Going Digital? Customer Expectations have Big Implications

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As insurers drive to expand and grow in an increasingly digital marketplace, it is understood that excellent customer service is no longer a standout, but a standard. In the last two years, the number one strategic investment across the insurance industry has been in improving customer engagement. Why so much emphasis?

Consider that on any given day we might window-shop on Amazon while chatting on Facebook, stopping to check Yelp for the best burger place nearby, and then use Uber to get there. That digitalization of the everyday is something customers are acutely aware of. Where once it was impressive and almost alien it’s become commonplace and banal. It isn’t a bonus feature; it’s an expectation. This has specific implications for insurers that aim to advance their customer experience. While most customers don’t expect the exact same service across every industry, the basic expectations have become universal. Customers want easy, fast, and on-demand.

 On a personal note

What then are the implications of customer expectations to insurers’ digital strategy and technology choices?  Firstly, customers want to be more than an account or policy number. Having the content they access—and the where, when and how they access it—customized to them is a key part of maximizing their experience.  

Establishing a true omnichannel environment is a must. Only this way will customers gain the real-time, on-demand servicing they crave. So too is leveraging customer insights to offer products and services aligned specifically to their lifecycle changes. Personalized content creates a personal connection between the customer and the company that builds the brand to loyalty bridge.

Go company-wide or bust

Going digital is a focus that involves everyone in the organization from the front-end, customer-facing roles to the back-end of "paperwork" processing, across marketing, sales, and service.  And yet, insurers are often faced with a spaghetti of separate interconnected systems managed by business leaders with different or even competing priorities. For digital to succeed, it has to be a silo-free operation. The walls must come down. This has implications for leadership. A company in this situation in our fast-moving environment should quickly address the problem before the industry, or worse, customers, ordain it a digital laggard rather than a leader. Those insurers we can identify as digital leaders have a common trait: solid mid/back office alignment to customer needs.

Change starts at the core

Thirdly, because customer expectations are rising and continue to shift, the underlying core systems—for rating, policy admin, billing, claims—must also be able to flex. The readiness and ability to respond is something that can help set companies apart, or not. A request for a single bill for a multi-policy household, or telematics-based coverage for a new driver, or starting a claim by talking into a mobile phone (listen up Alexa and Siri), are all things insureds may want now, but that legacy systems may not support. Keep in mind, a leading cause of attrition is customers who just drift away claiming their insurer “cannot meet my new needs.”

The failing thus far has been in trying to leverage existing core systems that are not built for modern insurance interactions and attempting to layer technology on top of technology to make it appear digital. All this does is add complexity. Don’t do this.

Tomorrow’s expectations, today’s concerns

Finally, and most critical, insurers must establish digital experience platforms that not only support the demands of today’s digital world but also provide the flexibility to support increased levels and varieties of engagements as emerging technologies and the connected world continues to advance. Those varieties will appear as a prodigious bloom of short-term coverages, risk prevention, and concierge services. They will leverage AI for zero-data-entry interactions and machine learning for pitch-perfect, personalized underwriting and value-add offers. Significantly, they will necessitate the entry of new providers, such as weather and connected home data, and partners, such as auto manufacturers, into insurer ecosystems.

And to keep up with the demand for new services and engagement, the digital experience platform must be able to integrate emerging technologies—tapping new insurtechs for them where appropriate—in innovative ways to change the insurance value chain.

Taking on the digital challenge

Let’s not forget a few facts: Amazon was a bookstore, Apple sold desktop computers, and, believe it or not, commercial internet itself isn’t even thirty years old. But Amazon, Apple, and the Web didn’t grow by throwing gadgets at their ideas and waiting—they planned and charted their course.

It is a real challenge for insurers to develop comprehensive strategies and deploy digital experience platforms that handle the digital implications just described. But it can be done and is being done by insurers of all sizes.

Insurers can take advantage of a maturing technology landscape. Rather than cobbling disparate tech solutions together to support digital experiences, an integrated platform approach to creating responsive digital experiences that support interactions across the enterprise to all types of users is possible.

A digital experience platform should empower insurers to deliver high-quality omnichannel experiences across all devices and all modes—native mobile apps, responsive web apps and IoT solutions—enabled by digital persona applications. It should also support the ability to package new digital products and services—by leveraging more internal and external data and services sources—within new ecosystems. 

Technology changes at a pace hard enough to track, let alone adapt to. Ultimately this means that insurers must have a digital experience platform that is able to rapidly adapt, modify, and upgrade, while not losing touch with its core systems, information, and users.

At the end of the day, the customer wants things their way. The opportunity is in your hands; don’t let it melt away.

To read more about the strategies and technologies required to respond to customer expectations, download a copy of the SMA Perspective Building Loyalty and Engagement through Digital Experience in Insurance.

Questions or comments? Contact Kevin Haydon, marketing and communications director at EIS Group, at khaydon@eisgroup.com