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Lessons Through a Lens: Pandemics Changing Communication in Insurance


By: Ruth Fisk, VP of Industry Marketing, Insurance at Smart Communications

More than 17 pandemics have plagued the world dating back as early as 430 B.C. Some are more well-known than others, but there is no doubt COVID-19 will be well remembered as a pandemic that changed the world. The 1918 Spanish Flu, the deadliest pandemic on record, and COVID-19 have a striking number of similarities. Just more than 100 years apart, each forced business to restrict operations, schools to close, stay at home orders to be enacted, masking and social distancing to become a must. The economic and social impact of each was devasting, forcing a shift in thinking about how we deliver products and services and – as importantly, how we communicate in new meaningful ways with the customers we serve.

Insurers too have been impacted by the outcomes of the pandemic, forcing them to readjust their business strategies so that they can better cater to the expectations of today’s consumers — especially during claims interactions where their customer retention and satisfaction rates are at the highest risk. There may be lessons insurers can glean from the pandemics to help them adjust to the next new normal. Let’s take a closer look.

Evolving the Way Products and Services are Delivered

Today’s “Hollywood” was born out of the 1918 pandemic, when 90% of movie theaters were shuttered. Adolph Zukor, co-founder of Paramount Pictures, had the vision to deliver full feature films through new channels, focused on the customer experience. Adolph purchased the closed theaters, built the movie empire, and transformed the movie industry. Similarly, insurance too will need to adapt to a new way of thinking by reevaluating the customer journey – every interaction can be a make-or-break moment in the retention strategy for that customer. It will not be enough to simply set up a digital front end, while still forcing your customer to engage in antiquated processes, e.g., filling out and returning a claim paper form.

EY reports “The COVID-19 pandemic is accelerating the transformational trends impacting the insurance sector and highlighting the need to take bolder actions in areas such as digital capability and effective engagement to address the customer’s needs post-pandemic.”

The insurance industry must rethink its business models to meet the expectations of policyholders. Consumers expect insurers to have the ability to have meaningful, two-way conversations whenever they need them to happen, across their preferred channels (mobile, web, human). Insurers must pivot in the way they deliver products and services; to do this, they should retool their communications platforms to have SMARTER conversations with their customers.

Technology Adoption Increases During Pandemics

Communications were difficult in 1918. Individuals relied solely on printed newspapers to receive updates on the pandemic. Businesses sought new and creative ways to reach customers. The 1918 pandemic dramatically changed the way we live and communicate today. One example – in-home telephones became a staple, helping individuals and households to feel less isolated and more connected.

Insurance companies can also learn from this lesson. The policyholder typically has little to no interaction with the insurer until a claim occurs and even then they often feel like communication is scarce, which makes them feel isolated during their greatest time of need. Best practices are now showing significant opportunities to improve customer satisfaction in claims if communications are approached as personalized, two-way conversations rather than broadcasting one-way messages that leave the insured feeling disconnected.

New Communications Methods Become Mainstream

As a result of the pandemics, we can now see the rapid adoption of essential technologies that offer new ways of doing things, driven by consumers’ demands for a more digital, personalized two-way interaction. As these technology imperatives become mainstream, insurers must take the necessary steps to implement a digital-first strategy to orchestrate conversations more effectively across all parties related to the policy.

Most significant will be the continued adoption of modern communications tools and platforms whose growth was fast-tracked because of the pandemic – think on-demand movies streamed via mobile or advanced video communications platforms like Zoom, where daily downloads have increased 30x to provide opportunities for online interactions. That alone is not enough. The digital age is accelerating at an even faster pace for the insurance industry, which now faces more urgency than ever to transform operations to be more nimble and agile. This requires an insurer to act with determination and speed in their adoption of a digital-first platform.

Insurance Industry Responding to New Demands

Insurance organizations have aspired to build truly digital-first businesses over the last several years, however most had not achieved this pre-COVID. Today, the “nice-to-have” imperative is no more, with a true ultimatum in place to shift priorities and focus aggressively on this new paradigm. The pandemic has brought a seismic shift in the way consumers expect insurers to be digitally available and to respond to their preferences or jeopardize their relationship.

Nearly 40% of consumers in the U.S. indicated they changed their preference from direct mail to digital communications due to factors related to the COVID-19 pandemic.

To survive, insurers must accelerate their digital-first approach, which includes modernizing communication platforms. A large percentage of existing insurers are still running legacy Customer Communications Management (CCM) platforms, which impedes their ability to respond to the real-time expectations of policyholders and claimants.

Insurers can build the foundational components of a digital-first strategy by changing their approach to communications including:

STEP 1: Customer Conversations Roadmaps

Create customer roadmaps that define all the communications intersection points and opportunities, as well as customer preferences throughout the claims process.

STEP 2: Modern Customer Conversations Platform

Embrace a modern, cloud-based SaaS Customer Conversations Platform to provide digital-first, automated solutions like chatbots, self-service portals and mobile apps – providing new communications channels to engage customers in meaningful two-way conversations.

STEP 3: Cloud-First Adoption

Future-proof your strategy. Provide the scale, agility, multichannel communications, seamless integration, responsiveness and speed to market by embracing a modern conversations platform purposefully built for the cloud.

STEP 4: Enjoy the Benefits

Achieve long-lasting benefits of modernizing your communications platform as a top priority within your digital-first strategy, maximizing your ability to exceed customer expectations today and into the future, while also reducing costs.

The outcome of the pandemics presents insurance organizations the opportunity to learn from the past, by adopting the newer technologies that have proven their worth in the marketplace. Doing so will enable insurers to build a solid foundation for their digital transformation strategy, making it easier to meet consumer expectations, provide long-term value and carve out new competitive advantages.

Ready to apply these lessons learned to insurance? Contact us today to learn more about how your peers used the experiences from the pandemic to provide SMARTER conversations.

Smart Communications has long been recognized by all major analysts (Gartner, Forrester, Novarica and IDC ) as a Leader & Innovator in enterprise-scale Workflow & Content Automation (WCA) & Customer Communications Management (CCM) – and most recently by Aspire in its 2021 Leaderboard Assessment,  based on our proven cloud approach, our strategy for enabling meaningful two-way customer conversations and our platform that’s purpose-built for a post-pandemic customer experience.