How Insurance Agents Can Become More Customer-Centric

16 Mar 2017

Trends and Insights

Having an amazing offering and providing robust customer support may be enough to make your customers like your agency. But being liked isn't enough.

In order to take your retention metrics to a truly amorous level, you need to put customers at the heart and center of your organization's mission.

Amazon and Zappos are two oft-cited examples of consumer-centric organizations that are famous for going beyond the call of duty to ensure that their customers remain satisfied. In truth, however, there's no industry, vertical, or company, that can afford to put its relationship with its customers at the bottom of the list of priorities – especially insurance distribution.

Why customer-centricity is critical for agents

Some have raised concerns that the insurance distribution market could be at saturation point. Increasing competition among agents/brokers and tightening commissions leaves those left in the market scrambling for ways to differentiate themselves from the crowd.

Adopting advanced technology is one means of doing this. Making a serious commitment to customer-centricity is another.

A recent Accenture report found that insurers lose $470bn. annually on consumer disloyalty and that only 29% of consumers are satisfied with their insurers. But these numbers should serve as a wake-up call for everyone in the insurance industry. Thus, you should be doing everything in your power to be part of the customer-centricity trend to retain and delight your existing customer base.

Here are four ways insurance agents can become more customer-centric and improve customer retention efforts:

1. Increase customer engagement across digital channels

Seventy percent of insurers regard offering an omni-channel customer experience as a 'top three' priority, according to Pete Markey, UK Director of Brand Communications and Marketing at Aviva Insurance.

As an insurance agent/broker, you should also offer a consistent customer experience across the full variety of digital channels where you operate, so that there is consistency across every customer touch-point.

This could translate to a seamless policy-purchasing experience irrespective of whether initial contact was made through a phones sales-line, social media, or any other method.

 According to Hitachi Solutions, US-based insurers that implemented a fluid, omni-channel experience for customers saw an average 250 percent growth in income over the past few years. Thus, for the insurance agents who can successfully implement this strategy, the benefits are phenomenal.

2. Digitize back office processes

Increasing the efficiency of your back office through digitization, and in turn delivering a better and more intuitive customer experience, is a key means of boosting customer-centricity within your company.

The trend towards digitizing back office operations is currently being felt right across the middle-market industries. According to a survey by the National Center for the Middle Market and Magento, 70% of business spending on digitization is currently being directed towards improving the efficiency of internal functions.

Digitizing back office processes - for instance, by managing customer orders and tracking order volumes through an enterprise resource planning (ERP) system rather than manual communications - greatly increases the uniformity, speed, and consistency of the customer experience and is an important adjunct to a true omni-channel strategy.

According to research from IBM, aligning physical and digital channels is increasingly being recognized as a key driver of customer satisfaction. Digitizing the back office is essential for making that happen.

 

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3. Leverage the power of data and analytics

Data is revolutionizing the insurance industry. The exciting applications coming down the pipeline include leveraging real-time, smart customer metrics - such as device status in a smart home - to improve the overall customer experience by offering intelligent recommendations based on observed behaviors.

Insurers and agents/brokers, alike, are starting to take advantage of data gathered from certain risk-reducing smart devices - such as smart fire detectors or carbon monoxides sensors - and offer incentives in return.

Some of the internal uses that agents are making of data analytics include loss projection modeling as well as benchmarking platforms that allow them to compare insurance purchasing or organizations in a certain industry.

Adopting advanced analytics tools can have a highly beneficial effect on your agency/brokerage, as it will enable you to gain insightful data-driven information on your customers, which is what you need in order to offer personalized consultation and highly relevant products/service.

4. Offer access on mobile

In a world where reactivity and mobility are increasingly key to business, offering both agents and their customers access to high-level information 'on the fly' is a key concern.

This is particularly true given the importance of omni-channel to the customer experience. As customers expect to be offered a consistent experience at every touch-point of their journey, it makes sense that agents should also be able to offer support and guidance from a unified, cross-platform system – from anywhere, and at any time. Thus, it should come as no surprise that our concluding tip is to ensure that your agency offers mobile access.

Common functions of a self-service portal delivered through mobile (for customers) include the ability to easily manage insurance policies and see claim histories from any connected device.

More sophisticated offerings give consumers the ability to initiate claims directly from within the self-service portal, chat with agents/brokers, and request policy changes.

Agents/brokers should be able to view all relevant policy details and, if required, pass on the file to a colleague.

Customer-centricity is key

To truly ‘wow’ customers, agents/brokers must adopt a policy of customer-centricity.

Doing this involves implementing measures that put customer satisfaction at the forefront of the business mission.

Implementing the above tips - providing a seamless, omni-channel experience; digitizing back-office processes; tapping the power of data and analytics; and offering mobile and/or app access - can help your business take a sizable leap towards fulfilling this mission and getting your customers to fall in love with you.

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Posted by Lianne Trantz

With more than 20 years of global marketing experience at both high-tech startups and established enterprises, Lianne Trantz now serves VP of Marketing for Novidea. She is known for her expertise in brand, field and product marketing that focuses squarely on customer needs and customer value.
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