Customer Support

Strategies for Insurers to Stand Out in Customer Support

February 19, 2019
12:00 am

Insurers—from home and casualty to health, auto, and life—face increasing pressures to differentiate themselves in a crowded digital marketplace. Aggregators can force simple comparisons to your competitors based on commodity. But there are great ways to set your company apart. Customer service is a top quality customers value about an insurer, beating out even settlement amount.

Below, we look at core areas to strengthen customer support. We share strategies and insights that standout carriers are using to distinguish themselves (plus a few tactics that fell flat!). And we explore tools at your disposal to enhance your strategies and increase loyalty to your brand.

Typical Issues & Escalations

Unfortunately, customers may not always have a strong sense of your customer support. They may only reach out to you at a few critical points: when they apply, when they have a change in policy, when they have questions, and when they make a claim. Some insurers are proactive and send information in between these interactions. A recent Accenture study noted that over half of customers are interested in relevant, real-time offers from insurers.

Strong IT systems can aid you in tracking the full picture of your customer, and integration with analytics can streamline complex risk calculation. But beyond speed, value, and simplicity, customers look for the human touch in customer service. Often this can be achieved remotely through tools like live chat, decreasing the need for dedicated phone conversations and increasing the productivity of your customer support agents.

UnderwritingA customer’s experience with underwriting includes your application process, wait time, and receiving a quote. Long wait times or confusing applications may negatively impact their impression of your business. Behind the scenes, your risk assessment and policy issuing efficiencies will improve their experience. Automation, data analytics, and other technologies will help you simplify applications and speed up quotes without sacrificing quality assessment.

You can save some time for your agents with automation: a recent study showed that 74% of customers are very or somewhat willing to receive computer-generated advice on type of insurance to buy. If you have a complex application process, offering live chat or co-browse options can help you provide seamless, high-touch customer assistance. You’ll be able to walk them through and resolve challenges on their device.

Claims Processing: These will likely be the most intense and important interactions you have with any of your customers. They may be some of the most stressful emergency situations of your customer’s life. To make a good impression, it’s important that you train customer support agents handling these cases to be highly empathetic and helpful. You may consider employing location-based technology to initiate the claims process automatically in some cases, such as auto accidents or home damage.

You’ll also be working with a lot of moving parts that may include educating the customer on submission, inspections and documentation, claims adjustments and updates on claim status. It’s important to deliver an integrated, customer-friendly experience across these channels. Make sure your email, ticketing, live chat, and other communication channels link back to a full, accessible customer profile for multiple points of contact.

Policy Servicing: As with most businesses, customers now look for anticipation of their specific needs and quick access to information in their interactions with carriers. This not only applies to their desire for different offers based on personal data they’ve shared with you, but also in the interactions with your customer support representatives and apps.

Whether you are performing policy administration like renewals and customer-initiated updates, or sending changes in policy, your business can provide gold-standard customer service. 2018 research by Accenture also shows that customers feel remote face-to-face contact, like live chat or video, is preferable for complex transactions (and urgent requests) to simply accessing information online.

Customer Service Insights from Leading Insurers

Successful insurers are learning important lessons about what to prioritize with customers.

Customers value support agents who are familiar with their full picture. One auto insurer serving 10 million customers worked with Deloitte to pull together their product silos, from sales and enrollment to billing and claims. The firm also assisted the insurer in unifying a tangled contact center. Their customer support representatives at the call center now have access to a full customer profile, particularly useful for helping their best customers who have multiple policies. They have seen an increase in customer satisfaction and retention.

A single point of contact can have exponential returns. Another large auto carrier surveyed by McKinsey set out to reduce call waiting time for their contact center, but when they analyzed their customer journey, they found that a single point of contact mattered more. When they made this change, customer satisfaction increased by 50% and followup inquiries dropped over 80%.

Educated customers equal more satisfied customers. In life insurance, State Farm has ranked at the top of customer satisfaction scores by J.D. Power for five consecutive years. State Farm has built long-term customer relationships, which are sometimes cited as a key to its success. But J.D. Power offers another clue to their satisfaction scores. According to their recent survey, price satisfaction in customers was driven by understanding the value of services. Providing clear, easy-to-understand information about your services may be a distinguishing factor. Setting up a knowledge base helps give your customers quick answers to frequently asked questions. Live chat and co-browse tools help you keep in touch in real time and walk them through more tailored knowledge.

Personalization is a customer service trend to watch. Insurtech Trōv offers personal property insurance on demand through a mobile app. Customers can turn individual item protections off to lower their premiums, and send claims via text message. Their online chat records within the app can be used by claim adjusters as records. As more insurtechs disrupt the insurance industry, personalization will only increase and insurers who anticipate customer needs will have a better chance of standing out.

Customer Service Fails

Other insurers learned tougher lessons, which may be equally important to convey.

Inefficient legacy systems lead to burdensome customer experiences. Just three years ago, more than two-thirds of P&C insurers still relied on legacy systems and processes. Siloed departments lead to slow application and claims processing, different experiences for the customer from different touchpoints, and overall dissatisfaction. It’s important to keep your technology up to date for a unified customer experience.

Wait times might not be the critical quality to optimize. Although speed can certainly impact customer experience, one carrier reported upgrading its telephone system and reducing average hotline wait time from 40 to 20 seconds. However, this had a very minimal impact on customer satisfaction. Before spending a lot of time and money on just speed, consider other customer service factors, such as the KPIs we mention below.

Don’t just talk the talk, walk the walk. Another insurer advertised “superior service,” but saw an immediate decline in customer satisfaction. The reasons for this weren’t conclusive, but one could speculate that the ad raised expectations and the carrier failed to deliver on them. Make sure your service can stand behind your marketing.

Key Performance Indicators (KPIs): Measuring Success

According to a study by McKinsey into US auto claims, the top five points driving customer satisfaction are:

  • Speed of claim settlement: With more and more brokers and carriers across verticals like auto, rent, and home insurance offering fast turnaround times for claim settlement, building the most responsive support process becomes ever more important.
  • Ease of communicating with the insurer: Everything from policy negotiations to claims processing to clarification on premiums isn’t only done over the phone or email anymore - many brokers now have mobile app-based support to answer questions and qualify potential customers almost instantaneously.
  • Employee knowledge/professionalism
  • Employee courtesy
  • Transparency and ease of process

To tie it all together, ensure that your customer support strategies are truly moving the needle with customers. Aside from speed of settlement, these points relate back to enabling high-quality customer service communication.

We recommend good old-fashioned training. Ensure your representatives are both knowledgeable and courteous. High employee morale and retention will also reduce your costs and increase your effectiveness.

As well, give them the tools to amplify their reach. Provide access to the full, integrated picture of customers across departments and touchpoints. Supply additional customer education through AI chat and self-service knowledge bases, to free your reps up for the most complex interactions. Behind the scenes, track and employ customer data to offer the most relevant, timely assistance possible. And leverage analytics to speed up quotes and claims.

For difficult applications, policy management, and claims processes, build strong relationships with your customers and help get them through any sticky situations with engagement tools like live chat and co-browse.

Though you don’t have to take our word for it... satisfaction surveys can help your company develop its own custom KPIs and continually improve.

If you use the tools to support your customer relationships, you just may be rewarded with those most elusive of returns: trust and loyalty in your brand.


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