A superior customer experience can always be associated with a successful company. It’s no wonder that many business leader’s share the view that a best-in-class customer experience helps a company grow faster and more profitably.

The differences between a great and poor service is not something new. It was known since ages. Businesses caught up in the wrong end of the spectrum have often paid a price. What is important in today’s context is that the digital reach and social media has amplified the consequences to a level of much higher seriousness. This holds true for insurance as for any other customer facing business. One small mistake committed unknowingly while quoting or a poorly managed claim captured on a smart device has the potential of turning into a brand damaging crisis.It’s not only about lowering the chances of mishaps but also a way to make a brand stand out in the ultra-competitive marketplace. Most customers in today’s age know about coverage, services and prices more than ever before, largely because of the smart devices, social media and aggregators. And more difficult will it become for an insurance provider to differentiate its products from other providers in the highly regulated and competitive industry. It’s no surprise that many insurers are now seeing customer service as one of the few available options to have their products stand out in the crowd.

Research shows that the leading carriers in the US are constantly building on their customer experience to attract new visitors as well as to inspire loyalty among the existing customers. A good number of the prospective insurance buyers now touch at least one digital channel in their shopping journey. Digital interactive platforms like self-service portals and apps with personalized messages, with improved speed and service are gradually emerging to be a more effective alternative to agents, phone or email.

For any insurer, identifying the factors that drive customer satisfaction is important. The key reasons behind failure of a lot many organizations is that they miss out on the deep customer insights and not put in their best efforts in modeling the end to end management of the most important customer journeys.

Now, is there any standard approach or strategy for insurers to take? Some experts suggest that touch points should be fewer for a smooth experience while another group in favor of more interactions advocates that they create more opportunities and thus aid in value addition and loyalty building. However, there are examples that show both can work effectively if applied correctly depending on the customer segment and the specific journey they are on. Surveys indicate that some of the parameters which insurers should consider being of prime importance in delivering experiences are – behavior and courtesy, ease of communication, professionalism, employee knowledge about products and services, time to response and settlement. Digital technologies have added quite a few channels in the customer service mix and have also revamped some older ones.  Self-service portals, live chats, mobile apps, social media and online forums have all created new avenues of interaction. But most of the additional complexity comes with bringing the omni-channel experience that now becomes an absolute necessary for offering a connected service using these multiple platforms.

Analytics and visitor profiling can play an important role here. Productive use of customer pathway information can provide an insurer with valuable insights about why a customer chooses a specific channel in different instances and how a journey progresses through channels over time. Personalization follows in closely. The ability of insurers anticipating customer needs and offering a personalized experience is referred to as something very important by many experts. Some of the leading analytic solutions or web content management tools have started offering features to track every action a visitor takes on any channel. The information is then gathered and analyzed to create a single lifetime view of that customer providing the insurer with valuable insights in real time. Below is a snapshot view of such a Customer Profile from one of the leading web content management tools.

episerver -web content mangement tool

Source: EPiServer

Improving a customer experience begins with understanding the customer needs and their implication in the product or service offerings. Multiple tools are available that can help an organization in assessing customer satisfaction. Though most of them have shortcomings, customer satisfaction scores, recommendations, surveys can all help an insurer in getting an overview of the operational drivers and their role in creating a better experience. Some measurable result parameters can be the renewal of existing policies, cross selling etc. The right transformation starts with an insurer being able to inspire its objective and brand promise among its employees. Those insurers, from top management to any customer support representative or a field agent, realize that customer satisfaction is not just a metric on a dashboard but an inspiration of everything they do, and have a lot of potential to thrive.

A study by McKinsey says that for any organization there are four key elements towards generating excellent customer experience.

Customer experience                                       Source: McKinsey

Insurers need to understand that it is not the process that matters more, but the journey. Many of them have invested a lot into their digital offerings but are still not able to create the best experience. The flaw lies in the ways digital technologies has been applied to the existing product and processes like claims, underwriting and so forth.  Customers from their frequent interactions with service leaders like Amazon, Zappos etc. expects a convenient digital solution that will ease their effort. It is highly unlikely that they will discriminate between industries and sectors. The thoughts are as simple like if a bank can provide digital solutions to manage finance effortlessly, customers see no reason why an insurer will not be able to do the same thing. It’s no surprise that insurers who provide convenient features like one click buying, product recommendations, personalized suggestions and social media reviews will be able to reap the benefits.

Customer journey begins with an event trigger like moving to a new home, wedding, and birth of a child or a new job. There are hundreds of events that can trigger an insurance need. Smart insurers will offer a digital solution that will solve every customer’s moments of truth comprehensively and conclusively without any delays or additional process loops. In simple terms it is following the customer journey across all segments, products and channels while being able to offer a best in class experience whenever an opportunity arises. Insurers adopting such customer perspective will thus not only be able to offer a superior customer experience but also establish a digital advantage that is certain to grow over time with the fast moving technology landscape.

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