How to communicate with customers in the Insurtech era

Communications Methods - Phone TV Email Text Messages Photo

CUSTOMER EXPERIENCE.

This is a concept that has been and will continue to be written, talked and debated about for years.  

In our currently connected society, it is imperative that all companies (not just Insurance) find better ways to interact and engage with their customers.  

For the Insurance industry there are a few key points in time when those offering Insurance (Carriers, agents, brokers, etc) interact with their prospective clients and/or policyholders:

  • Initial Interaction – What is it like when a prospective client first interacts with you? How do they uncover their needs and go through suitability with the person/chatbot/online?
  • Purchasing – What is the purchase process like?  How are forms filled in?
  • Policy Issuance – What is the policy issuance like?  How is it ensured that the policy they purchased and contract they just entered is fully understood?
  • Proactive Engagement – What sort of interactions does the company have in terms of engaging with this policyholder while they are a client?  
  • Reactive Customer Service – How are the interactions when the policyholder reaches out to the company for non-claims related issues?  
  • Claims Process – What is it like to file a claim with the company and what is the engagement throughout the process of approving/rejecting the claim?

Having an easy way to communicate to/with customers at these various steps are crucial to creating a successful and impactful customer experience.  

An ideal state would be one in which the customer can choose the method in which they prefer to interact with their Insurance provider.

This week I cover:

  • Three different types of Insurance customers
  • Different ways to communicate with Insurance policyholders
  • A solution which incorporates many different tools for customer engagement

Three different types of Insurance customers

Broadly speaking, there are three types of Insurance consumers:

  1. ‘Self-service’ – These are people that like to ‘do it themselves’.  They do all the research themselves (through aggregators, customer reviews, etc), prefer to purchase their policies online (either through an app/website), and love using AI-powered chatbots in their queries, claim handling and any other matter that comes up.   
  2. ‘Through someone’ – These are consumers that prefer to have someone alongside them when they make an Insurance purchase and/or have any queries on their policies.  They will likely use an agent, broker or financial advisor to help identify the best policy for them and fill in application forms, to call on with any queries/policy changes and be the first to call when a claim comes up.
  3. ‘Hybrid’ – This is where probably where the majority of people fit these days.  They may be OK to buy Insurance online, however they like to have someone they can refer to for any questions that come up during the process.  They may also be OK to file a claim or change policy details themselves and also like the option to do it ‘through someone’ if they so choose.

Honestly speaking, I don’t see these 3 buckets changing for a long, long time (though the % of people that fall into each one may likely shift).

As such, it is important that Insurance carriers know their current and future customers in order to build an experience that will best engage with them.  

Different ways to communicate with policyholders

There are numerous ways that Insurance carriers and agents can communicate with their prospects and policyholders.

The ‘traditional’ ways are via:

  • Email
  • Phone – For purposes of this article, I will call this Voice 1.0 and includes calls between agents and customers as well as call centers (including interactive voice response (IVR))
  • Text – this has some challenges, especially between agents and customers due to the fact that they are not secure/non-trackable (something that companies like Eltropy solve for)
  • Post (i.e. snail mail)

The ‘newer’ ways include:

  • Live Chat – Something that has been around for some time and that we are seeing some very interesting progress for a variety of industries.
  • Video – For the same reasons as text, video was not as prominent due to the lack of security/auditability around it, however we have seen this starting to expand in banking as well as the Insurance claims process with companies like DropIn Inc.
  • Voice 2.0 – think Alexa and Google Home.  Coverager has done a summary of the Insurance carriers that are currently offering Voice 2.0 solutions for their customers.  Expect the functionalities and list of companies to grow as these tools become more popular
  • Chatbots – This has to be one of the most common and overused terms used within our industry over the past couple of years (I am also guilty of it!).  Many carriers felt that they were at a massive disadvantage if they didn’t have one (even if they fully didn’t understand what it meant to have one!). The chart below from Coverager shows the sheer popularity of Chatbots.

50chatbots

This article by Richard Smullen, CEO and Founder of Pypestream pours some cold water on the term ‘chatbot’ and ends with something that also explains the feelings I had when writing this article: ‘If I had one wish for this industry, it would be that we get rid of the term “chatbot” and instead call this user interface built around conversations a CI, or conversational interface.’

A solution which incorporates many different tools for customer engagement

A few weeks ago, I experienced a string of customer service fails.  I won’t mention the companies they were with, however one was with an Insurance company, one was with a big tech firm and the last was with a flower company (I had some delivery issues with some flowers that I ordered for my girlfriend).  

These experiences, especially the one with the Insurance company, had me thinking about what tools could have been in place to make the overall experience better.  

Just days later, I was fortunate to meet the co-founders of SaleMove, Dan Michaeli and Justin DiPietro.

They describe their solution as a digital-first, Omnichannel platform and have built 3 solutions that can be used together or separately, depending on their client’s choosing (they are currently being used by many top tier banks and Insurance companies):

OmniCore – this is a complete Omnichannel digital solution that offers live phone (voice 1.0), live chat, and live video into their solution.  For carriers and agencies looking to engage with their customers digitally, while having the power of a human behind it, this has it all.

OmniBrowse – a great solution for front-line agents and call center employees, this solution allows a co-browsing solution to enable employees to have context of what their customers are viewing.  One thing that frustrated me so much with the customer services failures I had above was that the person I was speaking to in the call center (with exception of the big tech company) could not see what my actual problem is.  At a bare minimum, if your call center personnel do not have co-browsing capabilities for your online platforms (whether it be purchasing sites or customer web portals), you are living in the stone age.

OmniGuide – They have also incorporated AI into their solution, but not exactly in the way we see many chatbots out there today.  This solution provides agents and/or call center personnel with AI-assisted responses to the customers they are chatting with, that they can either accept, amend or discard.  This rapidly increases the response time to consumers. If incorporated with OmniCore, it also gives the customer the ability to jump on a call with the human behind the chat in a matter of seconds.

SaleMove integrates onto a company’s website, through a single line of code, with no changes to the website required and customers do not need to download or install anything on their end to be able to use the SaleMove platform. Video chatting or CoBrowsing with an agent, is seamless.

Please see an demo of this in the video below.  Please note the video is simply a demo and SaleMove Insurance Agency is not an actual Insurance Agency.  Also, I’m not so naive about my property, this was my first experience in ‘acting’ 🙂

Summary

Michael Dell was once quoted in saying,  “Our business is about technology, yes. But it’s also about operations and customer relationships.”

When I first started as a Financial Advisor in 2006, my boss came in to my office while seeing me on the phone making cold calls and said ‘get out of the office…this business is built on belly to belly conversations with people and if you aren’t out there meeting people, you’re never going to get business’.

Both gentlemen are right.  We are social creatures at heart and my strong belief is that relationships are built on human to human interaction.  This is why I currently and will always feel that an agent will be relevant in the years to come.

Technology helps to enable and enhance the relationship-building process and a hybrid model (one that has technology tools to engage with customers and humans available when customers want it), will likely be the winning solution.

For organizations looking at upgrading/enhancing/introducing engagement solutions, they need to think about it two-fold:

  1. What communication problem are we trying to fix?
  2. What is the preferred method for our customers (either policyholders or internal employees).

They should then build a solution based on this.  

One of my fellow Insurtech enthusiasts, Patrick Kelahan keeps using a great line in many of his LinkedIn posts.  It’s, ‘innovate from the customer backwards’.

Instead of finding a cool, new, emerging technology and trying to implement it in hopes of being more innovative and engaging – figure out what your customers want and need and then find the solution that best fits.  

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Stephen Goldstein is an experienced Insurance executive and Insurtech dealmaker with a core focus on growing revenue, launching go to market initiatives and advising industry leaders.

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Some good additional reading:

SaleMove: Driving Online Self-Serve with CoBrowsing  

SaleMove:  Ultimate Guide to CoBrowsing

SaleMove:  Guide to Achieving Omnichannel Customer Engagement  

Accenture: Insurance Examples of Next-Generation AI

2 comments

  1. Great article and well worth a read. I think as someone who has more experience in communications from outside the industry there is a lot of talking about putting the customer first but not a lot of thinking and action around that.
    Most of the first interactions with customers (the one who pay the invoices), are initiated through digital channels and research is often done this way too. Too many incumbent operators (insurers and brokers) are not spending time acquiring digitally engaged audiences. This means they can spend all the money / time they want creating new “innovative” products and user experiences but they will struggle getting the traffic to flow to the product in the first place as they are still calling / lunching / emailing the prospects, and before I am questioned I am referring to corporate / B2B products not just consumer ones.

    Like

    • Thanks for your comments. I would agree that they are not interacting as much digitally, and if they are, it is more from the perspective of marketing their products rather than giving valuable information around the type of coverage they are offering. Robin’s suggestion that we have so much information on how to live better, safer and healthier lives – and how we should giving this information/knowledge to our customers for free to enable them to do so. We need to become trusted brands for their lifestyle, not just product pushers.
      A great example of this is Prudential Corporation Asia’s Cha-ching program, in which they teach children about financial literacy. They are offering this as a service to educate and inspire, not sell products. We need to see more stuff like this from our industry.

      Like

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