Tag Archives: customer experience

3 Ways to Improve Customer Experience

Most people buy single insurance products, mainly auto. For them insurance is a set-it-up-and-forget-about-it problem. They want to spend as little time as possible thinking about their car insurance. In fact, 90% of insurers worldwide can go a full year without communicating with customers.  

The story changes a bit as customers get older. They get married and maybe buy another car. They buy a house and need homeowners insurance. Maybe they have children and start to think more seriously about life insurance and disability. People in the second half of their lives spend a lot more time considering insurance.

A first-time insurance buyer’s experience might be radically different from that in other industries like e-commerce, where the majority of customers make at least three visits to a site before purchasing. But, given how valuable a life-long customer is to an insurance company, getting the first-time experience right for the customer could make a difference of tens of thousands of dollars over their lifespan.

Although customers interact with insurance companies much less than with their favorite retail brands, customers still expect the same high standard of experience across the board.

You may only get one chance to talk to your customers, and it’s likely they need something, and fast. No one is casually browsing GEICO or Allstate to waste time at work. It is critical that the information put in front of the consumer is relevant, contextual and useful. A personal experience can make all the difference here.

See also: Bold Prediction on Customer Experience  

Use these three tips to make sure you’re prepared with answers when customers open the app, call the support center or search the site. 

Ditch the Jargon

What do you call that one form? With the numbers? Something about claims?

Your customers aren’t insurance experts. Making search too literal can make it difficult for customers to find what they’re looking for. Track how customers are articulating their needs in the search bar and reflect that language in your search results to save them time. And to save your customer support center from a frustrated phone call. 

Know When to Sell and When to Service

A customer who just purchased a hefty renter’s insurance policy, bundled with auto and life, is probably not trying to purchase that bundle again. If the person comes to the site and searches, he’s probably looking for help or for policy records. Search results should reflect each customer’s unique journey and provide an FAQ or links to access the account, not the best deal for new customers. Use a recommendation engine and apply machine learning in the form of personalized offers to put new and relevant information in front of existing customers.

Don’t Put All Your Eggs in the Chatbot Basket

AI-powered virtual assistants are a great way to help customers help themselves. But beware: Bots are still learning. Forrester cites USAA as a great example of combining the power of a virtual agent with the option for speaking with someone. “Customers can still reach a human associate when the virtual assistant does not understand the question, avoiding dead ends that lead customers to abandon their sessions in the app.” (Forrester Research, Inc., Simplify Insurance Customer Journeys by Improving Search, 2019).

See also: 8 Key Changes for Customer Experience  

As an insurance company, you only have a few chances to delight customers. Be sure the digital experience across mobile and online channels leads them to the products, documents and support they need.

Bold Prediction on Customer Experience

If there’s one thing management gurus like to do early in a year, it’s make predictions – and customer experience (CX) experts are no different.

But business predictions are like weather forecasts. Everybody consumes them, but rarely does anybody look back to check their accuracy.

Back in 2014, for example, 89% of companies surveyed predicted that – within two years – they’d be competing mostly on the basis of customer experience (Gartner). Yet, here we are five years after that prediction, and there’s widespread stagnation in customer experience quality (Forrester Research). Overall U.S. customer satisfaction is at the same level it was a decade ago (American Customer Satisfaction Index).

In study after study, companies say they’re going to increase their focus on customer experience. At the same time, CX gurus issue rosy annual prognostications about how that enhanced focus will manifest itself – such as in these examples, culled from prediction lists over the past couple years:

  • Companies will create more customer-centric cultures, using new recognition systems and training programs.
  • Companies will use technology to digitally transform the customer experience.
  • Companies will go the extra mile by empowering their employees to surprise and delight.
  • Companies will use robotic process automation to speed customer transactions.
  • Companies will leverage AI to automate customer interactions without making them feel mechanical.
  • Companies will break down silos and align customer experience strategies across functional domains.
  • Companies will use predictive analytics to create more personalized customer experience.
  • Companies will overhaul their voice-of-the-customer programs, relying more on text analytics of unstructured content, such as survey comments, call center recordings, social media conversations and online chat sessions.

However, despite all the expert predictions, despite all the pledges to focus on CX, the needle has not moved much for many companies. The disparity can’t just be attributed to heightened customer expectations, as even objective measures of CX maturity indicate that the vast majority of organizations lag in this regard (so much for that increased focus).

The problem is that many companies pay lip service to customer experience, pursuing it to create good annual report copy, rather than to drive fundamental changes in how they do business. When push comes to shove, CX initiatives are often subordinated to other priorities and starved for funding, according to the Qualtrics “State of Customer Experience Management” report.

That’s an unfortunate outcome, given the compelling evidence available that illustrates the ROI of a great customer experience (as well as the penalties exacted for a poor one). 

See also: The Best Boost to Customer Experience  

This is the reality in today’s business world, though, which is why there’s one bold customer experience prediction that actually has a high probability of coming true this year. That prediction is simply this: Not much will change.

Most organizations will lumber along, spinning their wheels on customer experience, discussing it endlessly, executing on minor improvements that amount to corporate window dressing, just so someone can “check the box” on their next performance review.

Most organizations will continue their navel-gazing, focusing inward on structural changes, role shifts, political infighting and inter-silo strife.

Most organizations will lose whatever little momentum they may have gained around customer experience improvement, as top executives with “Organizational Attention Deficit Disorder” spot some shiny new object that becomes the next initiative du jour.

Granted, this is quite a pessimistic outlook. But the fact is, most organizations are unremarkable, and are destined to stay that way. That’s precisely why, when a company actually does break from the pack and deliver a differentiated customer experience, it turns heads.

So, rather than obsess over what everyone else will be doing (or what the CX gurus say everyone else will be doing), focus instead on what your company can do to avoid the fate of mediocrity.

See also: How Fine Print Ruins Customer Experience  

Think about how to send a clear, unmistakable signal to the marketplace — and your workplace — that something fundamental is changing. 

A signal that you’re no longer going to do it “like we’ve always done.” 

A signal that you’re disrupting the status quo in your industry. 

A signal that you’re liberating customers from long-simmering frustrations.

A signal that you’re dispensing with the typical CX platitudes, in favor of very tangible and compelling changes that will make a difference in the lives of your customers and the employees who serve them.

It’s disheartening to say that little will change in the state of most companies’ customer experiences next year. It’s not a fait accompli, though.  If you don’t want your company to be among those validating this bold prediction, well then…  go do something bold!

You can find this article originally published here on Forbes.

5 Words That Will Undermine a CX Plan

More and more companies are seeking to differentiate themselves with an effective customer experience strategy. To advance those efforts, some firms hire highly skilled “chief customer officers” or engage expert consultants for assistance.

But there’s also a fair share of firms that choose to go it alone, proudly proclaiming that “we know what we’re doing.”

Those five words, though, could undermine the effectiveness of those firms’ customer experience (CX) improvement strategies. Why? Because there’s more to customer experience strategy than meets the eye.

It’s easy for most anyone to think they’re a customer experience expert. After all, each of us is a consumer ourselves. We know what it takes to make a customer happy – keep promises, abide by the golden rule, serve with a smile, etc.  It’s not rocket science, right?

Well, maybe not rocket science, but definitely science.

See also: Why Isn’t Customer Experience Better?  

The fact is, there’s a whole science to shaping great customer experiences and, contrary to what many business people think, it’s not all common sense. To help illustrate that – to underscore how “we know what we’re doing” could be a dangerously overconfident viewpoint – below are a few examples of customer experience strategy considerations that may surprise you:

  • What’s most important isn’t shaping customer experiences, it’s shaping customer memories. For a business to derive strategic advantage from its customer experience, people need to remember it positively. When a friend or colleague asks you – “what do you think of [Company/Product X]?” – your response is grounded in your recollection of the experience, which is actually different than the experience itself. It’s for this reason that the best CX strategies capitalize on cognitive science to shape customers’ memories more positively, thereby elevating people’s impression of the overall experience.
  • Fixing customer pain points won’t get you where you want to be. Business leaders are, by and large, fixers. They are trained early on, and subsequently coached and encouraged, to find problems and fix them. Fixing problems is a good skill to have, and many a career has been built on such aptitude. It’s also a valuable skill when managing the customer experience – after all, a customer experience with fewer pain points is a better customer experience, right? Yes, but there is a catch. Merely fixing pain points may help achieve competitive parity, but it doesn’t necessarily deliver competitive differentiation. It doesn’t make your customer experience memorable. Achieving that often requires more than just fixing existing customer touchpoints; it requires introducing entirely new ones that enhance the experience in a meaningful way.
  • What customers don’t see is as important as what they do see. Most companies focus their customer experience strategy on the live, digital and print touchpoints that people encounter when patronizing the business (call them “onstage” components). That’s entirely appropriate, but it’s also only a partial solution. Equally important are the “backstage” components – the behind-the-scenes workplace practices that help shape the mindset, behavior and engagement of company employees. From hiring profiles to training programs to compensation practices to cultural norms, these are all backstage elements that customers never see, yet they materially influence the quality of the experience delivered. The most successful customer experience strategies take this into account, balancing their attention across both the onstage and backstage parts of the equation.

If you found some or all of these operating principles eye-opening, you’re not alone. While engineering a great customer experience definitely requires a heavy dose of common sense, it also involves science and subject matter expertise that isn’t at all common.

Former U.S. Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld once famously declared that there are “known knowns” (things we know we know) and there are “known unknowns” (things we know we do not know). But, he cautioned, there are also “unknown unknowns” (things we don’t know we don’t know).

See also: The Best Boost to Customer Experience  

So, if you’re a business leader launching a customer experience transformation, be wary if you hear your team confidently declare that “We know what we’re doing.” Consider that moment a coaching opportunity, and engage in a little pushback.

Challenge your team to honestly evaluate their expertise.

Challenge them to augment their CX knowledge, through books, training and other resources.

Challenge them to entertain the very real possibility that “unknown unknowns” – things they don’t realize they don’t know about CX – could sabotage their best efforts to create a winning customer experience strategy.

[A version of this article originally appeared on Forbes.com.]

Why Isn’t Customer Experience Better?

Whether you’re browsing an article about the latest trends in insurtech or listening to a panel of insurance industry disrupters discussing customer acquisition strategies, it’s hard to avoid references about emerging technologies such as machine learning, artificial intelligence, chatbots and data analytics. But, have these digital advancements truly transformed the experience for customers shopping for insurance? Are insurers, agencies and consumers benefiting from such enhancements in technology?

Arguably, the answer is yes. The insurance buying experience has evolved dramatically in the last decade, and insurers, their agents and consumers have all benefited. However, when we examine the underlying products and the various touchpoints throughout the customer journey, we can see there are significant opportunities for improvement.

Insurance Shopping: Consumer shopping patterns and expectations have changed in all industries, and insurance is no exception. The enormous dollars spent by top insurers are pushing more consumers to start their shopping process in a digital format, where speed and accuracy are paramount in keeping customers engaged. Consumers have become accustomed to choosing from multiple product options and to one-click shopping, but replicating an Amazon experience in the insurance industry is extremely challenging.

For one thing, insurance products are highly complex and regulated, and premiums can change based on a multitude of variables that are not immediately transparent to consumers. Variables such as: age, coverage limits, credit, driving history, prior claims or age of home can dramatically affect eligibility or policy premium. And while these factors are key data points for underwriting, verification of these inputs often leads to lengthy question sets and inaccuracies in pricing at point of sale and beyond. Then there are the costs associated with verifying reports such as credit, MVR, CLUE and prior carrier through third party vendors, which add friction and cost in the shopping process.

These are among the challenges that a few digitally focused, independent insurance agencies such as Gabi Insurance are aiming to overcome. Such digital platforms can simplify the quote process while representing both traditional carriers and newer entrants to the market like Clearcover. Digital agencies stay engaged with the customer throughout the life of the policy and may help reduce the cost of third-party reports, which are currently passed on to consumers.

See also: Is Insurtech a Game Changer? It Sure Is  

Beyond the Quote: While the point-of-sale experience is critical in effective customer acquisition, the entire customer journey — meaning all the touchpoints along the way — help maintain customer loyalty. Digital distribution channels that leverage emerging technologies can track customer interaction and use the data to identify improvement opportunities up- or downstream. While some insurers have made significant improvements in their frontline underwriting and product design, most still rely on products that were designed for traditional distribution channels (brick and mortar) and require some level of post-sale verification of policy attributes. As a result, customer experience can quickly shift from digital to paper-intensive, snail mail and the requirements can vary based on the type of products purchased. Consumers may be required to send proof of discounts, photos or evidence of insurance that were unverified at the time of the quote.

In such cases, digital agencies like Gabi may be better equipped to quickly engage customers via text, chat or email and expedite requirements on behalf of their insurance partners while contributing to higher net promoter scores (NPS) and improved overall retention.

Ultimately, to create an optimal insurance shopping experience that’s more aligned with customer expectations, insurers need to invest in revamping their products and processes for digital distribution channels. That’s easier said than done, as bringing products to market takes multiple years to deploy and millions of dollars in investment. Large, established insurers may require additional investment in core technologies, rebranding and potentially cultural and ideological transformation, while new insurers such as Clearcover, Hippo and Lemonade are not encumbered by legacy systems.

Adopting the entire digital transformation ecosystem is difficult and costly for insurers and involves multiple departments within an organization, which often have competing objectives and operate in silos. Insurers may have much to gain from partnering with digital agencies as their distribution models provide growth opportunities and turnkey access to customers who are less likely to buy from brick and mortar agencies. Further, insurers can gain valuable insight into customer demographics and behavior that are unique to online shoppers and use this information in future product development and process improvement strategies.

Popeye’s Chicken, IT And Insurance

With my wife, Mary Ann, away for two weeks, I’m always looking to score some good food. I live in a small town, where the Super Walmart is the local cultural and epicurean haute cuisine epicenter, so I normally must travel to another town to find something decent to eat. I’m not trying to be a food snob, but that’s just the way it is here in central Florida, where the three basic food groups are defined as Bar-B-Q.

While Popeye’s Louisiana Kitchen is certainly not anywhere near any Michelin stars, I like their spicy fried chicken. Forgive me, Julia Child, but I like the flavor and texture.

So last Sunday I made my way to the closest Popeye’s drive-thru line. My wife had suggested that I order enough chicken for multiple meals, instead of just for lunch, and I was happy to follow this advice. So, when I got to the menu, instead of ordering a three-piece, I decided that the eight-piece family meal was the right choice. I mean, my wife made the suggestion.

As I pulled up to the microphone, I heard a friendly Popeye’s employee ask for my order, or so I assumed. The sound quality was very poor. I said I wanted the eight-piece family meal, spicy.

What happened next is where the unlikely alliance starts.

The Popeye’s employee started to speak, but the sound was so garbled and filled with static that I could not make heads or tails of it. I did recognize the number nine, but that was about all I understood. Because there was a line of cars behind me that was wrapping around the block, I didn’t want to do anything that would slow the process, so I repeated that I wanted the eight-piece family meal, spicy, and I was able to make out an “OK” over the speaker.

As I got up to the window to pay the happy and friendly Popeye’s employee, I mentioned that I heard something about the number nine but couldn’t understand what the person was saying.

It turns out that Popeye’s was running a promotional deal. The standard, eight-piece family meal is $13.29, but there was a nine-piece meal available for $12. 99. I cocked my head to one side and said, “So, I can get an extra piece of chicken and save money at the same time? What a deal! Please change my order from eight to nine pieces. And please be sure to make it spicy.”

They changed the order; I got an extra piece of chicken while saving 30 cents, and I was happy. That extra piece of chicken seemed to be especially tasty.

See also: Using Technology to Enhance Your Agency  

My satisfaction as a customer had been blocked because I could not understand the information or my options. My customer experience was later elevated when I got the correct data and options, making it possible to make an informed decision. The data was there all the time, but faulty technology made it difficult, if not impossible, for me to understand my options.

I began to wonder: When was the last time that an employee pulled up to the drive-thru and tried to order something like a normal, everyday person? What about the shift manager? The store manager? The franchise owner? Harper Lee was right when she wrote those immortal words in “To Kill a Mockingbird” for Atticus Finch to share with his children, “You never really understand a person until you consider things from his point of view…until you climb into his skin and walk around in it.”

While I’m not a betting man, I would gladly wager all the money in my pockets and my checking accounts that no one in management has ever gone through the drive-thru. If they had, I feel confident that my technology experience would have been radically better.

Is it the same?

Whoever you are, you are reading this because you are interested in the insurance industry. And you are thinking one of two things;

  • Yes, ordering chicken and insurance ARE the same. Chicken is chicken, and insurance is insurance. Both are commodities. Or,
  • No, ordering chicken and insurance ARE NOT the same. While chicken may be chicken, all insurance is not created equal and is not a commodity.

Irrespective of your perspective, selling and servicing insurance depends on clear communication with prospects, customers and authorized third parties. If the data and communications are not clear, then cost and frustrations go up while satisfaction and utilization go down. It is paramount that selling and servicing insurance be based on information, communication and transparency.

If you are responsible for systems that collect or share insurance data, when was the last time that you personally examined the system from an outsider’s standpoint? Brought someone alongside who’s not directly involved with the insurance space and walked the person through your data collection and exchange solutions? Collected direct feedback for your users? Made changes in response to user feedback?

Moving forward

From a technology standpoint, there is much that can be done to enhance communication with prospects, clients and third parties while mitigating miscommunication. Here are six areas to consider;

User eXperiences:

  • Don’ts – pave the historical cow path of ACORD/company forms, internal screens or database layouts.
  • Do’s – reimagine the experience based on the user’s perspective alone. Make it easy to follow and use, be sensitive to screen real estate size or constraints.

Start and Stop:

  • Don’ts – force users to gather and complete data entry based on what’s convenient for your system or organization.
  • Do’s – allow users to start, suspend, restart and change the basic intent of the transaction, even allowing them to reorder the screen and field flows.

Big Data:

  • Don’ts – assume that third-party data is valid, clean or up to date.
  • Do’s – tell users what third-party data you are going to access before you retrieve it, show the data to them and ask for feedback.

Artificial Intelligence:

  • Don’ts – hide the AI process, results or how it hurt their eligibility or rate.
  • Do’s – practice complete transparency about your use of AI, explain what it is, what data you are using, sharing both intermediate and final results.

Risk:

  • Don’ts – camouflage what are the favorable risk factors that you are looking for.
  • Do’s – be transparent on both favorable and unfavorable risk factors and what the user can do to reduce their risk.

Reading:

  • Don’ts – use arcane, overly complex and statutory-sounding insurance jargon and terms.
  • Do’s – as the March Hare said, “say what you mean” as simply and straightforwardly as possible for all text on screens, definitions and forms.

See also: Emerging Technology in Personal Lines  

If you are looking for some instant, quick fix, low-hanging fruit or some other consult-speak buzzword solution, you need to read a different article by a different author. Improving clarity, understanding and transparency are long-term tasks requiring refinement over time. But we need to start somewhere, and where we are is as good a place to start as any.