Tag Archives: customer experience

Using Payments to Improve the CX

In an industry with infrequent customer touchpoints, like insurance, every policyholder interaction holds a lot of weight. Your organization only has so many opportunities to connect with insureds, which means one negative experience could result in policy cancellations or customer churn.

It’s imperative for insurance organizations to evaluate the one, universal touchpoint every policyholder must engage with: making premium payments. This is one of the few moments your organization has a policyholder’s attention, so evaluating and optimizing your insurance payment experience could be monumental to organizational success.

Because the policyholder payment experience is critical to the success of insurance organizations everywhere, we decided to uncover what this experience is truly like. We conducted an online survey in June 2020, through which we asked policyholders about their recent payment experiences, payment preferences and what contributes to a good user experience.

We discovered a few key points that are affecting the insurance payment experience. Here are a few of the biggest takeaways:

Policyholder retention is key

Combating customer churn and policy cancellations are well-known challenges in the insurance space – and those pain points were represented in our survey results.

To gauge overall satisfaction with their current insurance provider, we asked survey respondents how likely they were to look for a new provider in the next 12 months. In total, 45% of respondents said they are “likely” or “very likely” to search for a new insurance provider in the coming year.

The results was consistent across generations: 50% of respondents under the age of 30 and 52% of respondents ages 30-44 said they are also “likely” or “very likely” to look for a new provider.

The key takeaway: Retention and satisfaction should be major focus areas among insurance organizations.

See also: COVID-19: What Buyers Want Now

Convenience drives online payments

We dug into how respondents felt about their insurance provider’s payment experience. When asked how they chose to make their most recent insurance payment, 77% of respondents said they made an online payment, either through a one-time checkout route or automatic payments (like AutoPay). This response was consistent across all age groups; 87% of respondents under the age of 45 made their most recent insurance payment online.

payment methods

Next, we asked why this majority chose to make a payment online, rather than mailing in a check or calling their insurance provider. Overall, convenience was king.

38% of respondents chose the online option because they felt it was convenient, and a further 39% of respondents were already enrolled in AutoPay. This proclivity toward online payments is a fantastic trend for insurance providers; more insureds opting to make payments through self-service options ultimately means less work for your organization and, likely, a decrease in print and mail costs.

But, before you get too excited about those results, there is another side to that coin we must consider.

While online or AutoPay options appealed to many policyholders, we also found that payment platforms that aren’t user-friendly actually deterred online payments: 28% said they chose not to pay online because their provider’s system was too difficult to use.

So, while many insureds would prefer to make payments online, they may opt for a manual method if the online payment experience offered to them is subpar.

The key takeaway: Optimizing the online payment experience is critical; simply having an online payment option does not mean your organization is automatically providing a positive user experience.

Policyholders expect omni-channel offerings

We also wanted to get a sense of how satisfied insureds are with the omni-channel payment options (i.e. omni-channel capabilities, where you can pay a bill on your phone just as easily as you can on your laptop) their insurance provider offers. Overall, policyholders are satisfied with their options, with 46% responding “very satisfied” and 28% responding “satisfied.”

While it’s encouraging to see satisfied insureds, this feedback means a lack of omni-channel options could be a dealbreaker for your policyholders. If your organization is unable or unwilling to provide the flexibility of omni-channel offerings (which many of your competitors likely are), you could face customer turnover.

The key takeaway: Omni-channel offerings aren’t an option any more; they’re expected for insurance payments.

See also: 3 Tips for Increasing Customer Engagement

Insurance organizations can no longer afford to ignore their online payment channels – the results of our survey made that extremely clear. As one of the most frequent policyholder touchpoints, your organization’s payment experience could be the factor that determines churn rates and overall organizational success.

Simply put, optimizing your online payment channels is the best way to provide a positive policyholder experience and retain your customers.

Technology and the Agent of the Future

Many agents see technology as a threat. Several years ago, when hundreds of millions of dollars began to flow into insurtech companies, the promise these startups made was that they would disrupt the insurance industry. The rise of online insurance distribution firms, with steadily increasing capabilities, has added to the anxiety of insurance agents. 

But as the years go by, what we’ve seen is technology that, while it may be disruptive, holds the promise of reducing the drudgery of agents’ lives. It can do this by eliminating the need for manual data gathering, creation of applications, coverage analysis, policy marketing and proposal preparation. The technology promises to free agents to spend more time with clients and prospects, allowing them to broaden and deepen their relationships, which is the most important and highest-value activity of the professional agent of the future. 

The AI Promise

If one steps back from all of the tasks performed by agents today, data gathering, manipulation and presentation take up a large percentage of the time. All of these tasks can and will be performed more efficiently by artificial intelligence (AI). 

Peter Diamandis, the author of “Abundance: The Future Is Better Than You Think,” says that not only will everything will be knowable in the very near future, but artificial intelligence will be able to retrieve it and organize it for us instantaneously. While this seems fantastic to some, it’s already taking place. Many insurance companies, for example, are already purchasing third party data for all or most of the underwriting information they need to make coverage and pricing decisions and then using this data to make those decisions in real time. 

One of the largest commercial carriers has been demonstrating the capabilities of AI to eliminate agent’s work by quoting business owner policies (BOPs) with nothing more than an address. While this capability is nascent, it will be expanding dramatically in the next few years. In personal lines, Plymouth Rock Insurance has demonstrated its ability to underwrite, price, sell and deliver homeowners insurance with a lower-than-average loss ratio with nothing more than an address. These kinds of capabilities are being developed now and will rapidly reduce the time agents must spend on these and similar activities in the near future. And they won’t be limited to simple accounts; they’ll also extend to the most complex middle market and large accounts, as well. 

See also: The Future of Blockchain Series

AI for agents will be able to collaborate with these smart underwriting systems and do much of the now laborious analysis required on differing policy options. When clients need service, or claims assistance, agency automated technology will handle the details. While some capabilities in these areas are already available. we will look back in the coming decade and think today’s technology is like the Model T when compared with the Dreamliner in speed and ease of use. 

With these capabilities coming soon, what will the role of the agent of the future be? I believe it will be to develop real relationships with clients that go beyond the superficial to a true understanding of the needs, wants, aspirations and fears that an individual organization or person experiences. With that knowledge, agents will be able to tailor coverage solutions in a way that is much more intimate than is possible today. 

No More Free Pass

Until now, clients have largely given insurance agencies and agents a pass on the customer experience they are now demanding from other businesses. This isn’t going to continue. The average person’s routine experience offers customized recommendations based on detailed knowledge and an understanding of their other interests. While this has been fairly simple in the beginning, like suggesting additional products based on purchase history, it is evolving rapidly. 

What people experience in other areas of their lives necessarily informs their expectation in others. For example, Amazon and other online merchants are now able to automatically deliver things as mundane as toilet paper to a consumer before he or she knows she needs it. Soon enough, that toilet paper will not only be delivered before it’s needed, but changes in brand, quality, quantity and other factors will be done automatically on behalf of the consumer because the vendor’s AI will know before the customer does what they really want or need. 

When agents marry this type of technology to the unique human communication that will remain necessary for complex purchases like risk transfer, the future will be much different. 

Some are concerned that technology will enable businesses and consumers to bypass agents and make insurance purchase and placement decisions on the basis of their artificial intelligence alone. I don’t think this is likely. It’s true that properly programmed algorithms can sort and analyze data far faster than any human. But it is only the human who can look into the eyes of another human being, judge the voice tonality, body language and dozens of other nonfactual and nonverbal cues that create and power true communication. When the agent is freed from the drudgery of data analysis and manipulation, she can focus increasingly on the human aspect of serving clients. And she will be able to do so faster, better and more deeply. 

This marrying of technology and human capability will serve to increase opportunity at the same time that it lowers costs. While this future isn’t here yet, it is close, so agents need to begin to prepare now to remain competitive in the future. The first step is to maximize their existing data gathering and analysis capabilities and leverage existing technologies to the greatest extent possible. The beginning point for that is the commonplace agency management system. Automating every agency process possible with current technology will prepare the forward-thinking agent well for what is coming soon.

Beyond the Transaction

The other focus for agents is behavioral. Even in middle market and larger accounts, selling insurance has become largely transactional, particularly in new business situations. Agents all too often allow themselves to be placed in the trap of providing apples-to-apples replacement comparisons. These behaviors serve neither the agent nor the client well. One has only to look at the real, genuine confusion on the part of the business community regarding business interruption policies that did not provide coverage for coronavirus-related losses to demonstrate the result of quoting a standardized set of coverages, instead of focusing on communication about coverage needs and solutions. The agent who ends the process of allowing herself to be treated as a commodity is the agent who has begun to prepare for an effective and prosperous future. 

See also: The Future of Underwriting

As agents are freed up by technology, they will have the time required to delve deeply into their client’s greatest concerns. They will have virtually limitless ways to provide coverage powered by artificial intelligence. And they will have the well-earned trust of their clients because of the deepened relationships that time and technology have empowered.

3 Tips for Increasing Customer Engagement

Customers are rushing to embrace the digital space. Is your business prepared?

Even before the pandemic, insurance customers were moving to digital channels and demanding the kind of smooth experience they get with Google and Amazon. With customers demanding new types of interactions and agencies and companies needing to increase leads in a world that’s gone from face-to-face to zoom, technology doesn’t have to be intimidating.

Watch this complimentary webinar and learn how to:

  • understand your customers’ expectations
  • expand the ways you connect
  • streamline your communication channels
  • attract and service customers digitally

Don’t miss this free on demand panel discussion. Space is limited, so register today!


Presenters:

Joseph Jenkins

Director of Professional Services
Podium

Kyle Henrie

Regional Director of Sales
Podium

Paul Carroll

Editor-in-Chief
Insurance Thought Leadership

How CX, Product Teams Must Sync Up

Any consumer-serving organization knows how important both its customer experience (CX) and product development teams are. What the organization must also remember is how important the synergy between the two is.

There are many departments that keep an organization running smoothly, but two that must be in sync are your customer experience (CX) and product development teams. Your CX team has the most insight into your customers and, therefore, understands the challenges they face and that the product could solve. The most successful companies are the ones whose product teams leverage the CX team’s customer insights and drive brand loyalty. 

Steve Jobs is quoted as saying, “You’ve got to start with the customer experience and work backward to the technology.”

Here are a few tips to ensure that your CX and product teams can work together efficiently.

Align on a common goal

Despite being two different departments and playing different roles in the company, the CX and product teams must align on a common goal: to solve customer problems and create an engaging customer experience by working together.

Having a shared goal leads to more efficient teamwork and guides fluidity across teams. 

Have each other on speed dial

The CX and product teams must be in constant communication, filling in one another daily about how the customer is experiencing the product.

It’s a good idea for the two departments to connect regularly so that the CX team can share the insights they’ve gathered from customers, what drives customers to contact the company and what the general customer sentiment is when they contact the company. 

Likewise, the product team must share details about product updates that are in the pipeline. This knowledge empowers CX teams to respond to answer customer questions, troubleshoot and retain customer trust.

See also: 3 Ways to Improve Customer Experience

Focus on the feedback loop

The feedback loop is a process in which customers’ experiences with the product are analyzed and shared with the product team to create a product that better meets needs.  

The CX team must first develop a scalable system to granularly track and aggregate data about what drives customers to contact the company.

Although communicating with the customer opens a door of opportunity to improve their perception of the brand, most of the time, when a customer contacts you, it’s because the company or product has failed omehow. This failure point is where the feedback loop starts.

It is then up to CX team members to not only identify the underpinning reasons why customers contacted the company but to also provide such delightful experiences that customers feel more connected to the company than they did before. A great way to measure the latter is to request customer satisfaction ratings of that experience, taking particular note of the response rate to that survey itself. The customers who are most wowed by their customer experience (whether positively or negatively) are the ones who will take the time to respond to your survey. 

The final part of the feedback loop is for the CX team to regularly share which parts of the product could be updated, to both reduce customer servicing costs and help inform and prioritize the product development road map.

Encourage a humanistic approach to business

Make sure your customer advocates embody empathy. They are the ones who are communicating with the customers and responding to their needs. Therefore, they must have the people skills to make the support interaction as pleasant as possible. 

Entrepreneur Tony Allessandra puts this astutely, “Being on par in terms of price and quality only gets you into the game. Service wins the game.” Customer advocates are the face of the company and the first stop for your customers when something goes awry. It’s critical that they know how valuable their role is and that the company empowers them to genuinely meet customer needs.

Your customers’ expectations of their support experiences are different and may vary. Therefore, it’s critical to provide customers with various options. This can involve allowing them to connect with you through different channels, such as chat, email or phone.

See also: Elon Musk and Your Feedback Loop

As for the product team, they must continually look for ways to improve the product experience and recognize the expertise that the CX team has. This will ensure that they’re continuously learning and expanding both their product and customer expertise. 

There are many benefits when your CX and product development teams are aligned on the type of customer experience the company aims to provide. Although the two teams have different day-to-day roles, they both play an important role in helping one another create a customer experience that inspires brand loyalty.

Why Customer Journey Mapping Is Crucial

High-touch brands and industries have led consumers to expect that they can interact with brands whenever they want, however they want. These omni-channel expectations have become especially difficult for insurers, many of whom were already lagging other industries in terms of digital and self-service capabilities. 

Every brand touchpoint that insurance carriers offer can serve as both an opportunity and a risk—while positive interactions will build customer relationships and build trust, a subpar experience can have the opposite effect. Journey mapping is often the first step insurers take in engineering these experiences. 

Journey maps identify, visualize and describe every single brand touchpoint, including getting a quote, filing a claim, making a policy change and paying a bill. In a sense, they serve as a guide for marketers to build out an omni-channel experience. They can help identify gaps in the experience as well as find critical moments for consumers, whether rational or emotional. Successful journey mapping can help drive customer engagement, loyalty and trust, which boosts an insurer’s image and the bottom line. 

Making Journey Maps That Matter

Journey maps can also allow insurers to visualize user experiences over a particular time period. While customers may be the group that come to mind for most marketers, insurance organizations should also be mindful of the agent and employee experience. Some journey maps focus on all three groups at once. 

As with any new project, the best journey maps require structure. Organizations need to establish a clear framework, set of goals and defined scope for journey maps. This is especially important as journey maps can serve as a common point of reference for teams all across an insurer, including product teams, underwriting, operations, data science and marketing. Each department has a unique view of the customer journey and can identify gaps that other teams might not notice. 

Companies that have successfully generated an outside-in journey map standardized guiding principles across the organization, got feedback from distribution partners and had executive sponsors offering governance. Journey mapping is an iterative process, so the more involvement from varying departments across an insurer, the better. 

See also: COVID: Agents’ Chance to Rethink Insurance

What Goes on a Journey Map?

Not every journey map will be composed of the same elements, just as not every insurer has the same customer touchpoints. The format of a journey map depends on what business problems an insurer needs to address and which teams are involved. There are some commonalities, however. 

Most journey maps include some of the following features:

  • The journey’s stages
  • The steps of each stage 
  • Actors and personas 
  • Triggers 
  • List of challenges and perceived obstacles 
  • Brand touchpoints 
  • Data and analytics requirements

The team in charge of designing a journey map analyzes every stage of the journey from a customer perspective. What is the customer thinking, feeling or experiencing along the way? Pinpointing specific moments of excitement or frustration for customers is pivotal if an insurer wants to generate an outside-in picture of their customer journey. 

Above all, journey mapping should be founded on the principles noted earlier. There should be cross-departmental governance to ensure engagement and a customer focus. Insurers should also be sure to establish a measurement framework with stated key performance indicators (KPIs) describing success along the customer journey.

KPIs commonly include metrics such as customer satisfaction survey scores, behavior metrics like time to completion and call-center volume relative to digital. The scope of the project should remain fixed on the customer journey to ensure the story line feels realistic and to keep progress on track. 

Journey mapping alone cannot mitigate the challenges of creating an engaging customer experience, but they are a powerful tool insurers can use as part of a larger strategy. Often, the collaboration involved in creating a journey map is just as important as the map itself.

To learn more about the components of a journey map and how to launch a successful journey mapping project, read Novarica’s full report, Customer Journey Mapping: Key Issues and Best Practices.