First impressions count a lot – and so do second, third, and fourth ones. Carriers create a set of expectations with every customer interaction. Nowadays, we call it the customer experience, and it’s perhaps the most important differentiator any insurer can offer: the sense that you know and value each customer, and that you’re looking out for the well-being of their families, businesses, property, and vehicles.
In the early days of insurance modernization efforts, P&C insurers were told to think from the outside in – first for portals, then for multi-channel and omni-channel communication efforts, and then for apps. While focusing on interactions from the customer’s perspective was (and is) a critical exercise, it was not a complete worldview. In many cases, internal processes were not considered part of the challenge – or the opportunity. As a result, insurers created the outward appearance of digitally transformed sales and service organizations, but were unable to realize the full number of benefits for customers – or themselves.
In fairness, some of this was due to limitations imposed by legacy systems. Some insurers simply couldn’t apply the same creative problem-solving (and contemporary technologies) to the internal processes that support those sales and service efforts. Ironically, introducing new digital front–end technology into a dated ecosystem often made matters worse by raising customers’ expectations and then not delivering.
Legacy systems and the customer experience disconnect
The disconnect between the digital front end and internal processes was often literal, due to siloed departmental solutions. Agents, CSRs, and customer-facing technology often didn’t have access to complete and unified customer records, for example, which could lead to frustrating delays, multiple transfers, and customers sensing that they were not valued or understood. Carriers’ inability to respond to customer demand with sufficient speed held them back from winning and retaining business, as well as earning referrals.
As consumer expectations become more sophisticated and demanding, we have to meet them more than halfway. Insurers must create faster, simpler, and better-informed customer experiences for all of their partners – consumers, policyholders, CSRs, agents, and other intermediaries – at every stage of the policy lifecycle. That means equipping them with the tools, access, and information to answer questions, resolve claims, and close sales better and faster.
Even as opportunities to offer self-service options increase, the desire for friendly, knowledgeable guidance during those sales and service processes continues to be an important part of a positive customer experience. According to JD Power, 80 percent of customers who bought policies through an agent said they would want to call that agent to report a claim or seek advice. And only 10 percent of Generation Y – among the most tech-savvy consumers – said they preferred to report their auto claims via digital methods.
Insurance is still a people business, and customer experience impacts satisfaction, loyalty, retention, and referrals. For insurers that offer more and better digital communications options, customer claims satisfaction is increasing, so it’s important for insurers to be there, wherever and however customers choose to engage. But for insurers’ next trick, they have to bring it all together – customer info, internal and external data, and analytics – and do it quickly, before their competitors beat them to it.