Tag Archives: self service

Growing Demand for Digital Self-Service

Technology is bringing change to nearly every part of our lives. Platforms like Amazon have created expectations among consumers that they shouldn’t have to send the same information to multiple parties across different methods – digital and mobile technology should make the process seamless and should be personalized. And, companies like Starbucks have innovated their business processes through a Left Shift (see Figure 1 below), creating more choice and loyalty, better cycle time and ability to know more about their customers through their digital engagements.

For our industry this personalization, convenience and level of service have become expected by consumers, regardless of who they are insured with, what vehicle they drive and what the characteristics of their accident were. Through new capabilities such as self-service claims, the consumer no longer waits days for an estimator to take photos; the extent of damage is knowable at first notice of loss (FNOL), and vehicle damage photos facilitate speedier decisions to be made about the claim (see Figure 2).

Customer retention is a huge benefit gained from improving digital channel experiences, yet there are additional benefits that help insurance carriers with their loss adjustment expenses (see Figure 3).

For example, the J.D. Power 2017 Auto Insurance Study found that customers who set up an account online with their insurer are two times as likely to submit incident photos through an app and receive digital updates and three times more likely to report first notice of loss online. However, the overall percent of customers willing to report their first notice of loss is low, with 9% in J.D. Power’s 2017 survey growing only to 11% in their 2018 survey. But the same survey data also showed 65% of customers received digital status updates for an auto claim, and 42% submitted their own photos.

See also: Transforming Claims for the Digital Era  

Virtual auto claims handling via integrated smartphone technology has emerged as a key competency that consumers not only want and expect, but the technology also removes significant cost from the claims process by “…essentially eliminating the first half of the work. [The insurer doesn’t] have to get the car to the human or the human to the car.” Analysis of vehicle appraisals generated annually shows a shift among insurance carriers and their customers to new and different methods of vehicle inspection such as virtual or photo inspections and away from insurance staff appraisers inspecting the vehicle in the field or in a drive-in facility (see Figure 4).

A comparison of claim cycle times reveals the number of days from the last estimate assignment to the date the initial estimate of record is completed is lowest for those appraisals with a photo estimate method of inspection, and photo inspections have the highest percent of appraisals where the last estimate assignment to date of estimate complete is less than or equal to 12 hours (see Figure 5).

The streamlined appraisal process also sets the stage for a streamlined repair process – where within the same app the customer can view the estimate of record produced from the vehicle photos, then choose a repair facility to fix the vehicle and even schedule the appointment with that shop. Photo estimating coupled with online claims communication and scheduling saves consumers time they may traditionally have spent driving around to multiple shops to get estimates or waiting for an insurance adjuster to show up at their home or work, ultimately ending up with a paper copy of the estimate and maybe a check, only to then have to decide where to get the car repaired and schedule the repair.

With online shop scheduling available as a “next step,” the customer can select the repairer based on proximity, DRP program participation, on-line reviews, customer referrals or availability of OE certification, essentially enabling the overall experience to occur on a single platform in a personalized manner – not too different from what consumers experience on Amazon today. Insurance companies and repairers that adopt a single platform can enable consumers to efficiently process their claim, schedule the repair and ultimately deliver an experience more in-line with modern expectations.

Self-service claims and repair scheduling capabilities via digital devices are just two examples of how our industry is using technology to “shift-left” – providing customers with enhanced self-service capabilities via technology that ensures the same or better customer service and engagement.

See also: Survival of the Fittest in the Digital Age  

Technology such as mobile, AI and IOT will increasingly play a key role in a company’s ability to quickly assess and respond to consumer feedback and other information on market conditions. Knowing which technologies to use and knowing how to use them to cater the claims and vehicle repair experience to each distinct customer will lead to higher customer satisfaction, retention and growth.

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.


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.

Keep Your Eye on the Fourth P

If you ever took a marketing class, you probably remember the four “P’s” – product, price, promotion and place. While attention to all of these is vital to business success (including one or two new ones added over the years), the fourth P, place (which really is about distribution) has been getting a lot of attention lately in the insurance industry. From traditional channels with agents and brokers to new channels like Google, Compare.com, Gobear.com, Walmart and others, the place where prospects and clients meet insurers is worth a fresh look and an open discussion.

Celent recently reported that many insurers are investing in their distribution capabilities to spur growth and retention by adding or expanding channels and markets and optimizing existing channels. Celent predicted a steady market for investment in distribution management systems from 2014-2016 (“Deal Trends and Projections in the Distribution Management Systems Market,” September 2015). Gartner has indicated distribution management is one of its hot inquiry topics for 2016.

As I wrote in my last blog, distribution might also be the most tangible touchpoint to customers for product inquiries and purchases, outside of paying bills or making the occasional policy change. Interactions with our distribution channels are key opportunities to create positive customer experiences that lead to loyalty and additional sales down the road. Because only a fraction of our customers will have a claim in any given year, few will have the opportunity to experience the true value of insurance. That places the “burden of value proof” upon insurers, to continually reinforce protective messages, supplement with preventive knowledge and reiterate the comfort customers can have in knowing they are insured.

Distribution has always been the prime communicator of these messages and an extremely important part of the insurance value chain. Channels we use have evolved over the centuries, as insurance itself has evolved. (See the recent report from III, “Buying Insurance: Evolving Distribution Channels,” for a good history lesson). But numerous forces inside and outside of our industry have been rapidly transforming this important element of the insurance business model. As an industry, we can’t afford to think about distribution in the “usual” old ways.

Traditional channels are still vitally important, but having a broad array of distribution options is even more important in today’s marketplace. With consumers’ shopping/buying preferences and behaviors changing based on more progressive industries and companies, options and alternatives are critically important to capture and retain customers. While the digital revolution and fast-emerging technologies are intensifying this change, they have not replaced traditional agent channels, despite the predicted demise of the agent channel a few years ago.

Instead, consumers are using multiple channels (traditional and non-traditional) for shopping, buying and policyholding processes. In many cases, it comes down to whichever channel is easiest or whichever channel seems to fit the moment when the individual is ready to transact. This echoes a trend within all industries. For example, research by Deloitte reported by Business Insider found that consumers shop for groceries on average across five different types of stores, no longer needing a traditional grocery store when one is not convenient. Consumers are now buying groceries at warehouse clubs and super-stores like Costco and Walmart, where one-stop-shopping can save time (CBS Moneywatch). For retail suppliers, this means courting any and all potential distribution outlets.

Likewise, insurance needs to expand distribution channels beyond the traditional channel silos of direct mail, captive agent and independent agents to a new model, an omni-channel ecosystem that seamlessly interacts with and meets customers’ ever-expanding expectations. This doesn’t mean that insurers should rush out and go on a channel shopping spree. It does mean insurers must build a strategic action plan for their unique channel ecosystem using relevant channels, partners and capabilities that work cohesively together to optimize the customer relationship. The irony of this is that while insurers are doing this to make things easier for their customers, it can make things a lot more complex for insurers. Enter the growing need for effective distribution management, and systems that improve carriers’ capabilities to manage multiple channels and multiple factors. These factors include:

Compliance: Automation of key producer lifecycle processes, data capture and reporting saves time and ensures accuracy and timeliness.

Compensation: Moving from reliance on core systems and manual tracking and calculations in spreadsheets doesn’t just save time and increase accuracy, it also enables more targeted and creative programs to drive performance of your channels.

Performance: In addition to influencing producer behaviors, the right distribution management system makes available the volume and granularity of data you need to enable flexible reporting, as well as more advanced analytics like segmentation and predictive modeling. Majesco’s recent research report, “A Path to Insurance Distribution Leadership: New Channels and New Data for Innovative Outcomes,” provides some useful insights into how companies are using data to improve the performance of their distribution channels.

Self-Service: Portals for your producers and channel partners give them the transparency that’s vital for trusted, mutually beneficial relationships. Developing e-service capabilities for customers and agents was a high priority among insurers Majesco surveyed for the recent research report, “Digital Readiness in Insurance.”

You can have the best insurance products, pricing and advertising to build your market presence, but if you don’t have a distribution ecosystem underpinned by a robust distribution management system to optimize and maximize these channels, your customer growth and retention potential will remain limited. If it is difficult to effectively optimize compliance, compensation and performance of your channels, you could end up losing to competitors that can. Distribution management systems are no longer considered back-office systems; they are front-office enablers in today’s radically changing marketplace. That brings us back to the concept of place. Just like long-established retailers will remodel every couple of years, the place you meet your customers can’t remain untouched without your organization and its products losing their feeling of value.

Are you developing a distribution ecosystem? Do you have the right distribution management solution to optimize your established and newly developed channels to help you grow? Celent and Gartner are telling the industry that your competitors are considering and implementing modern distribution management systems. If you haven’t been considering distribution management modernization, now is the time to begin the conversation.

Are We Listening to Our Customers?

There seems to be a growing mismatch between what consumers want from their insurers and how insurers are attempting to satisfy them. Is it intentional, or is the lack of alignment between insurers and their customers because of some unforeseen technology hurdles that require too much work to correct?

Key relationship indicators are all pointing toward growing communication issues. To build long-lasting relationships, insurers need to address their external communication issues, but only after they have determined that they are truly interested in listening to what the customer has to say.

In April 2015, Majesco commissioned a survey of 1,000 insurance customers in the UK. The respondents came from a broad cross section of occupations, ages and incomes. The survey pointed out some insurance industry issues, with implications for all geographic markets, and also uncovered some details that may be worth further exploration.

In a two-part blog, I am going to focus on the findings and what we should do about them.

The first of our findings was striking. What insurers seem to think is important to consumers isn’t always what consumers say is a priority when it comes to choosing an insurer. Insurers and consumers agree on the importance of pricing — insurers say they want to provide a competitive price, and consumers say they want a reasonable and understandable price — but then the two sides differ.

Insurers want to build loyalty and referrals through branding. Customers want relevant products, a high level of service from a wide array of options, clarity about products and a simple process.

Here is where we begin to find some problems.

Pricing Problem #1 – Majesco’s study found that many consumers are focused on price — but not all. Companies that focus on price and not a) service levels, b) relevant products or c) ease of access may alienate 30-40% of insureds. The policyholders least focused on price are naturally those who are more affluent – those who can afford more products and higher premiums to cover greater assets – so insurance companies are putting their best customers at risk.

Pricing Problem #2 – Clients are more likely to find pricing information on aggregator sites than on their own insurer’s website. While some insurers were digitally sleeping, aggregators cropped up and stole their territory. Aggregators may be a source of fuel for new business, but they are most certainly also poised to be a major contributor to client attrition.

Technology improvements and marketing efforts aimed at price messaging within the client base can help stem the flow of lost policyholders.

Besides pricing problems, there are two service problems that cropped up in Majesco’s survey, as well.

Service Problem #1 – One in three survey respondents felt that insurers were failing on minimum service levels. The Majesco survey found that between 47% and 60% of respondents are contacted by their insurance company only once per year! The irony here is that insurers are traditionally risk-averse, doing anything to avoid incurring an additional 1% to 2% of risk. Yet disruptive technologies have brought to market a new breed of competitor that could grab 33% of their business because of inattention. That is a tremendous risk!

Improving service through more digital and mobile communication (and even through more phone calls and mailings) will lower insurer risk.

Service Problem #2 – Insurers don’t seem to realize that what consumers are asking for, such as improved self-service through improved technology, will actually save on administrative costs. While some insurers seem to be waiting for a better scenario, there is no time better than now to build a labor-saving business case that improves customer communications. In this case, listening to the customer will do more than improve relationships; it will improve the bottom line.

The Majesco survey uncovered additional surprising data, as well, related to desired products vs. product offerings. Younger insurance customers (under 35) were surprisingly less influenced by price than older customers; price, while always important, may become even less important than service, brand trust and product types in the coming years.

It is clear that often insurer perceptions are no match for consumer realities. To clear away these notions, insurers need to listen to their customers, listen to trends and embrace the idea that giving the customer what she wants can be a key to success.

In my next blog, we will look at the practical aspects of developing a listening organization. What actions can insurers take to hear their customers, act upon their needs and anticipate the development of products that will take them into the next generation? How can technology assist insurers as they rebuild a relevant relationship? I hope you’ll join me as we discuss several options that insurance companies can use to stay effective and remain competitive.

Solution to Brain Drain in Insurance?

What was once science fiction is fast becoming a fact of today’s business world. Computers that mimic the human brain are already entering the workforce in the healthcare, financial services and retail sectors, among others.

Like humans, cognitive analytic computers can understand “natural” language (such as English) and learn lessons from the data they analyze, as well as from the users who “mentor” them. In other words, the machines possess an artificial intelligence more powerful than anything seen before.

Unlike humans, cognitive analytic systems can process, analyze and store enormous volumes of data at Internet speed. In addition to tapping conventional databases for the information needed to aid in decision-making, the machines are capable of scanning myriad emails, reports, articles, books and other sources of knowledge to deliver recommendations and reach conclusions beyond the ability of any one person or team of people.

In a 2014 white paper on cognitive analytics, Rajeev Ronanki and David Steier of Deloitte Consulting note that in the healthcare industry, “[cognitive analytic] systems are being used to improve the quality of patient outcomes. A wide range of structured inputs, such as claims records, patient files and outbreak statistics are coupled with unstructured inputs such as medical journals and textbooks, clinician notes and social media feeds. Patient diagnoses can incorporate new medical evidence and individual patient histories, removing economic and geographic constraints that can prevent access to leading medical knowledge.”

In financial services, cognitive analytics is used to recommend and execute trades and to also assist in fraud detection and risk underwriting.

Many of us are familiar with less advanced forms of cognitive analytics. In the consumer electronics realm, examples include Apple’s Siri voice recognition software and the oral command interface used in the Xbox video game system.

Virtual Decision-Making Assistance

It doesn’t take much imagination or intelligence (human or artificial) to envision how cognitive analytics could revolutionize auto insurance, especially the claims sector.

Cognitive analytic computing could be of enormous benefit to an industry that will see fewer claims adjusters in the near future, thanks to the number of veteran adjusters who are retiring or planning to retire. Cognitive analytics could empower the remaining adjusters with decision-making assistance that was previously inconceivable – decision-making based on huge volumes of data drawn from a near-infinite pool of sources.

Not long from now, computers will be able to scan photos of accident damage and instantly retrieve historical data on how similar claims were assessed and settled in the past. For example, a computer could analyze a person’s injuries relative to where they were sitting when the accident occurred and how the injury was sustained.

The systems could also be used in first notice of loss (FNOL). Imagine an intelligent learning system that can reference every text related to previous claims and outcomes, as well as every law and vehicle code from all 50 states, to deliver settlement information in milliseconds.

Let’s say a customer submits an FNOL. “I was in a parking lot, but when I backed out of my space I hit someone driving past.” Based on the information provided, the machine could determine liability and assign fault. It could also decide whether the claim is best processed with the help of a human adjuster or via self-service. If a customer reports an accident that leaves a small scratch on the car and no injuries, the computer would automatically send a self-service text to the claimant’s cell phone so she could take photos of the damage and transmit them back to the computer. The machine would then analyze the photos and develop an assessment.

Yes, the computing system could be that advanced – so advanced that it removes much of the human element from the process.

‘Brain Gain’ Instead of ‘Brain Drain’

Many adjusters in their 50s and 60s are retiring, which means a lot of valuable expertise and experience is leaving the industry. In fact, I’m probably a member of the last generation that remembers widespread use of full-service, multi-skilled adjusters – people who know every aspect of the business. Younger adjusters frequently work in silos. These compartmentalized workers are very skilled in certain things but don’t have the “Renaissance man” backgrounds that allowed their predecessors to wear “multiple hats” when the situations called for it.

Thanks to the new technology, however, the older generation’s experience and know-how doesn’t have to be lost forever. That information and wisdom can be transferred to complex cognitive computing systems that instantly retrieve the data on every one of their past settlements. This will let the remaining adjusters use the machines as virtual assistants, calling on them to provide the most logical settlement paths to the best possible outcomes.

If achieving the best outcomes to claims is the goal, then cognitive computing systems will prove to be an invaluable tool. With access to a virtual universe of prior decision-making (good and bad), cognitive analytics has the potential to help adjusters find the right solution to each and every auto claims case.