Whether the majority of your business is online or in-office, it is crucial for you to have the right tools to help you capitalize on the insurance market and get ahead of the competition in a changing landscape.
It does not matter what type of insurance you are selling, whether it’s employee benefits, life insurance, group insurance, voluntary benefits or property and casualty. While your role may not be directly affected by things like legacy system transformation, robotics and big data, there will be ripple effects. Besides obtaining new clients, presenting renewals and marketing, changes in regulation and advances in technology are all things that agents will have to contend with.
Here are three elements that savvy agents and brokers will want to consider.
Global populations are now categorized (albeit loosely) into four categories: Baby Boomers, Generation X, Millennials and Generation Z. Although Baby Boomers are still the largest population, the U.S. Census Bureau predicts Millennials will outnumber Boomers by 2019.
These differentiated markets make targeting sales much more difficult. Fortunately, there are online tools that can support you. The trick here is diversifying your presence. Ensure that you have a presence on multiple channels so that you are able to meet your customers where they are.
Update your agency website with a live chat feature, and ensure it is easy to contact you online. Examine whether it makes sense to use Twitter, Facebook or Instagram. If you do, you’ll need a strong content strategy that provides real value to pull in visiting prospects.
Don’t just surf the web, observe the web. Set up Google alerts and analytics and Hootsuite streams to follow partners and competitors. Watching for trends will keep you ahead of the game.
A strong agency management system can provide you with everything you need to support your customer lifecycle. When looking for the right one for you, think about CRM and marketing automation. Determine what will make it easier for you to track leads, nurture prospects, close deals and obtain commissions.
Once you’ve sold a policy, a high-quality microphone and webcam will enhance consistent communication with customers remotely on Skype, WebEx, GooglePlus Hangouts or even Facebook.
Get comfortable with automation
As you get comfortable with a new and diversified way of connecting with your customers, you’ll want to consider that insurance carriers are doing the same thing. Accenture’s Technology Vision 2018 report revealed 82% of insurance carriers agreed that their organizations must innovate faster just to stay competitive.
In a world where customers are shopping around for options and prices all the time, retention itself becomes a valuable commodity. Help carriers help you by learning what tools their new systems have to offer so you tap into all the resources available.
Do your insurance companies offer broker portals? Do they offer online quoting capability for immediate results? Can you generate a proposal or immediately sell a policy? Can you offer that functionality on your own website? The carriers that invest in your success by improving sales, underwriting and admin functions for quicker turnarounds and smooth renewals are doing themselves a favor, too.
As you determine the best way to move forward, sit down with others on your team, start a Google doc and plan your strategy for the year ahead. As Yogi Berra wisely said, “If you don’t know where you’re going, you might not get there.”
What free tools will you use? Which ones will you invest money in? How will you track progress to determine ROI? What tools are working for you?
The best agents and brokers will be nimble enough to exploit the tools available to them and prepare for new ones as they arrive. The sooner you start, the more likely you’ll find yourself ahead of the digital curve.
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.
We’re busy gearing up for the annual SMA Summit, where innovation will take center stage. In the spirit of the summit, I started to gather some inescapable facts that could inspire us all to innovate and improve – to truly become the Next-Gen Insurer. But, rather than peddle the same old innovation benefits and business rationale, I thought it would be refreshing to share 10 facts about change and innovation that will directly affect insurance and that may inspire you, surprise you or reinforce why you should be continuously improving by reimagining and reinventing the business of insurance!
Younger generations like Millennials and Generation Z are going to be the biggest consumers in the market in five to 10 years. Make sure you can reach them. They will not use paper applications or have a face-to-face meeting, but they will be searching for options from their phones and cars. A typical mobile user checks her phone more than 100 times a day (Marketing to Millennials).
Innovative workplaces attract the best and brightest talent. Today, word of a stale, outdated work environment spreads fast. Don’t be one of those employers. Invest in talent, but also invest in your infrastructure and creating an innovative workplace (How Great Companies Attract Top Talent).
80% of all crowdsourcing is done by small business and start-ups. Embrace the crowd! It is often the most cost-effective way to generate ideas. Big business loves the crowd, too. Just look at McDonald’s crowdsourced burger or Apple’s crowdsourced mapping tools (Crowdsourcing: Great For Your Business).
The amount of stored data doubles every 24 months. The U.S. Census estimates that the population has grown more than 27% in the last two decades. Changing demographics, aging citizens and diverse populations are changing the face of data accessible to insurers. To stay on top of the situation, you need a data and analytics strategy that makes the most of the new data available (Vernon Turner).
Wearable devices have grown 200% every month since 2012. This doesn’t mean that wearables won’t eventually be replaced by something else or evolve. It does mean that wearables are growing so fast that it makes sense to try to tap into some of that innovation and apply it to your own organization, your processes or even your products (2013 Internet Trends).
It is six to seven times more expensive to acquire new customers than it is to keep existing ones. One risk of not innovating is that you may start losing customers who can find better, easier-to-use insurance options. Studying consumer behavior might be the best indicator of market trends and areas to innovate. Don’t lose renewals because you haven’t kept up with market demands (15 Statistics That Should Change the Business World But Haven’t).
More than 40% of the companies at the top of the Fortune 500 list in 2000 were not on the list in 2010. The digital age shuttered many long-standing businesses. Some experts think that, in the next decade, businesses that do not embrace innovation or adapt to market demands will suffer the same fate. Insurance is not immune to this phenomenon. Today, everything is connected (Sorry We’re Closed: The Rise of Digital Darwinism).
Internet of Things (IoT) technology has the potential to add $10 to $15 trillion to global GDP over the next 20 years. Like the connected car, IoT will eventually become standard. What insurers do with the new data available and the amazing growth potential will ultimately make or break them (Internet of Things Market Statistics-2015).
These facts are inescapable. Not only is innovation here, but the statistics are astounding. The time to embrace innovation and become the Next-Generation Insurer is now.