for insurance providers to turn things around by making a paradigm shift as well as tangible operational changes.
For many insurers, the claims management process is a major hurdle that prevents them from offering the highest levels of customer support. Customers often enter the insurance process at a vulnerable time, when they have just experienced an accident or loss. Resolving the claims cycle as quickly and efficiently as possible is the single most important contributor to customer satisfaction and retention, yet, for most customers, this process is disappointing. One bad claims experience can break a customer’s relationship with his or her insurer.
Few argue that the claims area represents the “face” of an insurance carrier, but claims professionals serve as the important first line of contact with customers. They work directly with the insured to help with a range of services, including the timely and efficient payment of claims, thereby providing the human connection at those times when it is needed most. In this role, insurance providers cannot simply be customer-aware: they need to be customer-focused and customer-knowledgeable, constantly considering how the customer’s needs are being met at every stage of the claims process. In order to service the customer, insurers will first need to equip themselves with the tools to efficiently gather information about their customers to empower them to better respond to each customer’s specific and event-driven needs.
A key first priority to tackle is the core legacy systems that sit at the heart of claims management. These legacy platforms were designed to be product-centric, rather than customer-centric, processing the high volume of transactions that happen during the life cycle of a specific policy transaction. In effect, little information is captured about the individual’s preferences, socio-economic status and behavior. In addition, many document management and customer communication systems were built to work with these core legacy systems and are unable to operate with a myriad of new customer touch points, such as mobile, texting and social media.
Today, many insurers are working hard to develop quick fixes to bring these systems into the digital era, but they seem to be fighting a losing battle. Given the pace of technological change, the stop-gap solutions employed by carriers are not preparing insurers to face the future and keep pace with consumer expectations. There are still far too many instances along the claims process where customer communication is manually-driven when simple automation and digitization could dramatically increase efficiency and improve customer interaction.
Most insurers realize that migrating their legacy information to a modern document management system is a viable solution to their technological woes, but many are putting this transition off because it is seen as a long, expensive, and daunting project. This is a misconception: data management companies are now making it easier than ever for insurers to migrate and integrate their legacy data into modern customer communication systems. In order for carriers to deliver an exceptional claims experience, the data must be accessible throughout all customer interactions, wherever they occur. For instance, data about the precise location of an incident, the amount and type of coverage a customer has and the address details of the insured can all be fed into a the system to support the claims process.
While having the correct, complete and up-to-date data is a crucial first step to engaging with consumers, insurers must also understand how and when to interact in order to meet the unique needs of each individual. Customers do not want to receive marketing messages for products they already have or do not need, nor do they want to be contacted at a time that is inconvenient to them, like when they are relaxing with family or friends on a weekend. Instead, they expect highly targeted and relevant messages delivered in the channel that they prefer. Insurers must adapt to this standard and ensure that each interaction is as swift and efficient as possible. Having a record of previous interactions and data about the customer’s preferences and behavior means that insurers can suggest relevant new products and services, request and obtain customer feedback, or send any other kind of message that can strengthen the relationship with the policyholder. For instance, if during the claims process the insurance agent sees that a customer is moving to a new address in a new state, he or she can proactively provide contact details for a local agent.
Modern data and communication technologies enable all relevant third party data as well as all incoming streams of data about the customer to be integrated to offer a 360-degree view of the customer. This enables insurance agents, call centers and self-service web applications to have a comprehensive view of the customer at every stage of the process. For instance, if Kate, a loyal 66-year-old customer, gets into a minor accident in the grocery store parking lot, all she has to do is call the phone number listed on the back of her insurance card for the system to begin generating details about the potential claim. When the insurance agent receives her call, the agent should be able to automatically identify Kate based on the number she is dialing from. On the agent’s screen, he should immediately see key facts and figures based on Kate’s long-term relationship with the insurance company. This will allow the agent to answer Kate’s specific questions about policy details, endorsements, deductibles and even nearby vehicle repair facilities for her car. This kind of fully informed, agile and speedy customer service will deepen customer relationships.
In this data-driven age, it is vital for insurers to incorporate legacy data into digital customer profiles or an enterprise customer data hub so they can make this information more digestible and actionable for their staff and agency, allowing them to better preempt customer needs. After all, when consumers engage with an insurance provider, they will be judging their experience not according to other insurance experiences they might have had, but according to their everyday experiences with brands like Amazon and Google.
Fortunately, tools exist to make the process of data migration and management easy for insurers, which will allow them to deliver customer communications more quickly and efficiently than ever before. These technologies empower insurance companies to nourish their customer relationships at their most vulnerable point – the claims process. Ultimately, these technologies allow insurers to build stronger, richer relationships with their customers, promoting long-term loyalty in a quickly changing insurance landscape.
Bill Sinn, strategic marketing director, Insurance and Healthcare Practices, Pitney Bowes.
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