Consumers do not generally enjoy shopping for insurance. This is not surprising, as they are spending money on something that may be required by law but that they hope never to use. Making an insurance claim means something bad has happened: A tree has fallen on a house, a piece of jewelry was stolen or someone has been in an accident. If something bad happens, the insurance is welcome; if nothing bad happens, customers may feel as if their money is being wasted -- like a black hole swallowing their money.
In these socially distant days, an increasing number of insurance purchases are occurring online, which can make a complicated transaction feel even more foreign for consumers. They only purchase once a year and may feel unease as they have to weigh options such as deductibles and whether to purchase coverage for particular perils. These sorts of decisions are easier when a human is with them; in fact, the personal relationship with an agent or broker can be the biggest factor in client retention.
The challenge for insurance industry players is to find ways to create real relationships with customers despite so much of the exchange being digital. Here are some suggestions:
Core Insurance Services Should Be Straightforward
If you are selling and servicing insurance policies, your platform has to make this easy. As consumers use many different systems -- they may start a search on their phone and later move to a laptop or tablet -- your platform has to be flexible technologically. So, the first challenge is very basic: You have to make everything work.
It should go without saying that you have to address the insurance issues. This means designing your website so that everything -- from purchasing insurance to making claims, when necessary -- can be done easily. Let customers know, in advance, what information they'll need to supply, such as a driver's license. You should also design your website to ask them a series of questions so that they can make the best decision. For example, if their car already has a few dings and dents, they may want to skip the collision coverage. Also, encourage them as they go through the different pages with phrases such as, "Just a few more questions, and you're done!"
When people have entered the data, you need to respond quickly. These days, consumers are accustomed to instant gratification; they may expect a quote or a settlement within minutes. When their needs are straightforward, a quote can be generated automatically. However, that isn't always possible; sometimes an application and certainly a claim will require additional review.
If instant gratification isn't possible, make sure you send an email or a text telling the person you have received the submission. Let people know the time frame in which they can expect a response. If there is some delay -- it happens; insurance employees are people, too -- let them know.
When you are ready to complete the transaction, remind customers of anything they may need to do to fulfill legal requirements, such as keeping proof of insurance with them while driving.
All of the above is just a description of the basics. Your company cannot survive without performing these tasks. However, the world is full of competitors, and you can expect others to master these basics, too. To improve customer satisfaction, the type of satisfaction that leads to retention, you need positive, personal interactions, even if those interactions must be socially distanced.
Positive, Personal but Virtual Interactions
Give customers reassurance. First, people buy insurance either because it's required, such as for a mortgage or car, or because they are concerned they may need it. Not only do you need to make sure they have fulfilled these requirements, but you have to give them the assurance that your company will be able to take care of them if it becomes necessary. Words such as, "Welcome to the XYZ Insurance Family, rated A+ by A.M. Best," is a good message to send.
Offer rewards for good behavior. If your customers make changes to reduce their exposure or simply don't file claims, give them rebates. This encourages safer behavior. However, don't just reduce premiums. Let people know you have reduced their premium by sending an email or a letter when it first happens. Congratulate them on being a better driver or a more responsible homeowner. Remind them, too, when they renew and whenever they visit your website.
Remember important dates. People like their birthdays -- as well as other important events -- to be remembered. If you have the data, and it is not against company policy to make use of it, send a card or an email on significant anniversaries.
Send swag. If you have to use snail mail to reach people anyway, consider sending along some swag with your company logo. Perhaps you can send them a flashlight that they can store in their glove compartment. Perhaps you can send a mask with your logo discreetly placed on it. Perhaps you can send a magnet with useful information in addition to your logo. And, everyone can always use a good-quality pen!
Deliver news they can use. If your customers buy car insurance from you, send tips on driving and car ownership. For example, when do brakes need to be replaced? When are tires safe, and when are they worn out? How often should people check tire pressure? What should they have in their cars in case of an accident? These things are all useful and can increase their safety -- and they’ll appreciate your looking out for them.
If they’re homeowners, they might want to know what they can do to reduce the risk of fire. Has the family practiced a quick evacuation in case of an emergency? How can people protect themselves from problems such as radon, mold and termites?
You can send people information that will help them save money on their insurance by informing them of any new offers and programs you introduce (e.g., only pay for what you need).
A regular email newsletter, with practical tips -- and those tips then stored on the website -- can give customers the sense that they matter and that you are concerned for their safety and wellbeing. A newsletter can also encourage them to take steps to reduce the risks in their lives, which the insurance industry always appreciates.
Your customer touchpoints and interactions are the face of your business -- more so now than ever before -- and the race is on to engage meaningfully via a slew of digital channels. The only way you can effectively cut through the noise of all the COVID-related content? You will need to be relevant and useful to your clients’ situations. Personalized experiences, offers and services will be important.
Actual employees can be expensive to deploy, but they should still be used, as they can deepen a customer's relationship with your company and improve retention rates. However, the methods of reaching out to customers and personalization mentioned here will help give them the sense that your insurance company is not just there to take their money but is actually there to make their world safer every day. Use them to keep your customers feeling cared for -- even during the pandemic.