For an insurer, offering a fundamentally human service can be the difference between easing a customer’s woes and adding to them.

The past few months has, sadly, seen no shortage of opportunities to do so; a huge rise in the number of financially vulnerable customers and waves of insurance claims relating to everything from botched holidays to struggling businesses. 

However, in this time of great need, cracks have begun to show in the relationship between insurers and their customers.

  • Over the course of the past year, public trust in insurers has been badly damaged. While insurance companies struggled to handle record numbers of claims, the Financial Conduct Authority ordered them to pay out or explain themselves, accusing the industry of a lack of transparency with customers.
  • While trust has decreased, frustration has been on the rise; with huge surges in customer service calls and inquiries about coverage and payouts, hold times during the current crisis have ballooned by as much as 38%.

The faith and patience of customers has been tested, and the proof is in the numbers: Accenture’s recent Global Consumer Pulse Research found that only 29% of insurance customers are satisfied with their current providers.

The human factor can set insurers apart

Demand in the insurance industry is currently split between analogue and digital modes of service, so it’s the job of insurers to strike the right balance between the two. While customers still want quick and stress-free access to friendly and accommodating representatives over the phone, there is also a desire to communicate via digital contact options like email, chat and even self-service. 

  • According to Accenture, speed of settlement and process transparency are the most important contributors to customer loyalty, with each cited by 94% of survey participants.
  • Another recent survey found that a whopping 90% of insurance customers prefer remote and digital interactions with their providers.
  • A McKinsey study found that while in January 2020, 90% of insurance agents’ sales conversations took place in-person, by May, less than 5% of agents sold insurance face-to-face. 

As customer preferences lean towards digital channels, insurers nonetheless need to retain the human touch – that priceless commodity that will never go out of fashion. Customers expect to have some level of human interaction with their insurer, so in using technology as a support system, and not the be-all-end-all, insurance companies will find better and more frequent success in handling customer needs. 

Engaged and augmented employees should be the human face of your business

Employees in the insurance industry are keenly aware of the need for machine input to help improve their importance. In fact, the 2020 Independent Agent Survey found that 83% of agents now feel that it’s moderately to extremely important to deliver insurance products digitally. According to Accenture’s Technology Vision 2020, 76% of executives agree that organisations need to dramatically reengineer the experiences that bring technology and people together in a more human-centric manner. 

But before investing in digital use cases, insurers should assess and identify gaps in the ideal customer and agent journey for their specific business. The findings will help them develop an agile road map tailored to their strengths. 

In their eagerness to achieve huge returns on investment, adopters tend to rush into siloed projects or suffer from the ‘random acts of automation’ syndrome, resulting in technology that doesn’t suit or serve the people at the core of what they do. 

This is where a level of specialist guidance is often required to help firms to fully understand the needs of their stakeholders, and to play to their own unique strengths. Taking a thoughtful and user-centric approach to technology adoption is key to defining what good looks like for the people affected. 

Your customer service representatives on the front line are the first and often only human interaction your customers will have with your company and your brand. It’s your job to equip them with the tools they need to offer fast and fundamentally human services.

For example:

  • AI can be used to triage and grade claims to increase adjudicator efficiency. Currently, response times are often slow because claims processing often requires adjustors to manually review complex documents.  
  • Technologies such as deep learning will be able to help adjustors rank claim severity to read claims documents and score their urgency, severity and compliance to expedite triage.  
  • Machine-learning algorithms integrated with internal and external data can enable insurers to fully automate claims payout for a majority of cases, allowing insurers to process claims instantly.

The key is take a balanced view of automation: it’s a tool to help customer service representatives improve the speed, accuracy and transparency of their service, rather than the mechanism for the customer service experience itself. People are at the core of digital transformation, but this human element is often overlooked. In fact, over a quarter of companies acknowledge that despite being key, people are often overlooked when planning and executing transformative projects, according to a recent study from IFS. 
 
Digital transformation in insurance won’t be achieved by welcoming new tools hurriedly, uncritically and with a tech-centric gaze; but instead by diagnosing your opportunities and pain points, and defining a technological vision that can benefit your company and its stakeholders in profound ways.  

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