We know the agent channel isn’t disappearing from the insurance and financial services industry anytime soon. However, it’s not going to look the same way it did 10, five, even one year ago. That’s because consumer expectations are changing rapidly, due in large part to the multi-channel shopping experience made possible by mobile and social media and delivered by companies like Amazon.
“All those expectations consumers have are coming to the insurance space,” said Chip Bacciocco, CEO of TrustedChoice.com, during Denim Summit 2017. “Insurance customers have an expectation of interacting with an expert to buy insurance any time of the day or night. They want to know where their friends buy insurance from. They want to know the ratings and reviews of different agents. They want transparency in value.”
Here are three important things to keep in mind as you develop your multi-channel customer experience:
Customer service.For most consumers, shopping for insurance doesn’t start on the phone any more. People want to have a conversation with a person after they’ve done their own research about the products and services offered. They want to feel informed and empowered — and many of them will be. Be sure your customer service representatives are well-trained and given the authority to perform higher-level service for those consumers who have already exhausted all self-service channels. After all, the last thing a consumer who is used to having requests completed quickly and seamlessly wants is to be transferred to another representative. Bacciocco recommends observing what you’re doing today in terms of customer interaction. “The number one way to do it: Listen to your phone calls,” he said. “Record every inbound call. We record 10,000 inbound phone calls every single month through TrustedChoice.com.”
Consistency. It’s no surprise that in a digital, multi-channel world, your brand is being represented through multiple channels — agent, website, social media, call center and so on. It’s critical that consumers receive the same information and experience no matter what channel they’re engaging with. “What is the consistency of the products you’re offering? The price of those?” asked Denise Garth, senior vice president of strategic marketing for Majesco, during Denim Summit 2017. “If I go to different channels, and the price is different, you’ve lost credibility, you’ve lost trust and you’ve lost any aspect of having value.”
Buying vs. renewing. Agents still dominate new insurance policy sales with both consumers and small- to medium-size businesses. However, renewals tend to be less of a face-to-face process. “That is really, really critical because that’s when you’re going to lose them,” Garth said. “If you don’t have a digital channel to engage with them really well to renew that policy and provide that service, you probably will lose them.”
With 224 million smartphone users in the U.S. spending an average of two hours every day consuming social media, you have too much to lose to put the mobile and social media channels on the back burner. As you develop your multi-channel strategy throughout 2018 and beyond, be sure you are keeping in mind the customer service experience you’re delivering, its consistency across channels and the process for renewing policies in a digital way.
There’s a lot of talk about how artificial intelligence (AI) will lead to the displacement of vast numbers of agents and brokers in the insurance industry. The truth is, while AI will automate certain processes, it will ultimately enhance — rather than replace — humans in the marketing and distribution of insurance.
“Human advisers are going to continue playing an absolutely critical role,” said Farron Blanc, VP, Innovation Studio for RGAx, at Denim Summit 2017. “When you go fully digital, the conversion rates are probably about 1% from seeing an ad all the way through paying the first premium. As soon as we put in a call center, we’re seeing — depending on the segment — a 30% conversion rate.”
There’s no question both humans and technology will play a critical role in the future of insurance. But what are the benefits only a human can bring, and what are things humans can’t do without technology? Let’s take a look.
The Human Value
Below are a few things humans bring to the table that technology can’t do alone:
Trust.As Chip Bacciocco, CEO of TrustedChoice.com, pointed out during Denim Summit 2017, insurance is, at the end of the day, a social contract and requires trust. “The real point of buying insurance is that you can go to sleep at night feeling like you did the right thing, you’re taking care of your family,” he said. “If you aren’t 100% certain you clicked the right button on that screen, and that real people are really going to pay your claim someday, you never really get to sleep.”
Accountability. Along with trust, any type of business or social contract needs someone to hold accountable. “You need to know who to talk to when something goes wrong. You need to know who your advocate is,” Bacciocco said.
Expertise.Let’s be honest: Insurance is confusing. Often, customers and potential customers need to talk to another human being who can empathize with their concerns and truly get at the heart of their questions. Agents and advisers bring years of expertise to the table that can help customers make the right decisions and give them peace of mind.
Here are the types of benefits made possible only when technology is added to the equation:
New markets. Technology makes it possible to reach new market segments. For example, RGAx looked at the needs of Hispanic remitters and found that a $7 per month insurance policy would solve a pain point for them: protecting their loved ones with remittances for two years if something were to happen to them. “How do you get humans to sell $7 insurance to people who really need it?” Blanc asked. “Technology is this great democratic leveler that allows us to reach new forces.That’s why it’s disruptive. It allows us to reimagine the value chain and serve people in whatever way they want.”
Personalization. There is an unbelievable amount of data available on consumers, especially when it comes to their digital behaviors. Recently, Denim announced we have collected more than 1 billion data points on consumer engagement with mobile and social media ads powered for insurance and financial services companies. Technology allows us to activate data to deliver highly relevant offers and personalized experiences to consumers.
Multiple channels. Not all consumers want to engage with their insurance and financial services providers the same way. Some would prefer to do everything face-to-face or over the phone, while others would prefer to do everything online. Still others will start the process online but then need to talk to a person to complete the request. Technology makes it possible for consumers to engage with providers in the channel they prefer, any time of the day or night.