2020 was a year of accelerated digital transformation in insurance across all lines of business. Major purchases such as life insurance or financial products are increasingly bought and sold online, making the digital customer journey one of the top sales tools in the insurance business.
Effect of the COVID-19 crisis on insurance sales
The COVID-19 crisis had wide-reaching effects across all lines of business. Consumers drove less and, at the same time, shopped around for better deals in auto insurance coverage. Historic mortgage rate lows combined with a trend of fleeing big cities for suburbs, so home insurance sales also skyrocketed this year. When it comes to health, record unemployment and concerns about adequate plan coverage drove most of the insurance buying activity. Coupled with reduced doctor visits, profitability in health plans remained positive, although long-term ramifications are still to be seen.
Life insurance policies faced challenges, including Fed rate cuts and decreased return on carrier investment assets, making profitability a significant challenge. Medical exams became more difficult to complete, and delays and restrictions led to funnel breakage, leading to reduced sales amounts. Because life insurance is not a required policy, it is often the first to evaporate from the consideration set during the economic downturn.
What insurers need to change to succeed in 2021
2021 is the year of ultimate change - and not bad change, but change that will affect the entire insurance organization for the (digital) years to come.
The need to focus on the holistic experience
The way consumers research and buy insurance products has changed. Every interaction with a customer becomes a potential turning point, from a website visit to a call with a customer representative or a visit to an office branch.
Purchases initiated through digital channels are likely to stay online. According to the J.D. Power 2017 Auto Insurance Study, customers who set up an account online with their insurer are two times as likely to also use an app to submit incident photos. In addition, they are three times more likely to report the first notice of loss online.
Still, most insurers lack a clear plan or holistic digital strategy, so their efforts often result in an incoherent patchwork of digital initiatives. Processes are not digitized end-to-end, and channels are not integrated. As a result, insurance companies’ digital endeavors are often not fully reflected in their top line, let alone their bottom line.
First, insurers must transform their digital channels by mirroring the success of big online retail platforms. Insurance policies that are sold online need to be packaged and priced differently than those that rely on face-to-face sales.
Second, digital support goes hand-in-hand with sales. Given the complexity of insurance products, even those that are simplified to match the digital world, insurance agents must be armed with effective support tools. Support reps need to be supported with the tools that will help them sell on value and explain to the customers which product best matches their needs, smoothing the pass to up-and cross-selling.
See also: 2021, We Can’t Wait to Get Going!
Prioritizing digital customer journeys
Digital channels have been an important part of the insurance business for many years. But digital always played a supportive role. Today, the digital channel takes center stage, and it needs to be treated as the star of the show.
Instead of rushing to quickly release ad-hoc digital initiatives that do not have synergy with each other, digital leaders must strategically approach digital customer journeys.
The digital customer journey must be smooth, effective and seamless for the customer. Every interaction must be logged for further analysis on the back end, and manual actions must be automated to prevent delays, errors and backlogs. Integration between front-end and back-end technologies is key to achieving end-to-end digital journeys that are up to the challenge.
Empowering agents and brokers to deliver better service
Simply converting a decade-old rates calculator to a digital app will not do the trick. Insurers must support sales and service reps by providing them with all the tools and materials they need, attractively packaged and tailored to the digital world.
Employee experience is as important as customer experience, as, after all, employees will be the ones guiding customers on their purchase path.
The digital world is always on. Having a robust self-service capability that is on 24/7 is one of the requirements nowadays. Consumers are used to getting anything, any time, and expect an immediate reaction to their online actions.
Consumers expect insurers to use the data they already have to improve their experience further. A self-service portal that keeps asking existing customers for the information that the insurer already has elsewhere in their systems is going to cost the insurer its customers.
Automation and personalization of the digital journey are key here. End-to-end digital policy onboarding and claims handling have emerged as a key competency that consumers want and expect. But digital transformation also removes high costs from the onboarding and claims processes by eliminating manual work that used to be required.
Creating digital insurance journeys for 2021
Once you've understood and accepted your points of change, it's time to create the best digital insurance journeys. Here are the benefits that simply cannot be overlooked:
Creating a single digital journey is no longer enough. Insurers must focus on automating customer journeys end-to-end, including both the transformation of the front end and back end.
This requires scalability. Technologies that can amplify existing resources and create repeatable processes that can be implemented across the organization.
Time to market
Traditional enterprise development projects that take anywhere between six and 12 months are no longer fit for the fast-moving pace of the digital world. Agility and time to market are becoming key competitive advantages for digital-first insurers.
Increased efficiency and productivity
Digital is not only about the experience, but it is also about boosting the efficiency and productivity of your employees. Back-end processes that require a lot of manual handling create delays and waste your employee’s time.
Improved data accuracy
Insurers gather a wealth of data on their customers. However, the access to this data must be democratized, as, currently, it is not accessible to every employee who needs it in an actionable format.
The right technology
Digital technology such as mobile, AI, no-code platforms and IoT plays a key role in a company’s ability to quickly respond to consumer actions or feedback as well as gather data on market conditions. Identifying which technologies are best suited to cater to the demanding digital customer is the key to success in 2021.
See also: 11 Insurtech Predictions for 2021
Insurance in the ‘new normal’
Insurers are faced with a difficult task,. Digitally savvy consumers, fast-moving technologies and the demands for personalization strain internal IT resources to the max. Using the right digital tools is necessary to ensure the ultimate success of the company and of course, the best customer experience out there.
Selling insurance in 2021 isn’t the same.