As the COVID-19 pandemic continues to wax and wane across the globe, now is the time for insurers to use the digital acceleration triggered by the crisis to reinvent themselves as digital-first businesses fit for the 21st century.
In the U.S., the unemployment rate reached 14.7% in April, a level not seen since the Great Depression in the 1930s. The U.K. saw its highest rate of welfare support claims in six years; and a 3% rise in unemployment is forecast for Asia Pacific. Many insurance regulators have implemented guidance for payment grace periods or temporary protections to prevent policy cancellations. But as mandated forms of help expire, a significant number of consumers will reach out with questions and concerns about their insurance portfolios.
Tackle customer service volumes with digital channels
Industry leaders are asking, “How do we weather immediate customer service challenges and prepare for the new normal?” Requests related to premium holidays, policy options, hardship withdrawals, and rebates are increasing, yet closed offices and distributed workforces slow the ability to respond. As the volumes of inquiries increase, the ability to scale capabilities to distributed workforces, capture a policyholder’s questions or concerns, connect the data from all of these channels and mobile apps, and provide an accurate response is exposing major operational gaps.
The insurance business over the last few decades was built around an inbound model where you wait for something to happen and then react. By contrast, a digital-first experience creates opportunities for customers to engage how they want, and when they want. Increasingly, this means self-service through digital interfaces. This frees time and capacity to deliver more personal and empathetic service to customers who have more complex queries. It’s not just taking some volume off the plate; it’s a fundamentally different thought process.
Digital servicing options help address these pressures now and prepare for the increasingly digital-first preferences of future consumers. In many cases, you can stand up a digital service capability that connects with your systems of record and other apps within days. Examples of the most cost-efficient ways to do this are:
- Reduce manual work by automating email – Email bots can process thousands of incoming emails and email attachments fast. Natural language processing capabilities can read, triage, and route incoming mail. You can even automate responses to simple inquiries and personalize the messaging.
- Intake and track requests to provide responsive and accurate customer service – Integrate your current systems and apps to capture, triage, and route customer inquiries to the right person or team. Systems should be designed to adapt to changing business processes and regulatory requirements, to help you streamline operations and provide an auditable trail of actions for all customer inquiries.
- Unify messaging in a single desktop – Seamlessly connect digital channels and enable agents to smoothly navigate among conversations to deliver efficient user experience. Virtual assistants work alongside agents to help contain service volumes and deliver immediate answers to common inquiries.
Examples of success with this digital servicing approach include an insurer with an at-home workforce that used both chat and email bots to help improve customer service response times; and a government agency that was able to design and implement a case management-based economic assistance app in just five days.
Start engaging proactively with your policy holders
Another way to mitigate customer service volumes is to get ahead of them. Don’t wait for that phone call. If your data shows a customer is experiencing a financial hardship or their needs have changed, proactively reach out. Provide something as simple as the initial steps to submit a claim or arrange a payment to mitigate policy cancellation. An empathetic approach goes a long way in letting customers know you understand their situation and value their relationship.
Think big, start small, scale fast
Companies trying to navigate their way through an uncertain world can be forgiven for feeling overwhelmed. So, start with something small and grow. Do not think about the end point in five years’ time, but about what you can achieve in the next two weeks, the next 60 days, or the next 90 days to deliver value that will make a tangible difference to your customers.
It’s important to think pragmatically as you start any project in the digital space; recognize that you are making initial forays and it’s highly likely that what you do will be changed at some point. This mindset of build and grow puts you in a different stance to build long-term success. More importantly, immediate improvements should be foundational elements of a digital experience that enables insurance carriers to change, expand, and automate servicing today and in the future.
Luckily, implementing new digital tools and leveraging a case-based approach to eliminate operational complexity and deliver customer outcomes does not require ripping and replacing existing systems. It just requires focusing on one customer outcome at a time and building from there. For example, think about the steps needed to respond to and complete a claim status request. Pega calls this a microjourney – an interaction that is part of a customer’s overall journey with your business. By focusing on the steps needed to complete that one microjourney, you define the data you need to access and define the rules for the channels you’ll use to connect with your customers. When you build those processes and rules into the operational layer of your architecture, you can easily reuse and modify them for other microjourneys. Pega calls this building from the center out – an approach that helps businesses transform across all channels and systems. A center-out approach not only frees staff to spend more time helping customers with complex inquiries now, but also enables them to deliver the customer experiences of the future.
About the Author
In his role as Global Industry Markets Leader for Insurance at Pega, Thomas Harrington works with leading organizations to drive performance, customer experience, and revenue growth through digital transformation.
To hear more from Thomas and Neal Keene, Field Chief Technology Officer at Smart Communications, watch the on-demand webinar: Digital Acceleration in Insurance: Meeting New Demands at Speed or read the webinar recap.