For many years, large companies have been pushing customers down the customer service channel that best suits them, not the customer. Insurers have been as guilty of this as banks, airlines and telcos. But in an age of social media when the customer’s voice is so much more powerful suddenly, this cannot continue. Insurers must move with the times and adapt to a multichannel service environment so they can tune into the customers’ needs and be where THEY want to have the conversation, and not the other way around.
In my last two posts, I spoke about how to move your marketing environment to a Personalised footing where you have a direct and 1-2-1 relationship with the customer. First we looked at how to use Design Thinking to establish what it was that the customer needed and then we looked at how to align the back end processes to facilitate that. Now, taking that back-end evolution as done, we must look at how to construct a multichannel environment to suit a customer’s needs.
Insurance is a difficult industry to have a relationship with the customer. It is traditionally a low-touch relationship, meaning that for much of the time the customer has no interest in insurance nor their insurer. However, from time to time events happen that require a very, very high touch relationship all of a sudden. But while a customer wants a very private, dedicated and personalised engagement during a time of crisis – after a car crash, an accident or a natural disaster; there are other times when even transactions must be simple, easy to complete and effortless.
- Information: When customers are shopping around for deals or want guidance on how to make a claim, they feel this is something they can do self-sufficiently. Consequently they become very frustrated when this takes too much time. For instance navigating complicated web sites or worse still – having to call a contact centre to get a simple question answered – will damage an insurer’s brand and possibly even lose a renewal. Quite often, a very effective channel for this is a live agent or online chat on the website. This can be very discreet but also very effective. Question: “How do I make a claim for a traffic accident?” Answer: “Fill in this form: URL.” Done.
- Context: Insurers have at their fingertips a vast array of hugely useful information. They know where disasters are most likely to happen. They know where the most road accidents happen. They know which people are at most risks and when. This information can be served up in an unobtrusive yet timely way using either social media or email and go a long way to endearing the customer to the insurer. Customer historical data or listening to social media will help an Insurer deliver this information just as it is needed. (Traditional mail however perhaps won’t provide that same immediacy.)
- Mobility: Mobile devices are not the best interface for the web and sometimes customers prefer to simply “ping” a company on social channels or an app because the interface is well suited to being on the go. Insurers need to be ready for this and forever watching social media channels – such as Twitter and Facebook – for questions that can need fast turnaround. Live agents on the web site will not meet this need – but the need is the same: i.e. quick turnaround, minimum effort. This will involve the very same back end processes and skill sets as the live chat avenue – but is simply a different channel.
- Renewals: For the most part customers take very little interest in their insurance and once they have it, want the minimum effort in renewing it. The deal is the Insurer’s to lose essentially. The harder it is to renew, the more likely it is that the customer will shop around. Systems and processes to quickly facilitate a transaction like this need to be slick and efficient. Forcing people into a branch or onto the phone is only going to frustrate customers in an age when their expectations are high. SMS can be a good transaction channel for this, or even Twitter.
- Claims: A customer may first engage their insurer on one of these channels to make a claim, but a time of disaster is also an opportunity for an Insurer to show they care. Personalisation, efficiency, speed and sensitivity are all essential facets of this kind of service and systems must exist to quickly recognise a customer in need and move them to the most appropriate channel – which is usually the phone.
So as you can see, throughout the cycle of a customer’s involvement with an Insurer there are different channels that are appropriate for different purposes and the more an Insurer can adapt to these needs the better the relationship will be between them both. Those back end systems such as CRM I mentioned in the previous post are key to this, as are robust processes to ensure the right skill sets are deployed at the right time through the right channel. Nevertheless, it is something the whole industry is struggling with right now.
In a recent roundtable we conducted with professionals in the Insurance space, the problem of multichannel interactions was a huge issue. Amid a wide-ranging discussion that touched on many important challenges for the industry, how to adapt systems in order to accommodate a customer’s complex communication needs was a key theme. You can read the discussion, along with our insights on the topics raised, in this whitepaper.