While customer service has long been key to success, in the world of insurance, changes in customer expectations and technology have given rise to new rules of engagement when delivering that service.
Thanks to advancements in automation, mobile technology, data accessibility, and artificial intelligence (AI), insurance customers can shop around like never before. If a brokerage isn't meeting their needs, it's a matter of a few clicks to find one that will. And, more often than not, these decisions are made in the first few minutes of consumer-brand interaction.
Now, add to that increased access to the internet. Since 2005, the number of internet users worldwide has increased by over 2.5 billion. A massive part of that has been the effect of increased access to smartphones.
In 2017, studies found that smartphones drove 56% of all web traffic, and those numbers are only expected to rise. These numbers show that it's no coincidence that many players in the insurance industry are looking to mobile-first channels, including apps, to serve consumers better.
It’s clear that reaching customers and leads through smart platforms and mobile devices is here to stay, and likely only going to expand in the future. Insurance brokers and agents need to develop strategies that embrace the needs of the consumer and respond quickly to their requests if they want to stand out from competitors.
Creating digitized workflows that automate business processes, improve back-office efficiency, and provide actionable intelligence for every lead and client is one such way for brokerages to move forward.
Brokers and agents who can immediately see customers' needs and determine the appropriate upsell and cross-sell opportunities can act more as partners (rather than mere gatekeepers) in their customers’ journeys to comprehensive coverage. Personalization is cited again and again as something that today's consumers require from brokerages.
In order to compete, fully embracing a customer-first approach is going to be the best insurance brokerage differentiator. That's where agents and brokers can stymie the competition and improve customer relationships.
The Need for an Insurance Brokerage Differentiator
The insurance industry hasn't exactly been known for sparkling customer service over the years.
The facts bear this out. A recent strategy report by Accenture found that customer churn due to poor customer service and declining loyalty costs upwards of $470 billion in premiums per year. And even worse, a recent article by Insurance Journal cited that a mere 27% of policyholders "have a high estimation of their insurance providers’ trustworthiness."
Consumers today aren't willing to put up with poor customer service experiences. The fact of the matter is that there are too many other options out there for them. Now, they can quickly and easily switch to a brokerage that does care about their needs, and the statistics below show that is exactly what they are doing:
"...61 percent of insurance consumers in the United Kingdom, 76 percent in Germany and 79 percent in Spain say their insurer choice is influenced by the quality of the carrier’s claims-handling and customer service. That service would be improved if insurers enabled their customers to make more complex self-service transactions online than just getting a quote or making a payment..."
Clearly, the opportunity is there. Brokerages that are ready to go digital and develop a strategy to become customer-centric in their approach are going to blow away the competition.
InsurTech Improving Customer Service
In the past, insurance has been primarily a product-driven business. Now, consumers demand more. They want a partner, someone who can understand their specific needs and guide them to the products that are going to best fit them.
Having an intelligent insurance brokerage management platform can help. Agents and brokers can use these platforms to leverage proactive customer servicing. They can track interactions with customers and leads, understanding when they want to access information online and when they need to speak in person.
Smart platforms can also help insurance brokers and agents see where they can add value to the customer experience. Part of this includes using intelligent insights to determine the perfect product lines for customers as well as offering real-time quotes with a few clicks.
Plus, these options allow brokerages to use an omnichannel approach when attracting customers.
Why a Client Portal Matters
Self-service is a big factor for insurance customers today. Intelligent platforms allow for users to access self-service capabilities, giving them the information they want, when they want it.
And it's not just about giving customers the ability to check quotes; consumers also want to manage certain features of their accounts and access their information online. A driving force behind consumer happiness is ease of getting information and making small changes to their accounts.
For commercial brokerages, a self-service customer portal can be a game-changer for customers who are looking for the independence to access policy information, agency contact information, as well as claims information and status updates. Plus, they can update and obtain certificates when needed.
With client portals, customers can get updates and information on demand, from the comfort of their homes, offices, or even hotel rooms while traveling on the road. This type of access provides a significant value-add for brokerages and can help to improve overall customer satisfaction.
For agents and brokers, data is providing more opportunity than ever before. Smart management platforms that have data-driven insights enable brokers to act in a much more intelligent way when interacting with clients and leads. They can find out the actual problems and concerns that customers have and then work with them to provide solutions to their real needs.
This is vast improvement over the days of cold calling or trying to engage with customers who aren't interested or in need of help.
In fact, almost 80% of consumers are more than willing to hand over their personal data if it means that they will get access to lower premiums, more tailored recommendations for policies, and quicker settlement claims.
In terms of the digitized insurance brokerage, improving systems also means getting a better handle on data overall. All too often, data is siloed across a brokerage, with separate departments managing different lines and even systems, including billing and claims.
When information isn't integrated, customer service suffers, especially when it comes to the personalization so many consumers want.
Brokers who try to take a personalized value, customer-centric approach simply can't do it when they don't have access to client information all in one place. If they don't know the last time the customer got in touch, or can't see what they might have researched on their own via a self-service portal, for example, then they can't tell it's the right time to reach out and speak about the policy for a quote that was just requested.
These seemingly small things, when missed, result in the loss of leads and frustrated clients. But when they are seen as an insurance brokerage differentiator, then a cohesive strategy can be built around these data-driven interactions.
Back Office Digitization
Automation doesn't just serve to help the front line brokers and agents. The back office can see improvements as well. Automated workflows are key to improving the efficiency of back-office processes today.
There are two main ways going digital can make a difference in the customer lifecycle and value chain.
1. A faster and more productive back office.
Back office employees who rely on automation are less likely to have processing errors, will spend less time entering tedious and redundant information manually, and can help service customer requests more quickly.
2. Intelligent insurance brokerage management platforms bring data into one place.
That means no separate silos for billing and claims. It also means that the data in the systems is correct across departments as well. Because, let's face it, poor data is just as bad as (or worse than!) having no data at all.
For agents and brokers, automated workflows mean more time selling and servicing customers rather than spending the majority of their time doing mundane administrative or non-selling tasks. When they spend less time on admin tasks, brokers and agents can be more productive and focused on lead generation and connecting with clients either in person or online.
Brokerages that haven’t yet embraced digitization and automation of back office tasks will have brokers and agents who spend an inordinate amount of time each week filling out paperwork, trying to locate files with the most up-to-date customer information, and logging into multiple websites for quotes.
This is a waste of energy and effort, especially with a motivated sales team. With smart systems that run company-wide all of this important information that can help customers and close deals is all right there at their fingertips.
Today's brokerages need to find a way to make themselves stand out from the crowd. The best way to differentiate is to go all in on customer service.
Not only will this focus provide an overall better experience for your customers, but it can also be used as a unique selling point to leads. As more consumers care about the value of excellent customer service in their lives, they are going to be more likely to work with, and stay loyal to, the brands that provide it.