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December 13, 2020

3 Must-Haves for a Self-Service Portal

Summary:

A hybrid approach to customer service appears to be the most appropriate strategy, smartly balancing self-service and human support.

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Today, human support is steadily losing ground to self-service in the insurance industry. For one thing, clients have grown tech-savvy and self-reliant and are willing to solve issues on their own, without waiting to reach a live agent. What is more, as the pandemic interrupted the conventional face-to-face service and support delivery, even the most reluctant customers became favorable toward online channels. Against this backdrop, insurers are implementing out-of-the-box self-service portals or developing custom insurance software

Companies should prioritize the particular needs and expectations of their customer base rather than follow the examples of other self-service portals. Insurance customers, as shown by Accenture in its 2019 Global FS Consumer Study, do not feel comfortable resorting to self-service in every case. The majority would rely on digital channels for tasks like looking up information or submitting personal data. Yet, when it comes to complex financial decisions — purchasing a policy or changing the terms of a contract — over half of the respondents admitted they can’t do without human assistance. 

Given these customer behavior patterns, insurers need to invest in providing exhaustive information, features for handling non-critical issues and account management as self-service options, but refrain from trying to automate all customer interactions. Below, we explore the self-service features that suit the set tasks most.  

A knowledge base 

The idea of customer education meets skeptical attitudes from the majority of insurers. According to Deloitte, 33% of surveyed executives believe that clear product information is a decisive factor for new customers, yet only 16% see it helping retain customers. 

In fact, a detailed and consistent knowledge base is not only an essential self-service channel but also a powerful driver of customer satisfaction. Building a centralized repository of relevant insights, like policy comparisons, legal terms glossary, claims application guides and so on, you give customers an opportunity to find answers and solutions quickly and at any time. 

Through relevant and innovative content, a company can also reach a wider audience and build a reputation as a niche expert. What is more, by analyzing the knowledge base activity, insurers can discern customers’ common needs and challenges and come up with solutions.  

For such a knowledge base to prove authoritative and helpful, the content needs to be of high quality but clear and comprehensible to an average customer, free of complicated terms and industry jargon. What is more, the materials need to be reviewed and updated regularly to remain relevant in the face of your evolving service offer and changes in the insurance industry. Therefore, when choosing your knowledge base format, make certain you have sufficient resources to maintain it at a proper level. 

See also: Self-Service Portals Improve CX

AI chatbots

Conversational AI has taken the business world by storm, becoming a staple of customer relations strategy. What is more, customers have come to appreciate chatbots for their efficiency and increasingly prefer to seek their assistance first. These facts, coupled with the opportunity to cut customer service costs, make AI chatbots a self-servicing option worthy of adoption.  

Implemented in your insurance portal, chatbots can tirelessly handle numerous customer queries and come up with relevant advice in each case. Through simple message commands, users can ask the bot to describe or compare insurance plans, find policies matching certain criteria or help address any current insurance policy concern. Unlike human agents, the technology can provide answers and take actions in real time, driving customer satisfaction up. 

Beyond this, chatbots can be programmed to analyze a customer’s profile information and engagement history and supply personalized product and service recommendations or even craft bespoke insurance policies and quotes. 

Yet chatbots are not without limitations. They are not geared toward making independent decisions and can only perform actions defined by the algorithm. This means that complex issues and requests need to be escalated to human service representatives. Moreover, chatbots are still bad at gauging human emotions and expressing sentiment appropriate to the situation, which can unnerve an already distressed customer. 

Claims management

Traditionally, claims management is one of the most cumbersome and confusing journeys for the insured. The customer fills out forms, gathers a lot of paperwork and photo evidence and submits it all in person for the company to process and reach a conclusion. 

But the digital age has altered customers’ expectations in this regard. They want a simple, speedy and transparent process that can be handled remotely in real time. By integrating a claims management engine into your self-service portal, you can meet this demand. 

The solution should allow a customer to make the first notice of loss to the insurer and then fill out and submit the official claim together with all the necessary photo or video evidence. As the information is processed and checked for fraud, the damage is appraised and the settlement is offered, the policyholder has full visibility into the claim status without the need to contact company representatives.     

Inevitably, there can be complex claims that require the agent’s on-site damage assessment or the personal presence of the insured. But for many other cases where fully digital handling is possible, self-servicing offers customers the freedom to manage their claims anywhere, anytime and allows them to control the process. The solution proves beneficial to insurance companies, as well, as it frees agents’ time spent on customer communication and paperwork in favor of other tasks, while minimizing human errors in the submitted claims.   

See also: Time to Try Being an Entrepreneur?

Summing up: The balance is vital

Despite the extensive reliance on self-service, insurance customers are not yet ready to accept it as the only alternative. As long as there are people who appreciate human touch over convenience and speed, traditional customer support will remain in demand.

Therefore, a hybrid approach to customer service appears to be the most appropriate strategy for insurers. Smartly balancing self-service and human support features and ensuring intuitive access to them all, an insurance company can meet the shifting customer needs and offer an outstandingly rich and dynamic support experience.

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About the Author

Yaroslav Kuflinski is AI/ML Observer at Iflexion. He has profound experience in IT and keeps up to date on the latest AI/ML research. Kuflinski focuses on AI and ML as tools to solve complex business problems and maximize operations.

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