It’s no secret that technology behemoths have been at the forefront of adapting to changing consumer expectations and have even helped to shape them, from how we shop, to how we travel and consume entertainment today. While the success of these giants can seem threatening to the insurance industry, which historically hasn’t been able to deliver solutions as quickly as say, Netflix can play the next episode of The Office, there are still many lessons that insurance agencies can take away from tech giants and implement into their own businesses.
The first is the recommendation engine. When you go on Amazon, what you see on that homepage is different than what your neighbour might see, and the same thing goes for Netflix.
“They have these algorithms that, based off of what you buy or based on what you watch and how you rate things, they’re going to provide recommendations for what you might be interested in. That kind of personalization has led across industries and people expect to have that kind of personalization, that kind of custom experience,” said Becky Schroeder, chief marketing officer at Insurance Technologies Corporation (ITC).
The next lesson is that tech giants have made it extremely easy for consumers to use their platforms. People want easy and they want simple, and that is what these companies have delivered to the market – whether it’s Amazon with Prime’s free two-day shipping or being able to stream anything wherever, whenever on Netflix. That simplicity is important because 89% of consumers will switch to a competitor after a poor customer experience, says Schroeder, giving an example of her own experience with a major platform.
“Several years ago, I was on a road trip and I was talking to my husband about his dad’s birthday, which was the next day. We’re not great planners and had not gotten him any sort of birthday gift. My husband talked about getting him a pair of shoes,” she explained. “Being that his birthday was the next day and we were in a car, I didn’t have time to go shopping, so I pulled out my phone and pulled up the Zappos app, found the pair I wanted, and had them shipped directly to my father-in-law. It took me less than 10 minutes and it was incredibly easy. Zappos is really well known for their awesome customer service, but they also win because it’s so easy to buy. I was in a car on the road and I bought a birthday present and sent it to my father-in-law, and because of their next-day shipping, he got it on his birthday. That is how easy these companies have made it to do business with them and that is what consumers want from insurance.”
Nonetheless, there are a number of potential customer experience sticking points at work within agencies. The majority of website traffic now is done on a mobile device, so if an insurance agent’s website is not mobile-friendly, that’s a sticking point. If a customer is on the agency’s website and they fill out a form, but they do not hear from the agent immediately, like when they order something from Amazon, that’s another sticking point, especially considering that it can take some agencies a few days or longer to respond to that contact request. Not being able to find the phone number on an agency’s website and having to dig around for other key information about an agency is also a common issue.
“There’s a lot of those kinds of examples throughout a customer’s journey with an insurance agency that could be problematic,” said Schroeder. “The number one thing is to look at each touchpoint the consumer has with your agency, and look at it from their perspective and identify where the potential friction is, and then fix it to make sure your website looks good and is functional – easy to navigate on a phone, not just on a desktop computer – and make sure you have a process in place to send an automated email to a contact request, and then follow it up with a personal email or phone call.”
Even if it’s just to say, ‘hey, we got your request,’ that sends the customer a clear signal that their message has been received and someone will be in touch soon.
Offering self-service portals for current clients can also be a big win, allowing them to look at their policies and request changes whenever they want. Some people will still want to call or drop by the office, but providing them that extra option and the convenience of seeing their policy when and where they want to is important, explained Schroeder. Finally, there are many turnkey solutions on the market right now for live quoting platforms that agents can install on their websites to provide bindable quotes, as well as chatbots that can minimize customer service calls.
However, just because Amazon is all about the digital experience – because let’s be honest, it’s unlikely that you’ll be speaking to an Amazon representative any time soon – it’s important to remember that insurance still requires the human touch.
“Technology is not there to replace the human element. It’s there to make it easier and it’s there to allow you to be human in the moments where you need to be human,” said Schroeder, highlighting some key insight she recently came across. “Netflix did not kill blockbuster – ridiculous late fees did. Uber did not kill the taxi business – limited access and fare control did. Apple did not kill the music industry – being forced to buy full-length albums did. Amazon did not kill retail – poor service and experience did. Airbnb didn’t kill the hotel industry – limited availability and pricing options did. So, it’s not technology that has disrupted all of these industries. It’s not being focused on the customer journey and the customer experience that did.”