There’s no doubt that technology has made life easier for countless consumers, whether it’s shopping online, making payments from their phones, or trading stocks.
Technology has given customers more choice and control over their buying decisions across many industries, and for those comfortable with the format, it’s never been easier.
Personal lines insurance is no different.
Consumers have demanded that the insurance industry embrace similar technological advancements for ease of use and an easier journey for their customers. Proof that digitization is driving significant improvements in customer experience, employee experience and operational efficiency, consider that today 29% of people prefer to purchase life insurance through an online form, which represents an 8% increase since 2011, according to RetireGuide®.
In the case of the life and health insurance industry, companies are beginning to address these trends by increasing their investments in customer-centric digital capabilities, including sleek customer portals, real-time claims tracking, paperless reporting, personalized risk management and chatbots.
While these infrastructure investments represent a good start for insurers, they do not completely replace the direction the industry is taking. As customers become more tech savvy and technology continues to advance and become easier to use, personal insurance may need to move from an agency model to an online and direct to the consumer (D2C).
What some customer segments would appreciate even more is a multi-channel model: older and more vulnerable populations, in particular, still see personal interactions as paramount.
We see the direct-to-consumer trend happening in droves in other sectors such as travel, retail and manufacturing. In the case of travel, direct online bookings now dominate the industry’s market share. In 2020, 65% of global travel and tourism market revenue came from online sales channels.
This dynamic, when applied to the life and health insurance industry, represents a looming problem for clients who rely on agents for their insurance needs. The greatest impact will be on older customers who may be less tech savvy and customers with disabilities preventing them from using digital channels. As insurers continue to move forward on their digital journey, here are some ways business and digital leaders can work to insure digital inclusion.
The insurance customer journey includes a multitude of user touchpoints, from submitting and purchasing insurance, paying insurance premiums, filing claims, renewing policies and tracking service. It is essential to recognize that the customer journey of older adults and adults with disabilities can be very different from that of other demographic groups.
While the growing industry trend is to move most, if not all, touchpoints online, it is essential to retain other channels to reach customers who are used to working with agents and/or who are not as comfortable with technology. Non-digital channels are important sales channels and should not be considered cost centers; even in highly digital markets, material revenue still comes from non-digital channels.
Customer portals are used by major insurance companies to provide customers with centralized access to key services and information. Critical services such as paying bills, accessing coverage information, and even risk management assistance can now be easily performed online. While the advent of digital portals has certainly improved customer reach and convenience, it is also important to ensure that customers who require more tactile service are not left behind.
Advances in technology are allowing companies to integrate digital contact solutions such as chatbots and automated phone lines into the customer journey. While these features improve efficiency and reduce costs, seniors and adults with disabilities are less likely to be able to adopt new and emerging technologies, and therefore may feel more comfortable speaking directly. with a customer service agent.
With the move away from the agency model, customers are losing a means of obtaining insurance advice and guidance. To combat this and fill the void, insurers can provide an easy-to-use, personalized insurance service and ensure that customers get the products most suited to their particular circumstances. Insurers can also include in-house consultants as an add-on service to guide customers in their product selections. Further down the line, we’ll discuss how these consultants could also serve as guides for non-digital natives to learn about insurance company apps.
Usability and accessibility
Digital accessibility and usability goes beyond simply ensuring that all customers can access an organization’s Internet content. This should make it seamless for customers to interact with digital content. Here are some ideas for making digital content accessible to older customers and customers with disabilities:
- Include their perspectives when designing digital solutions. For example, a product team might hire someone with a disability to test a mobile app to make sure the solution is actually accessible.
- Simplify the language by avoiding modern and technical jargon. Numerical words like “browsers” and “header” may seem like commonplace words to native technology users, but can confuse people who didn’t grow up in the tech age.
- Provide digital content in multiple accessible formats, such as providing closed captions on videos and accessible font (lettering, color, size) on websites.
Ensuring digital usability and accessibility will go a long way to helping customers with needs feel more integrated and comfortable using digital services.
Insurers need to protect their most vulnerable customers by providing what they need, how they need it, to make informed coverage decisions.
This is the first part of a two part series. In the next part of this series, we’ll discuss the steps insurers can take to ensure that all customers are informed equally when brought into an insurer’s transformative digital journey.
Jenny Halim is Director, John Rodgers is Managing Partner and Rajeev Aggarwal is Managing Director of SSA & Company, a global firm that advises the world’s largest companies and their C-Suites on strategic execution. They can be contacted respectively at [email protected], [email protected] and [email protected].
These opinions are those of the authors.