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August 31, 2020

‘Virtualizing’ Your Customer Service

Summary:

For the insurance industry, meeting increased customer demands with excellent service requires the right combination of technology and training.

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Confronted with a new, remote working world, customer service programs have undergone enormous transformations to processes and tools. At the same time, the programs have handled huge increases in customer inquiries, which as of June 2020 are up an average of 48% across business sectors. For the insurance industry, in particular, meeting increased customer demands with excellent service requires the right combination of technology and training. By implementing more automated and virtual processes, insurance companies can set remote teams up for success. 

Ensuring representatives are prepared for the new environment

The pandemic has demonstrated that “virtualizing” the customer experience (CX) is no longer an option but a necessity. Insurance companies need to equip and train representatives to use necessary technology while at home. Companies should lend headsets, laptops and other equipment to employees. Maintaining an excellent CX program may also require new digital technologies—such as chat and video— which representatives need to be fully proficient in. Keep in mind, a well-trained representative can better personalize the customer experience, resolving issues faster and with better customer satisfaction.

Meeting your customers on the right channel at the right time

Customer experience often acts as the differentiator when it comes to the crowded markets of health, home, auto and travel insurance. Now that teams are working off-site and traditional support interactions have shifted to be primarily virtual, it’s imperative to use every customer inquiry as an opportunity to strengthen their loyalty. A successful relationship relies on open communication, and that means the ability for the policy holder to reach the provider when needed. Insurance companies, especially ones with a global footprint in different time zones, can no longer rely on nine-to-five service hours. Their clientele, when faced with an unexpected catastrophe, will reach out expecting fast and accessible support. 

As demand for 24/7 service grows, customers are turning toward varying platforms such as intermediaries, service centers or digital channels to reach their insurers. Since the end of February, there has been a global increase in digital channels being used to contact customer service, with WhatsApp up 148%, texting up 26% and direct messaging over Facebook and Twitter up by 21%. These shifts reinforce the need for insurance companies to virtualize their customer service and meet customers on increasingly diverse channels.  

See also: Why Customer Journey Mapping Is Crucial

With new communication forms on social media and online, it’s critical to meet customers on the platforms that are comfortable and accessible for them. For insurance companies, this ease of access comes in the form of offering personalized service supported across communication channels. If a policy holder poses a claim question via an online customer service chat, the information shared should be reflected in the person’s online account and accessible across all other channels. It’s a matter of ensuring that customers don’t need to repeat their question or information and that they get the same quality of response across channels. 

Relying on AI-based technology 

For many years, a digitized customer relationship has been key for creating a successful CX journey in the insurance world. If you have the technology, use it. AI-based technology has been proven to address customer inquiries more rapidly. If simple customer requests around account updates, such as resetting a password, are handled by an automated system, representatives are free to spend the bulk of their time addressing more complex problems. This simple redirection of workflow allows resources to be redistributed in a more efficient and effective way. 

While insurance CX teams are no stranger to chatbots and other technologies, the newly remote environment requires their increased use to maintain policy holder satisfaction and loyalty. Insurance companies should be evaluating which tools can best support virtualized customer service teams by considering the following: 

  • Predicting problems: Chatbots and AI can help you anticipate customer needs and dissatisfaction. 
  • Helping your workforce: Representatives are dealing with a higher volume of complex interactions. Can tools such as text-based messaging help ease their workloads by quickly handling simpler tasks? 
  • Connecting with customers: Prospective policy holders are increasingly seeking insurers that offer a more personalized experience. Can adopting new technology help you deliver more tailored information? 

Final thoughts

Insurance companies have the opportunity to lead in the new world of remote customer service – one in which increased virtualization enables better experiences with insurance. By virtualizing the customer experience, insurers can make service and support accessible across diverse channels. For this to happen, representatives must be enabled to use the right tools and rely on AI-based technology whenever possible. This game-changing combination of technology and training will give representatives the support they need to deliver excellent customer service across channels. 

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About the Author

Fara Haron is the CEO North America, Ireland and Southeast Asia and EVP Global Clients at Majorel. She leads a rapidly growing team of customer service professionals helping companies with their global customer service strategy.

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