How Insurance Companies Can Upend the Customer Experience

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Let’s face it: customer-centric experiences have not been a high priority for property and casualty (P&C) insurance companies. However, times have changed. The P&C insurance industry, along with many others, is undergoing a significant transformation due to changes in customer behavior and expectations.

Prospective policyholders today have a bevy of information at their fingertips, allowing them to research products and services directly at their convenience while bypassing insurance brokers. And while the behavior of policyholders is changing, many insurance companies are struggling to keep up and differentiate their business.

As companies reexamine their customer strategies, here’s an overview of an underutilized resource—the contact center—and tips on how to help associates better engage prospective policyholders.

The facts
The insurance associate is no longer gatekeeper of information when it comes to navigating the complexities of buying insurance. In fact, consumers may compare prices and services, read customer reviews, and gather feedback from family and friends before ever speaking with an associate. Connected and value-conscious consumers are therefore forcing insurers to pay more attention to their own brand and the customer experience they deliver.

Why customer experiences matter
Insurers should not assume that price is the only factor that consumers care about. A study by Forrester Research shows that 89 percent of consumers who experience poor service with a brand will switch to its competition. And in a survey of banking customers, McKinsey & Company reports that after a positive experience, more than 85 percent of customers purchased more products or invested more of their assets. More than 70 percent of customers who had a negative experience, however, reduced or ended their relationship with the bank.  

Modernizing the contact center
Although customer service is important for winning new customers and retaining existing ones, call centers are traditionally seen as a cost item rather than a revenue generator. As a result, contact centers are often underutilized, when they should be seen as a far more strategic asset. When properly equipped, contact centers can deliver cross-selling and up-selling opportunities, and run more cost-efficient operations by increasing associate productivity.

Furthermore, contact centers play a major role in influencing the public’s perception of a company by creating a great customer experience and executing on the company’s business goals. Here are several strategies for empowering contact center associates to deliver the best customer experience possible.
  • Allow customers to conduct business with you when and in the manner they prefer. Offer a variety of options for communicating with the company beyond the phone and email, such as by including SMS text messaging and Web chat. Keeping track of user metrics will also reveal which channels are used most often by customers and need the most investment.
  • Provide timely and helpful customer service. The last thing customers want to do is repeat their request. Call centers should invest in systems that tie customer data across channels to deliver a comprehensive record for the associate and reduce redundancies. 
  • Resolve calls fast and effectively. As soon as the associate takes the call, relevant customer information should be displayed on a single screen so that the associate doesn’t need to manually navigate through systems to find the right information. Integrating back-office system information with daily contact center activities will give associates what they need to quickly and effectively help customers. 
  • Have the right associates handle the right calls. In addition to skills-based routing and business priority routing, real-time speech analytics combined with real-time guidance can ensure that calls are appropriately handled while also making the most of opportunities to drive new revenues (or retain the customer).
  • Streamline the experience. Automated workflow management tools can also help the service associate efficiently take the necessary steps to resolve customer issues. At the same time, avoid making the process too onerous for the associate. Identify only the critical points of the customer interaction to be measured without micromanaging the interaction.

How to remove sales barriers
It’s no secret that consumers are increasingly bypassing sales staff and researching products and prices online. And companies that understand their customers’ needs can take advantage of upsell and cross-sell opportunities at different parts of the customer journey.

For instance, consumers usually prefer to seek advice before purchasing an insurance plan, but many sites don’t facilitate associate interaction. The result is that consumers often make key buying decisions without input from an associate. Consider adding a support window or pop-up screen to remind consumers that an associate is available to answer additional questions. 

Furthermore, many insurance companies fail to supply associates with information from their online consumer-facing applications. Therefore, when prospects complete their research and contact the associate to make a purchase, a lack of multichannel integration means that associates have no knowledge of the customer’s prior interactions online, making it more difficult to develop personalized and relevant sales strategies. Streamlining information from contact forms and/or surveys with other customer interactions through a CRM system or similar platform can help fill those holes.

It’s unquestionable that the insurance industry faces a number of challenges. Sluggish growth, changes in customer behavior, and increasing price competition mean that traditional product-based strategies are no longer enough.

Excellent customer service is critical for winning new policyholders and retaining existing ones. Cost-cutting pressures should be balanced with rising customer care expectations. Working with an experienced partner to upgrade contact centers, as well as promote associate productivity, and improve cross-sell and up-sell strategies will ensure an exceptional customer experience across channels and strengthen customer relationships.

To learn more about how to create a differentiated customer service in the P&C insurance industry, read the white paper "Why Customer Experience Matters for P&C."

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