As part of this month's ITL FOCUS on customer experience, we spoke with Scott McArthur, chief revenue officer, Statflo, about the impact of digitization on customer interactions.
ITL: There's been lots of talk about how the pandemic has accelerated the digitization of the insurance industry. How does that look from your perspective?
McArthur: Over a lot of different verticals, this whole concept of digital transformation, which has been a theme for the last four or five years, just accelerated over the last 14 months. Insurance brokers and bank and telco representatives had to find different ways to communicate with customers as long as they couldn’t meet face-to-face.
There’s a stat: 70% of consumers want to have the ability to securely text or message with their insurance company. And I think insurance companies are finally starting to take notice. They are introducing other means of communication, other channels, to interact with customers. 71% of customers want to be able to fill out documents and send documents digitally rather than go old school and have to sign a piece of paper, then bring it back to the office.
Companies need to maintain local customer interaction but do it through different forms of communication.
ITL: I always find it painful how slow things are to change. I wrote an article for The Wall Street Journal nearly 30 years ago on electronic forms and how they were going to take over the world, and a lot of insurance companies still have fax machines….
Do you think the change in behavior because of the pandemic is permanent?
McArthur: I think it is. When Statflo started out four or five years ago, we had to educate the market around the value of having one-to-one, local interactions with customers through text, and volume has accelerated tenfold in the last couple of years. People crave one-to-one interactions. They crave simplicity and efficiency.
Increasingly, insurance customers prefer using digital channels when they're looking for product information or are updating their data. Instead of having to call the broker to say, “I just moved, or whatever,” customers can go online and update as they see fit. If you need to do something quickly, you message the broker, maybe do an online chat or just do something through the broker’s website.
ITL: What are the most common things you see people wanting to do via text?
McArthur: It’s really across the whole customer journey: when you’re engaging them because they've recently signed up for something new, when you’re sending documents on their insurance plan for the year or when you’re letting customers know about new products and services or reaching out to them when their insurance is up for renewal.
ITL: If you project out over say the next five years, how do you see interaction with customers developing?
McArthur: I think we can start to know what customers want before they want it. We can be where customers are shopping and looking and surface the right information for them at the right time.
Companies can do the sort of thing that Amazon or Google does, keying off searches, and tailor messaging or curate products and services that are useful to their customer base. If you do that, customers will be more likely to interact with you. They’ll think, “Wow, ABC Insurance Company really gets me and understands what my needs are.”
ITL: Do you have examples of companies that you think are doing an especially good job of reinventing the customer experience?
McArthur: We look at the different industries we work in. And, as much as a lot of people have pain and suffering with their mobile providers, some are providing customers the right information at the right time about the right products and services. That is not the spray-and-pray of blasting out messages to everybody. The carriers focus on specific products and services that a customer might want. A handful of Canadian carriers are doing a great job.
Nordstrom is another example. We've hired a few folks from Nordstrom, where associates keep “black books” on their customers about their preferences on makeup, clothing or sunglasses, whatever it might be. Associates are empowered to reach out to those customers to let them know about some sale that may be coming up or about a new shipment from a favorite brand.
I'm a big Nike guy. I love Nike shoes. Over the last 14 or 15 months, Nike has done a great job at kind of reinventing how they go to market. They've created this level of exclusivity in sneakers with an app that provides “members” the ability to see the latest and greatest with limited edition shoes. They’ve done a great job at creating curated content.