EARNING CUSTOMERS

4 October 2017

EARNING CUSTOMERS

By Tammy McInturff Appel

Providing an excellent customer experience is more important than ever as a strategic differentiator for insurance companies. Today it is no longer enough to provide good customer service; it is imperative to provide a top-class one. At LOMA’s 2017 Customer Experience Conference, attendees learned about opportunities to enhance customers’ experiences, earning you customers for life.

Colleen Risk, Senior Analyst, North America Life, Annuity, Health, Celent and Karen Monks, Analyst, North America Life, Annuity, Health, Celent, discussed the outcome of a recent survey of life insurance carriers regarding current and future customer service trends and their strategy for using technology in customer service. In 2016, customer experience was one of the top three initiatives that were undertaken by insurance companies, said Risk. „Online retailers led the list, followed by banking,” she said. „Insurance scored slightly higher than the government. Ten percent of the consumers surveyed said they thought that insurers were extremely innovative and overall, 60 percent of the people surveyed said that they thought that there was at least some innovation going on in insurance.”

The Push for Digital and Demand for Online Interaction

Are our customers more ready than we are to be digital and to have a different customer experience? Insurers need to understand that they are not going to interact the same way with all of their customers. „We need to understand who our customers are,” Risk said.

Celent also found in asking people about their digital experience that 22 percent of consumers said that they would buy insurance online if they had the ability to do so in an easy to do manner. „We found that 47 percent said they want more online interaction with their insurer,” Risk said. „We have a lot of room for growth. We are at a point where we need to start moving forward in order to not be left behind.” „Customers are demanding a different relationship model from their insurers; they want more transparency and simplicity,” Risk said. „They want to be able to go online and see easy; they want to understand language. Consumers want to be able to understand what they are reading. We also need to have simpler contracts. It should not be difficult to put together an insurance contract that tells me what my options are and what my exclusions are. We shouldn’t need a 40 page document to do that. Consumers also want recommendations with clear explanations, tailored to them.”

There is a demand for increasing participation with the client through all aspects of the buying process. Insurers also need to increase the speed, decision, and communications. Today, customers want personalized service. They want insurers to recognize who they are and have products and services tailored to them. Consumers also want solutions to come to them rather than have to search for the answer. Consumers want direct control over the process. „They want to feel that they have the ability to choose amongst differing value propositions,” Risk said.

Customer Engagement

According to Risk, there are many opportunities for insurers to innovate and engage with the customer from policy delivery, billing, claims and risk management. Celent’s research found that customers have different preferences when it comes to how they interact with a carrier.

„They want us to be proactive with our technology,” Risk said. Automation can increase customer satisfaction and reduce the long-term operational costs. According to Celent’s research, 72 percent of life insurers feel that customer service is critical to the success of their business.

Monks said insurers can’t fix what they don’t measure. „Our research found that only 14 percent of insurers had a formal mechanism for measuring customer satisfaction,” she said. „We found that a real-time, highly automated relationship didn’t exist as much as we had hoped.”

Next Steps: How do we change where we are today?

„Insurers have to consider their typical ways of customer engagement today,” Risk said. „Today insurers are still using traditional mail and paper based communications. There is no proactive communication. One way to move forward is to implement online self-service and policy inquiry, to adopt electronic bill presentment and to have standard automated communications via text or email. What is really cool though and what we see coming next is having mobile applications, implemented automated «push» communications via text, phone or email, have interactive personalized video, using customized marketing materials for one and implementing gamification. We need to look at what other industries are doing, and we need to look from the outside in to improve the customer experience.”

Strategies for Success

Author Marilyn Sherman offered six strategies to help you get in the front row seat of your life. „Create a vision and then act on it,” she said.

According to Sherman, the second strategy is to invest in your personal and professional development.

The third strategy is to stop and appreciate the seat that you are in right now in your relationship, health, work, etc.

Strategy number four is to learn to handle conflict with grace and confidence.

Fifth strategy is to be of service: „Go the extra mile to wow your customers,” Sherman added

Sherman said we should make it an ultimate goal to be like an usher. „That should be the ultimate goal for you because your customers need you. They need navigation. They need insurance. They need the products that you sell. Your job is to usher them to their front row but first and foremost you need to know what their front row is.”

 

Source: LOMA – Resource Magazine, September 2017

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