In today’s world, a brand’s ability to personalize the customer experience is more critical than ever, perhaps nowhere so much as in the insurance industry. When buyers are busy or stressed and products seem complicated — that’s when personalization comes to the rescue. It makes next steps clear and adds a human touch to each interaction.
Video takes this a step further. It simplifies the message, it’s engaging and, quite frankly, it’s more fun than reading endless paragraphs of legalese.
Gen Z has already discovered this. If you want to reach this newest cohort of consumers, it’s “video or vanish,” as Forbes notes. Video is by far their favorite form of media (twice as important as gaming, Google and music). But it’s not just Gen Z that likes watching video. Already, the medium accounts for over 80% of consumer internet traffic, according to Cisco.
The rise of both video and personalization has only accelerated during COVID-19 as consumers turn to digital tools to replace or enhance in-person interactions. The good news is that personalizing digital communications — including through video — for your insurance customers is easier than ever before.
For one, consumers are increasingly willing to share data. According to a recent global study by Accenture, 66% would share data on their habits to enable personalized services. Indeed, Accenture included personalization as one of its three pillars for the future of insurance.
Luckily, video has advanced in recent years and is no longer the one-size-fits-all medium of generations ago. It can be dynamic and data-driven, unique for every customer who watches it, even if you have millions of customers around the globe, speaking different languages and living vastly different lives.
The challenge, then, isn’t the technology or even getting the data. It’s how to personalize the customer journey in a way that supports loyalty and retention, and that means more than just adding a first name to an otherwise generic message. When do you reach out? What do you say? What gets results? Answers to all this and more below.
Upgrade Your Quote Follow-Ups
Typically, acquisition efforts are the most difficult to personalize. This is when you have the least data on your prospective customer.
But think about the quote request process. Here, you do have meaningful data about your future customer, so what do you do with it if they don’t convert? This is an important opportunity to remind them how you can help meet their needs and to do it in a way that’s memorable and personal. It’s good for the customer experience and your bottom line.
A quote follow-up video does exactly that. It greets people by name and explains their recommended coverage with easy-to-understand language and visuals. This kind of personalized video has increased policies sold by a whopping 40%. You can even add a clickable call-to-action directly in the video, making it easier for viewers to convert.
Tip: If you don’t have data on what potential customers are looking for, let them tell you. The latest video technology lets users input their requirements directly into the video to generate a personalized quote in real time.
Make a Good First Impression
Let’s talk about the onboarding process. Hello, paperwork.
Getting started with a new insurance carrier or plan can be confusing for many people. A personalized welcome starts the relationship off right and is a great way to introduce them to the details of their specific coverage. Here are some important things to include at this stage:
A personal welcome
An overview of coverage details
Steps to set up their online account
Here’s an example from SelectHealth that shows this in action.
And it works. We’ve seen lifts in customer satisfaction of 30% to 50% following personalized onboarding videos.
Take the Pressure Off Your Call Centers
In its road map to digital transformation, McKinsey identified customer service as one of the critical activities to tackle first. The right digital touch here can increase cost savings by 40% and lift ROI by five percentage points.
The key is letting customers self-serve in a way that’s seamless and boosts satisfaction. Enter personalized video. It can be a lifeline to a customer in crisis mode, especially when they’re going through the notoriously complicated claims process. (That’s the other area McKinsey labeled a top candidate for digital transformation).
A video personalized for the customer’s unique situation is human, relevant and cuts through complexity. By providing next steps in an accessible digital format, you’re letting customers get what they need right away, reducing calls to call centers by as much as 73%.
Tip: Try a personalized follow-up after someone contacts support. You can summarize the call and what the customer needs to do now in a personalized video that’s automatically generated and sent to the customer.
Remember — the secret to personalized customer care is being proactive.
Fortunately, there are many more opportunities to connect personally — yet digitally — with your customers. Offer related insurance products you know will benefit them. Get in touch to remind them of the value you bring, increasing retention for the long term. You might even reach out with a personalized GIF on your customer’s anniversary to let them know you haven’t forgotten the special day. Ultimately, the greater care you put into treating your customer as a valued individual, the greater the impact.
This strategy has certainly produced results for brands we’ve worked with, including over 20 of the world’s leading insurance companies. MetLife, for example, saw a 12-point NPS increase as a result of their policy renewal personalized video campaign. AXA reported an 8X increase in conversion rates and 20% churn reduction.
Brands can launch their data-driven video campaigns in a matter of days, doing it themselves with Idomoo’s self-serve platform or letting us handle the details. To see how other companies are leveraging dynamic video, check out some of our favorite personalized insurance campaigns.
When it comes to implementing new technology, the insurance industry is rarely considered an early adopter. However, insurance companies have been taking early strides, somewhat in a migratory manner, to adapt to technology advances to help better run operations, improve underwriting and risk management, enhance customer offerings and services and profitably grow the business. Taking into account this early progress, we look to 2020 and several trends in the industry that have begun to take shape and will accelerate this coming year:
From RPA to IPA
Whether stemming from insurance carrier frustration that basic robotic process automation (RPA) — bots mimicking human tasks — hasn’t produced savings relative to carrier aspirations, or from insurance carriers’ increased understanding of machine learning (ML) and artificial intelligence (AI) capabilities, the industry will see an increase in “intelligent” process automation (IPA) that is more robust and combines the bot with learning, evaluative and decision-making capabilities for greater impact. This shift will be driven by carriers looking for higher business returns by solving a wider range of problems in the manual activity value chain with automation.
From Point Solutions to Digital Ecosystems
While today’s “exploration era” in insurance — characterized by new technology proofs of concept, use of point-solution providers and insurtech accelerators — has generated some progress and buzz, it comes with a down side. Single-solution or shiny software objects that address an individual problem or portion of the business will soon become too confusing and difficult to manage, actually creating a gridlock in carrier movement to true transformation. The fact is that no single solution can bring about transformation on its own and will instead require a sum-of-the-parts approach managed in a smart ecosystem. Similar to a conductor’s role in astutely incorporating the needed instrument — which in and of itself can only perform one thing, as a trumpet can only make trumpet noises — so too will orchestrated digital ecosystems begin to take priority as carriers look at enterprise platform solutions versus traditional bolt-on approaches.
As an anonymous poet once said, “It is a great day when one discovers the beauty that lies within oneself.” So, too, will carriers be focused on unlocking the value of their own information that has accumulated over time. The focus on data infrastructure, lakes and warehouses now takes aim at using the very data that has been collected or can be mined — particularly the plethora of historical in-house data that has been generated by the carrier itself in the execution of risk evaluation, providing coverage, taking losses, servicing inquiries, etc. Content management systems and capabilities will start to transform into intelligent management systems with outputs infused into future-facing decisions and actions. Using AI and content mining capabilities to convert traditional in-house “flat” files — policy, risk and loss reports, correspondence, etc. – into usable insight, combined with the continued use of outside data and emerging sources (such as the Internet of Things), will enable carriers to take a significant step in becoming analytics-driven businesses.
From Digital Customer Experience to Digital Risk Management
While the term “digital” is used — and even overused — in a variety of contexts, many would agree that the digital movement was and is centered on digitizing the customer experience. Making things easy for the customer, creating experiences that will keep them coming back, and identifying customer service as a top priority are all common objectives in insurance, and a great deal of digital emphasis is placed on these initiatives. However, the heartbeat of an insurance company is effective risk management — and quite often, the most reluctant to join the digital parade are chief underwriting officers (CUOs), not because they’re grumpy progress-stompers, but because they want to ensure that good risks are put on the books and that underwriting disciplines and philosophies are upheld. Not enough digital ambitions have been focused on the CUO world, and that is where digital convincing needs to occur to bring them on board and excite them about digital. As a result, while digital customer experience will remain a priority, emphasis will broaden toward using digital technologies — be it AI, data analytics or risk assessment technologies — for a better underwriting result. Digitizing phases of the underwriting process to optimize underwriting time capacities and drive consistency of risk assessment and decision-making will be more in focus, adjacent to making customers happy.
From Call Centers to Intelligent Customer Interaction Centers
Customer servicing enabled by natural language processing, AI and voice assistants, such as Alexa or Siri, will become more common. This customer call automation, combined with web and email channel automation technology, will move carriers toward omnichannel customer interaction management that is driven by technology engines. This shift will be driven by carriers looking for efficiencies in workforce management, faster customer issue resolution and tracking of customer interaction data to improve products and services.
Given these other trends, carriers will be looking more to an outside perspective —outside of the insurance industry, outside of traditional insurance approaches and outside of traditional insurance vendors and suppliers. Insurance companies move as somewhat a pod, and, historically, the benchmarks of what constitutes progress and advancement has been focused on others in the pod. Over the next year, we’ll see a shift toward the new benchmark, which is now the broader world, other industries and the digital economy being built outside of insurance. This is the economy customers of insurance carriers are experiencing in their worlds — whether they are individual or commercial buyers of insurance — and their expectation of what insurance should be or should look like is shaped by these outside forces. As a result, insurance carriers will need to rely more and more on partners in 2020 who may not be traditional vendor insiders, but outsiders who have helped create digital ecosystems in other industries and enabled digitally born companies.
I started my career in insurance at the same place where most of our millennials are starting theirs, in the call center. In my case, it was a Farm Bureau claims call center in the beautiful suburban campus in West Des Moines, Iowa. I didn’t know it at the time, but I got really lucky. That call center was very well run by enlightened leaders who realized they were training the future leaders of the company.
As early as the interview, managers told me that this call center was different. They understood that most of the new talent coming into the company would start in this department, and they had been instructed to engage and train those young professionals, so they would grow into productive employees not only during but after their time in the call center.
They said they wanted me to spend two to three years in the call center, while learning as much as possible about the company and the insurance industry in general. After that, I’d be expected to start applying for positions beyond the phones. The department also required each individual to obtain the Associate in General Insurance (AINS) and the Associate in Claims (AIC) within the first two years. Failure to comply with the educational requirement could lead to termination.
The way the call center functioned on a day-by-day basis was also quite engaging. Reps were trained well and supported in their efforts to grow their career (even when it meant time away from the phones for a class). The call center answered all first notice of loss calls for both personal and commercial lines claims, so it was not overly specialized; there was lots of variety on the day-to-day work. You’d get to keep the simple claims and work them to completion, acting as real claims adjusters. This resulted in great customer service, as roughly 40% of all calls would be answered by the person ultimately handling the claim. The approach also resulted in lots of employee growth.
Even the way that managers measured performance was not bad at all for a call center. While they did measure the amount of time you spent on “After Call Work” and “Unavailable,” it wasn’t the main thing they cared about. To the best of my knowledge, they didn’t measure the dreaded “Time on Call” that most call centers use as their main measure of productivity. The main thing that counted in this particular call center was the number of new claims you took and the percentage of those that you kept.
At the end of every week, management would send out a list of the top 10 reps who answered the most calls and kept the highest of those calls. I was almost always in the top two for both categories, and enjoyed the friendly competition. Because the list only included the top 10, not the bottom ones, people weren’t offended by it; it was a very positive thing. Management also included in the weekly newsletter a congratulatory mention of everyone who had passed an insurance designation test.
While at times the call center could get hectic, the overall environment was very supportive of employee growth, and nobody seemed to hate the job. Eight years later, most of the people I worked with in that call center are still in insurance, and none of them are still call center workers. Many stayed in claims. Many are still in the same company. That’s a successful insurance call center in our book! It was such a great place that I was sad to leave when I got an offer for a better claims position at Nationwide, which ended my call center days.
Sadly, I would find out as I met many other young insurance professionals that great insurance call centers that focus on developing their people are rare. Most are simply awful places to work, and, while nobody seems to be keeping statistics publicly, we have found 20 horror stories for every positive one.
There are many conferences about insurance, and none seem to be talking about our call centers. The CPCU Society Annual Meeting and Leadership Summit has not had a single session about call centers in at least the six years I have been involved. It’s almost as if those call centers didn’t exist! Or, more likely, the leadership just doesn’t view them as really being insurance.
It’s like the call centers are the black sheep of the insurance family that nobody wants to talk about!
A huge portion of young insurance professionals in the 2010s started their insurance careers in a call center type environment. Most of them already had college degrees (and the associated student loans). Like previous generations, they fell into insurance by accident, but, unlike previous generations, they won’t stay out of loyalty or out of having found great careers. If we do our job right and engage them in the industry, they’ll grow. If we don’t, they’ll leave the industry, and we’ll continue having a huge talent gap.
We’re not saying that we should close all the call centers and go back to doing business exclusively in the old-fashioned way. We understand that our expense ratio will not allow us to do that in the age of price transparency and incredible competition for every insurance customer. What we are saying is that we need to realize that, in many cases, the call center is our only touch-point with the customer, and we should be making them love their time with us. Maybe even more importantly, the call centers are our new entry level point for new talent, and given the talent crisis, our bad reputation with younger generations, and the high expense of replacing any employee, we need that talent to grow with us.
Based on the horror stories we’ve collected from conversations with fellow young insurance pros who survived some time in the call center and lived to tell the tale, here’s what many (but not all) of the insurance call centers are like to work in:
You have to be logged in to the phones every minute you are in the office and are not allowed to even be in the office outside of your work hours. There are rows after rows of grey cubicles, packed with unhappy 25-year-olds with their college degrees hanging precariously from the cubicle wall and the headset making a semi-permanent mark in their ear.
Engagement is so low that it could better be measured in level of desperation. Turnover is high, with the great majority leaving not only the company but the industry and swearing they’ll never work in insurance again. The reps who haven’t quite given up on the industry yet are applying desperately to any open entry-level position that’s not a call center. It doesn’t matter if it’s claims, underwriting, processing or subrogation. Anything will do just to get off the phones! There’s so many applying for the same jobs with essentially the same resume, college degree and one to two years of insurance call center experience, that’s it’s very hard to differentiate among them, so hiring managers mostly just reject them without an interview. Some have been told directly that “we don’t hire from the call center.”
They are measured on 50-plus different characteristics, so many that it’s impossible to actually focus on improving. Who can control that many different minor factors during each phone call? The most important measures tend to be Time-on-Call and Availability. The first one measures the length of the average call, with the goal of keeping it as low as possible, and the second one measures the percentage of the time they’re available to take calls. In some extreme cases, even mandatory team meetings count against you the same as time spent in the restroom counts against you.
Performance evaluations are focused 100% on metrics and very little on your own growth or what you need to do to get out of the call center. Most of the supervisors are former call center reps themselves who only know the call center life. They often don’t know anything else about the company or the industry and can’t serve as good mentors even if they wanted to.
Professional development is encouraged by the company, but development time allowed by the department is very limited or completely non-existent, leaving it to the employee to do all growth activities outside work hours. A case could be made that a motivated employee can grow by investing his own free time into activities like insurance designations, Toastmasters and networking, but most have no previous insurance experience and no advice on what they should be spending their time doing to grow with the company. The only thing they know is that they don’t want to be on the phones, and they don’t want to become call center supervisors either.
We have even heard stories of call center employees being denied support in getting their basic insurance designations because they’re not required for the call center job the employees are doing. Some are denied even the ability to participate in activities such as Toastmasters or a young professional group because those meetings are in the office, and Human Resources doesn’t want employees to be in the office outside of work hours.
There are better ways to run a call center. Not only should others learn from the example of the Farm Bureau Financial Service center where I worked, but there’s even more that we can learn from the best-run call centers outside the industry.
Look at Zappos, which was founded on the crazy idea of selling shoes online. Think about that one: Shoes are the kind of thing that absolutely has to be tried in person, and, when you go shoe shopping, chances are you try multiple shoes before you find a pair that fits just right. Zappos succeeded selling shoes online by doing two things differently: The company will ship you as many shoes as you want, and then you can try them and keep the ones you want, returning the rest. Zappos will cover the shipping both ways.
The second thing Zappos does is provide amazing customer service. To provide that service, Zappos runs large call centers staffed by very happy employees. How does it keep call center employees happy? By doing things diametrically differently from most other call centers (including insurance call centers).
The hiring process consists of several interviews, mostly looking for personality fit. The HR rep conducting the first interview tries to simply figure out if this is a person he would want to work next to for 40 hours a week. Skills are much less important — skills can be taught. During the hiring process, Zappos makes it very clear that the great majority of positions are at the call center, and, if you take the job, you’ll be answering the phones for a long time.
Every new employee, regardless of position, must go through the call center training. You can be hired for a vice president role and on day one you get to go to your new office to set your stuff down, and then you come back down to train for the call center with everybody else. After finishing training, everyone gets to work the call center for a couple of weeks before going on to the job they were hired for. This guarantees that all the leadership knows what the call center is like. Currently, in insurance, there are very few, if any, senior executives who came from the call center, partially because those call centers didn’t exist or were much smaller when those executives were starting their careers.
After their first couple of weeks on the phone full time, all new Zappos employees get called into a huddle room with their manager. The conversation includes giving the employee real feedback about her performance in the call center. Then the manager reminds the employee that most jobs at Zappos are at the call center level and that it’s hard to move to a different area. Finally, the manager says something like “Charlie, I’ve got a check in your name for $2,000. I want to pay you to quit. If you don’t love the job, take the money, and we can part ways, no hard feelings.” Zappos does such a good job in hiring, orientation and training that only 2% of people take the offer.
The way Zappos measures performance is very different from others, too. It doesn’t measure Time-on-Call at all. All Zappos cares about is making the customer happy. That may mean ordering a pizza for a customer who is traveling and doesn’t know where to get a pizza or chatting for seven hours with a customer about which shoes to buy for her prom.
Zappos understands that happy employees lead to happy customers, and that, in a world where your only interaction with the customer is when she visits your website or calls your call center, a call is a huge opportunity to connect with the customer. Zappos understands that a call center is NOT a cost center; it’s a key touch-point with our customer. What could be more important than that?
The insurance industry has a lot to learn from Zappos. As millennials become a bigger and bigger part of our customer base, and they are not fans of visiting an agent’s office, the call center becomes our touch-point with the 95% of our customers who didn’t have a claim in any given year. Also, if the majority of your new employees are starting at the call center level, it’s our only chance to get them to fall in love with the industry and to convince them to make a career here.
For more about the Zappos way, I highly recommend the book Delivering Happiness by Tony Hsieh, the CEO of Zappos. This amazing book will give you a great intro to how Zappos runs its business, especially its call centers. The company also provides guided tours of its offices in Las Vegas. The company provides training and consulting for other companies through its consulting arm Zappos Insights. You can learn more here.
We are strong believers that the first large carrier to figure out how to turn its call centers into talent mines will have a major competitive advantage in the talent wars. Combine that with student loan aid and maybe with opportunities to take sabbaticals every few years, and you’ll create an unmatched employee experience that millennials will not want to leave.
New platforms are emerging that change how consumers seek service and engage with brands. In doing so, these platforms are disrupting the traditional call center model. Today’s call centers range from the ancient and decrepit to the ultra-modern and technologically streamlined. Despite the differences in capability, though, they still rely on the telephone to call and connect with customers. As we shift into the messaging era, this is going to change.
The maturing millennial generation is sparking a mobile messaging revolution across all age groups. Text-based communication is fast becoming the most-preferred communication method. And to attract, engage, acquire and retain customers in the text-based era, businesses need a customer communication strategy that incorporates mobile messaging.
Executives are facing three key challenges:
Offering a mobile-native, text-based customer service solution to keep up with changing communication preferences of consumers.
Satisfying the demand for always-on, 24-7 responsive service.
Maintaining cost-efficiency in the call center.
A solution comes in the form of new technology: chatbots and intelligent automation.
Chatbots allow businesses to automate the 80% of general inquiries that are repetitive. This leads to a smaller volume of inquiries requiring live assistance from agents and reduces operational costs while maintaining — or even improving — customer satisfaction ratings. It’s this combination of chatbots and human agents that can usher businesses into the messaging era while reinventing the call center model.
The Current State of Customer Service
Every business strives to provide exceptional experiences that increase customer satisfaction and raise their Net Promoter Scores (NPS). The reality, however, is that executing an effective customer communication strategy is challenging. Often, exceptional customer service is limited by the capabilities of traditional service channels: email, social media and call centers.
By 2020, customer experience will have a such a significant impact on business success that it’s expected to play a bigger role in competitive differentiation than price and even product quality. Customer experience and NPS are fast becoming the new business battlegrounds. Providing experiences that meet or exceed the ever-increasing demands of customers could be the difference between success and failure.
Call center performance has a significant impact on a company’s NPS and customer satisfaction ratings. Given the direct and personal connection a call center enables between a business and its customers, the overall experience of the interaction can have a major influence on how that person perceives a brand on the 1-10 Net Promoter Score scale.
And while call centers work positively by enabling direct connections between businesses and consumers, there are endemic problems for both sides. Businesses are faced with high operating costs and are vulnerable to changing communication trends. Meanwhile, consumers often have to deal with long hold times, outdated Interactive Voice Response (IVR) systems, inter-departmental transfers and inefficient service.
As new technology such as chatbots and intelligent automation emerges, any business that relies on strong customer service can benefit from innovation.
There is a significant opportunity to gain competitive advantage and lead the market by developing call centers that are not only technologically advanced, but also resolve issues with far greater customer satisfaction.
The ideal result is customer service that improves the relationship with customers while maintaining cost efficiency for the business.
What follows is an outline of the current state of customer service in today’s fast-moving, on-demand and customer-driven world. We also detail how the call center can be reinvented through mobile messaging and intelligent automation to deliver a win-win solution for both businesses and customers.
Connected and Demanding: Generation Z, Millennials, Gen X and Baby Boomers
There is a reason why there is so much buzz around millennials: Their generation is one of the largest in U.S. history, and they are maturing into their prime spending years.
Starting in 2017, they will have the purchasing power of more than $200 billion annually. The opportunity for businesses to drive revenue and gain market share with this generation is unprecedented.
The driving force for new technology and communication trends
Millennials are driving mobile and instant messaging adoption. Because they have grown up with technology and information at their fingertips, millennials are highly connected and expect 24/7, on-demand access to the businesses and brands in their lives.
Gen X, baby boomers
In addition, the millennial obsession with mobile messaging is influencing older age groups, with text-based customer service now an increasingly popular choice for generation X and baby boomers.
Millennials have also set the precedent for generation Z. Mobile messaging use is even higher among the first true digital natives; they place even more emphasis on personalization and relevance when interacting with companies.
The Challenge of Delivering What People Want
The adoption of mobile messaging as the preferred communication channel is forcing companies to change how they approach customer service. Today’s call centers no longer meet customer expectations. From long wait times to frequent departmental transfers and ineffective IVR systems, customer service can be a frustrating experience for consumers.
Now, in 2016, with the proliferation of new technology and 24-7, on-demand services, the shortcomings of customer-contact centers are even more apparent.
The competition is fierce, and customers have no forgiveness for poor service. A sub-par experience can destroy a consumer’s relationship with a business.
Key Business Challenges Affecting Call Centers and Customer Loyalty
The shortcomings of the current call center model and its inability to effectively meet the needs of today’s customer also represent a significant opportunity for businesses. There has never been a more appropriate time to dissect the call center and explore new ways to increase its effectiveness.
Executives and business owners need to address the following three business challenges to ensure the future success of their contact centers:
Offering a mobile-native, text-based customer service solution to keep up with the changing communication preferences of consumers.
Satisfying the demand for always-on, 24-7 responsive service.
Maintaining cost-efficiency in call centers.
Each of these areas needs to be explored to maintain, or even improve, customer loyalty and Net Promoter Scores.
Challenge 1: Offering a mobile-native, text-based customer service solution
One of the drawbacks of telephonic customer service is the limit imposed by the phone on call center agents; they can only answer one customer inquiry per call. This limit drives costs up. In comparison, using mobile and web-based chat, agents can effectively manage as many as five inquiries simultaneously. This significantly reduces operational costs while providing a better experience for customers.
Fortunately, thanks to mobile messaging’s rapid rise in popularity, it’s now easier than ever to incorporate mobile chat into an existing customer communication strategy to better engage consumers. Mobile messaging is the modern vehicle for businesses to deliver great customer service at significantly lower costs. The result is a better customer experience that drives loyalty while improving the bottom line.
Using an intuitive interface familiar to more than two billion people, businesses can effectively engage with customers and fans using simple decision trees for fast and convenient issue resolution.
Benefits of mobile messaging solutions:
On-demand customer service that allows consumers to get the information they need, when they need it, without having to look for it.
Faster issue resolution thanks to an agent’s ability to manage more inquiries simultaneously.
Reduced, or potentially eliminated, hold times.
Real-time conversational connections with customers.
Improved customer experience with greater omni-channel service capability.
Secure identity authentication and user verification.
Challenge 2: Satisfying the demand for always-on, 24-7 responsive service
The role of automation, bots and artificial intelligence in customer communication has become an increasingly popular topic. And as the technology continues to develop, more businesses are starting to realize the benefits of automated customer service and how it can drive customer service ratings higher.
Chatbots are virtual agents that operate through natural language processing, meaning they are able to absorb, identify and react to a number of different queries. These sophisticated programs and targeted automated strategies provide an efficient solution to handle the high-volume, repetitive inquiries that overwhelm call centers. Businesses are then freed to devote more time and resources to customers who need one-to-one conversations. They can deliver a far better customer service experience at a far lower cost.
As with any emerging technologies, automation and chatbots need to be approached with tact. Currently, the best strategies use both human agents and chatbots. Businesses can test bot technology and assess what’s right for them without drastically affecting customer satisfaction.
A good starting point is a website’s frequently asked questions. Today, people are more inclined to seek information themselves than engage with a human agent. Using chatbots to automate FAQs is a cost-efficient test that can form the foundation for larger automation plans as the technology develops.
Chatbots can be used as the front-line customer service interface to answer the majority of repetitive inquiries. This combination helps businesses improve efficiencies without compromising customer satisfaction ratings.
Challenge 3: Maintaining call center cost efficiency
Businesses can improve customer communication and drive customer satisfaction ratings by following a simple five-step process to automation:
1. Opportunity Analysis
Review customer service data
Examine IVRs and CSR scripts
Conduct Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities and Threats (SWOT) analysis
Identify all opportunities for automation
2. Chatbot Design
Sketch blueprints including flow designs for all areas
Identify integrations needed to enable bots
3. Engineering and Integrations
Receive blueprint approval
Develop bots for intuitive user experience.
4. User-Acceptance Testing
Demo bots in test environment
Adjust as necessary
5. Activation and Optimization
Conduct marketing efforts for Phase I onboarding
Track usage analytics and fine-tune
Benchmark performance against key performance indicators.
With this approach, businesses are able to automate as much as 80% of low-level, repetitive inquiries, saving call center agents for the complex and uncommon issues that require the nuanced knowledge of a live agent. This results in faster issue resolution and more efficient service.
Chatbots: An Emerging Technology
Other technologies may help improve call centers incrementally, but chatbots offer the best, most revolutionary opportunity to scale their capacity and ensure future success. If archaic call center models can’t innovate and keep up with changing consumer trends, they’ll fast become obsolete.
As with any emerging technology, chatbots are still experiencing growing pains. They’re not perfect; key development issues must be overcome to improve the flow of conversation. Increased investment in chatbots and NLP will help the technology mature fast. And as it does, chatbots will increase in capability and become more common, providing new opportunities for businesses across all industries.
These days, consumers have the control — they’re empowered by new technology and spoiled for choice. There are new rules of engagement for businesses and providers in every sector. We can no longer live inside the safety of our own industry verticals, comparing ourselves with those we think of as the competition. All companies now live on a horizontal where customers compare us with their last best or worst experience. It’s no surprise, then, that businesses are scrambling to produce new products and provide new services to meet the demands of today’s consumer.
The sleek interfaces and one-click payment processing available in products and services in the banking and retail industries have left an indelible mark. People now expect that same user experience elsewhere. Unfortunately, the insurance industry is still playing catch-up with the demand.
Consumers today expect intuitive technology that knows and remembers them from one interaction to the next. Many companies are adding features without improving the core experience for their customers. For the record, automating a broken or deficient process does not constitute an improvement. Instead, we must thoughtfully and deliberately design an end-to-end architecture that is easy, effective and memorable for the customer yet is consistent and scalable for the business.
With that in mind, let’s analyze the basic elements of the customer experience where insurance companies can improve:
1. Communication flow: In any large enterprise, the communication flow is always going to be both an internal and external issue. The more departments and business units a company features, the harder it is for customers to get the information they need in a timely fashion. That’s why we’re starting to see so much interest from insurance companies in new transactional communications platforms. At Pypestream, it’s a problem we’re trying to solve using a secure, chatbot-powered mobile messaging platform.
The customer experience has to be is about breaking down the barriers to information, streamlining the communication flow and getting a resolution. With everything available at the swipe of a finger or at the end of a text message, people don’t want to have to navigate from department to department, through various channels. Companies need to focus on bridging the silos that exist. Communication should be easy and free-flowing — almost as if you’re interacting with a friend.
2. Access to customer service: Customer service can be a competitive differentiator for companies — for better or for worse. Some do a fantastic job of providing experiences that people love, while others are seriously lacking. A lot of this has to do with the processes and technology in place. For example, there are many repetitive customer issues that only require scripted responses and simply don’t need live agents. Instead, these routine issues flood the call queues and slow the process for everyone.
The solution here is using conversational chatbots to provide a front layer of support, managing the majority of repetitive inquiries while saving the live agents for more complex and higher-touch issues. The best thing is, this technology exists and is becoming increasingly popular. There are tens of thousands of chatbots out there across various messaging channels, and businesses are exploring new chatbot use cases every day.
3. Simplified processes: There are few people I know who actually enjoy processing an insurance claim or dealing with call centers to check on the status of a claim. The process is broken and frustrating. To fix this annoyance, a mobile-first approach is paramount.
Consumers are gravitating toward mobile messaging to communicate in a 1:1 format with brands and businesses because they want service to be personal. In addition, they want to be understood — without having to repeat themselves over and over or follow an antiquated process that takes precious time out of their day. With all the capability that smartphones offer today, there’s no reason why processing insurance claims can’t be simplified to improve the customer experience.
4. Reinventing the call center: In the financial sector, the insurance industry is the most heavily reliant on call centers as the primary mode of customer interaction, with 78% of insurance industry clients contacting their company via a call-center. This comes as little surprise; there are no other options available for people to chat and transact directly with customer service. This distinct lag in the insurance industry reflects a broader reluctance to adopt new technologies. Some of the hesitancy can be attributed to traditional biases that anchor thinking and affect behavior in incumbents. Insurers have also been underserved by technology solutions that address their regulatory constraints.
If we consider how quickly people are flocking to messaging (it’s the most used data service in the world, with more than 6 billion messages sent every day), maybe it’s time the call centers undergo a revamp. Americans alone message twice as much as they call, according to Nielsen, and messaging is fast becoming the most preferred communication method. With this in mind, it only makes sense to incorporate a text-based channel to contact centers and customer service outlets.
It’s always easy to prescribe improvements for industries from afar, and I understand if some readers approach this article with an easier-said-than-done attitude. But, in reality, decision makers know where the industry is lacking. These gaps are opportunities to deepen customer engagement and loyalty.
The solutions are simple when you consider what everyday customers are seeking from their providers. Now it’s about dedicating the relevant resources and time to ensuring the innovation happens so the industry can catch up to the innovators in other industries and future market disrupters.