Tag Archives: chat

Touching Customers in the Insurtech Era

Customer Experience

This is a concept that has been and will continue to be written, talked and debated about for years.

In our currently connected society, it is imperative that all companies (not just in insurance) find better ways to interact and engage with their customers.

There are a few key points when those offering insurance (carriers, agents, brokers, etc.) interact with their prospective clients and policyholders:

  • Initial Interaction — What is it like when prospective clients first interact with you? How do they uncover their needs and go through suitability with the person/chatbot/online?
  • Purchasing — What is the purchase process like? How are forms filled in?
  • Policy Issuance — What is the policy issuance like? How is it ensured that the policy customers purchased and contract they just entered is fully understood?
  • Engagement — What sort of interactions does the company have in terms of engaging with policyholders while they are a client?
  • Reactive Customer Service — How are the interactions when the policyholder reaches out to the company for non-claims-related issues?
  • Claims Process — What is it like to file a claim with the company, and what is the engagement throughout the process of approving/rejecting the claim?

Having an easy way to communicate with customers at these various steps are crucial to creating a successful customer experience.

An ideal state would be one in which customers can choose the method in which they prefer to interact with their Insurance provider.

This week I cover:

  • Three different types of insurance customers
  • Different ways to communicate with insurance policyholders
  • A solution that incorporates many different tools for customer engagement

See also: How to Collaborate With Insurtechs  

Three types of insurance customers

Broadly speaking, there are three types of insurance consumers:

  1. Self-service — These are people who like to do it themselves. They do all the research themselves (through aggregators, customer reviews, etc.), prefer to purchase their policies online (either through an app or website) and love using AI-powered chatbots in their queries, claims handling and any other matter that comes up.
  2. Through someone — These are consumers who prefer to have someone alongside them when they make an insurance purchase or have any queries. They will likely use an agent, broker or financial adviser to help identify the best policy for them and fill in application forms, to call on with any queries/policy changes and to be the first to call when a claim comes up.
  3. Hybrid — This is where probably the majority of people fit these days. They may be OK to buy insurance online, but they like to have someone they can refer to for any questions that come up during the process. They may also be OK to file a claim or change policy details themselves and also like the option to do it “through someone” if they so choose.

I don’t see these three buckets changing for a long, long time (though the percentage of people who fall into each one may shift).

As such, it is important that insurance carriers know their current and future customers to build an experience that will best engage with them.

Different ways to communicate with policyholders

There are numerous ways that insurance carriers and agents can communicate with their prospects and policyholders.

The traditional ways are via:

  • Email
  • Phone – for purposes of this article, I will call this Voice 1.0, including calls between agents and customers as well as call centers (including interactive voice response (IVR))
  • Text – this has some challenges, especially between agents and customers due to the fact that they are not secure/non-trackable (something that companies like Eltropy solve for)
  • Post (i.e. snail mail)

The newer ways include:

  • Live Chat — Something that has been around for some time and that we are seeing provide very interesting progress for a variety of industries.
  • Video — For the same reasons as text, video was not as prominent due to the lack of security/auditability around it, but we have seen this starting to expand in banking as well as the insurance claims process, with companies like DropIn Inc.
  • Voice 2.0 — Think Alexa and Google Home. Coverager has done a summary of the insurance carriers that are currently offering Voice 2.0 solutions for their customers. Expect the functionalities and list of companies to grow as these tools become more popular.
  • Chatbots — This has to be one of the most common and overused terms within our industry over the past couple of years (I am also guilty of it!). Many carriers felt that they were at a massive disadvantage if they didn’t have one (even if they fully didn’t understand what it meant to have one!).

This article by Richard Smullen, CEO and founder of Pypestream, pours some cold water on the term “chatbot” and ends with something that also explains the feelings I had when writing this article: “If I had one wish for this industry, it would be that we get rid of the term ‘chatbot’ and instead call this user interface built around conversations a CI, or conversational interface.”

A solution that incorporates many different tools for customer engagement

A few weeks ago, I experienced a string of customer service failures. I won’t mention the companies they were with, but one was with an insurance company, one was with a big tech firm and the last was with a flower company (I had some delivery issues with some flowers that I ordered for my girlfriend).

These experiences, especially the one with the insurance company, had me thinking about what tools could have been in place to make the overall experience better.

Just days later, I was fortunate to meet the co-founders of SaleMoveDan Michaeliand Justin DiPietro.

They describe their solution as a digital-first, omnichannel platform and have built three solutions that can be used together or separately, depending on their client’s choosing (the platform is currently being used by many top-tier banks and insurance companies):

OmniCore — a complete omnichannel digital solution that offers live phone (voice 1.0), live chat and live video in the solution. For carriers and agencies looking to engage with their customers digitally, while having the power of a human behind it, this has it all.

OmniBrowse — a great solution for front-line agents and call center employees. This solution allows a co-browsing solution to enable employees to have context of what their customers are viewing. One thing that frustrated me so much with the customer services failures I had above was that the person I was speaking to in the call center (with the exception of the big tech company) could not see what my actual problem was. At a bare minimum, if your call center personnel do not have co-browsing capabilities for your online platforms (whether it be purchasing sites or customer web portals), you are living in the stone age.

OmniGuide — has incorporated AI into the solution, but not exactly in the way we see many chatbots out there today. This solution provides agents and call center personnel with AI-assisted responses to the customers they are chatting with, that they can accept, amend or discard. This solution rapidly increases the response time to consumers. If incorporated with OmniCore, it also gives the customer the ability to jump on a call with the human behind the chat in a matter of seconds.

See also: Where Will Unicorn of Insurtech Appear?  

SaleMove integrates onto a company’s website, through a single line of code, with no changes to the website required, and customers do not need to download or install anything on their end to be able to use the SaleMove platform. Video chatting or co-browsing with an agent is seamless.

Please see a demo of this in the video below. Please note that the video is simply a demo and that SaleMove Insurance Agency is not an actual insurance agency. Also, I’m not so naive about my property that this was my first experience in acting.

Summary

Michael Dell was once quoted as saying, “Our business is about technology, yes. But it’s also about operations and customer relationships.”

When I first started as a financial adviser in 2006, my boss came in to my office while seeing me on the phone making cold calls and said “Get out of the office…this business is built on belly-to-belly conversations with people, and, if you aren’t out there meeting people, you’re never going to get business.”

Both gentlemen are right. We are social creatures at heart, and my strong belief is that relationships are built on human-to-human interaction. This is why I currently and will always feel that an agent will be relevant in the years to come.

Technology helps to enable and enhance the relationship-building process, and a hybrid model (one that has technology tools to engage with customers and humans available when customers want it) will likely be the winning solution.

For organizations looking at upgrading/enhancing/introducing engagement solutions, they need to think about two things:

  1. What communication problem are we trying to fix?
  2. What is the preferred method for our customers (either policyholders or internal employees).

They should then build a solution based on the answers.

One of my fellow insurtech enthusiasts, Patrick Kelahan, keeps using a great line in many of his LinkedIn posts  It’s, “innovate from the customer backward.”

Instead of finding a cool, new, emerging technology and trying to implement it in hopes of being more innovative and engaging – figure out what your customers want and need and then find the solution that best fits.

Insurers Fail at Digital Experience

Despite the growth of digital channels, insurers seem to be stuck in an analog world, unable to respond accurately, quickly or consistently to customer queries asked via the web, email, Twitter, Facebook or chat, according to new research that we’ve done.

Insurers could only answer 28% of queries across digital channels, and 14% of companies failed to respond successfully on either email, social media or chat. While email was the strongest channel for answers, with a 37% success rate, the average time to receive a response was nearly two days (1 day 23 hours 38 minutes).

These are the top-line findings of the 2016 Eptica Insurance Multichannel Customer Experience Study, which evaluated 100 leading U.S. insurers, spread across 10 sectors, on their ability to provide answers to routine questions via email, the web, chat, Facebook and Twitter. Additionally, 1,000 consumers were polled on how long they were willing to wait for responses on these channels.

The study measured the ability of insurers to provide answers to 10 routine questions via the web, as well as their speed and accuracy when responding to email, Twitter, Facebook and chat. Questions were deliberately similar to those that consumers ask, such as around purchasing or administering policies online, discounts for multiple products and when cover would start.

Insurers provided answers to 30% of questions on their websites, 23% in response to Facebook messages and 12% to tweeted queries. There were big differences between particular sectors – pet insurers answered 57% of questions online, compared with 16% among long-term care providers. One dental insurer responded to an email in 13 minutes – yet another took more than 6 days to answer the same question.

The insurance industry is at a crossroads, with the rise of digital disrupting traditional ways of doing business. To succeed in this new world, insurers need to prioritize the digital customer experience, yet the Eptica study shows that they are struggling to adapt and move away from analog channels. Digital doesn’t just benefit consumers, but also drives greater efficiency and enables innovation – it is therefore time for insurers to learn from their peers in other industries and apply best practice to their operations to meet changing customer needs.

See also: Answer to a Better Customer Experience?  

The research found that insurers are out of step with consumer expectations. While more than half of consumers (57%) expect a response on Twitter within half an hour, just 26% of insurers met this deadline, with the majority of replies not answering the queries. 61% of consumers complained that they could not find information on company websites half the time they looked for it.

On social media, speed varied wildly. One long-term-care insurer successfully responded to a tweet in less than two minutes, while 13 companies answered on Facebook within within minutes. Yet at the other end of the spectrum, 20 insurers took more than six hours to respond on social media, with three taking a day or more. There was little consistency between different channels, showing that many are taking a silo-based approach to customer service that pushes up costs and slows service.

Additional key findings included:

  • 68% of responses on email, Twitter and Facebook asked the researcher to change channel and call, even for the most basic queries
  • 47% of insurers failed to provide consistent answers between different channels
  • Just one company replied on all four channels of email, Facebook, Twitter and chat
  • 17% of insurers claimed to offer chat, yet only 5% had it operational when they were evaluated
  • Nearly half (46%) of consumers said they’d spend just five minutes searching for information on a company website before giving up and going elsewhere
  • U.S. performance trails the U.K., where insurers answered 54% of all questions, 80% of those asked via email and 45% of those made via the web.

Eptica Insurance Multichannel Customer Experience Study methodology

In total, 100 company websites across 10 different insurance sectors were evaluated in September 2016:

  1. For their ability to answer 10 basic, sector-specific questions via their website, such as, Can I purchase my policy online, or, How can I cancel my policy?
  2. On the speed and accuracy of their response via the email, Twitter, Facebook and chat channels.
  3. On the consistency of responses across the web, email, Twitter, Facebook and chat.

Consumer research on channel expectations was conducted by Toluna with 1,000 American insurance buyers in September 2016.

See also: How to Redesign Customer Experience  

The full 2016 Eptica Insurance Multichannel Customer Experience Study, which includes a full listing of companies evaluated, a detailed sector by sector breakdown of performance and full analysis, can be downloaded from http://www.eptica.com/insurance-multichannel-customer-experience-study.

An infographic illustrating the results is available from:

PDF: http://www.eptica.com/infographic-insurance-multichannel-cx

JPG: http://www.eptica.com/infographic-2016-insurance-eptica-multichannel-cx