By: Neil Greathead, Chief Customer Officer at Smart Communications
The year 2020 was a difficult one for nearly all industries, and the insurance industry was no exception. Customers are now more accustomed than ever to digital-first interactions, and their expectations are at an all-time high. As we enter a post-pandemic world, insurers are now rethinking customer engagement and how they can better meet customer needs.
Data gathered by Insurance Innovators, in partnership with Smart Communications and Salesforce Industries, provides valuable insights into how to improve trust and customer satisfaction. The main takeaway? It’s time to invest in SMARTER digital conversation capabilities that enable insurance companies to deliver targeted advice when and where it’s needed, ultimately recasting themselves as trusted advisors.
Getting Clear on Better Customer Conversations
The research found that 84% of insurance executives are already bought in on the idea that better customer communications can reverse the trend of eroding trust. They also seem clear on where the challenge lies: 90% believe that when customers find descriptions of product features and add-on products confusing at the point of sale, it makes them more distrustful of insurers. Webpages with too many coverage options overwhelm customers, especially when what they see isn’t relevant to their situation. Respondents agree that personalizing plan options and documents using data and analytics would have a massive impact in minimizing loss of trust.
According to the survey, greater clarity and personalization helps build trust both at the point of sale and when claims are filed. 78% of respondents believe that poor customer understanding of coverage greatly undermined trust when claims proved contentious during the pandemic. Yet insurance leaders also recognized the opportunity this represents: 69% believe trust can be protected by using data analysis to anticipate confusing policy terms and tailor messaging accordingly.
Improving Digital Experiences to Meet Rising Expectations
Managing customer expectations during the claims process was identified as another major opportunity to win back trust. 89% cited delays as the biggest factor that dented trust during the pandemic. Customers experiencing upheaval in their personal or business finances did not have patience for opaque, slow turnaround times. Again, this challenge points the way to an opportunity: 81% believe that real-time digital updates would safeguard trust.
Ultimately, insurance leaders agree that without a seamless digital experience, trust will continue to suffer. Consumers know what better looks like when it comes to digital experiences, and companies who don’t invest in improving customer communications will be left behind.
The New Recipe for Success: Personalization, Seamless Omnichannel Experiences and Self-Service Automation
Despite all the challenges the survey touched on, it’s not all doom and gloom. We also uncovered practical tips for how smart insurers can reverse the tide of declining trust to win customers for life. The three-part recipe for success? Personalization, a seamless omnichannel experience and easy and fulfilling self-service automation.
Insurance executives believe it’s time to get personal. An overwhelming 98% said optimizing personalized customer contact in all digital interactions would increase trust. Personalization conveys both relevance and empathy. Customers want to be known and understood by the companies they work with. They’ve been trained by Amazon’s algorithms to receive highly relevant product recommendations and want that same kind of insightfulness across all their digital interactions. This doesn’t simply result in higher sales. Understanding implies caring. When customers feel heard and understood, it quickly translates to positive brand associations.
Second, respondents unanimously recognize that customers want an incredible experience no matter what device or platform they happen to be on at the time. 95% agree that frictionless experiences are crucial to earning trust, while frustrating digital interactions have a negative impact. In a world where customers rapidly cycle through their devices, and data automatically syncs between them, they expect their insurers to follow suit.
While insurers might feel the pinch of managing communications across so many different digital platforms simultaneously, customers don’t have such a nuanced view. If a customer first engages with online chat, they expect all that information to carry through on any device or platform – regardless of where their next interaction is. Insurers have a major opportunity to invest in technology platforms that enable this seamless omnichannel experience for every customer, every time.
Third, customers are clamoring for more and better self-service tools. Consumers don’t mind helping themselves. In fact, some even prefer digital over human interactions. There are several proactive self-service automation strategies insurers can employ to increase trust, according to respondents:
- Pre-populate forms with as much of the data as you already have
- Introduce advanced virtual agents that can actually help a customer resolve an issue from start to finish
- Use AI chatbots to provide proactive guidance where needed
A New Relationship Norm: The Insurer as Trusted Advisor
For insurers, the end goal of digital transformation is to redefine the relationship they have with their customers. Instead of being viewed as a business you only communicate with when there’s a problem, insurers have a significant opportunity to flip the script and upgrade the value they provide customers. The research indicated that 94% of insurance executives believe that offering personalized advice to reduce risk will eventually become the core insurance company value proposition. Instead of waiting until disaster strikes and helping to pick up the pieces, insurers can instead become known for helping customers avoid disaster in the first place.
How can insurers make this shift? By avoiding cookie-cutter communications. Among those surveyed, 90% warn that unless a touchpoint is personalized, frictionless and adds value, it will only irritate customers. Conversely, by leveraging SMART technology that provides customized, convenient and value-added conversations, insurers can win the hearts and minds of their customers.
Ultimately, COVID-19 exposed the gap between what insurance customers expect and their actual experience. With the pain points now clearly revealed, they can be solved. Adding value to a customer’s daily life through enhanced digital communications is the path forward.