Josh Ayres, head of emerging technologies, IPI
A big challenge for the insurance sector is maintaining customer loyalty. With competition fierce, the key to market differentiation often lies in the experience customers have with a brand. As the mouth piece of an insurer, the contact centre – the go-to place for claims, complaints, renewals and cancellations – should be a focal point in the bid to improve customer service.
In order to keep customers happy and loyal, insurance contact centres should look to adopt technological advancements such as automation which are revolutionising the service being offered to customers in the insurance sector. The likes of chatbots and other automated tools will not only speed the customer’s journey to an efficient resolution, but this technology will also improve the employee experience. Since happy agents make happy customers, it would be unwise not to seize the opportunity that automated technology presents.
Fear not the chatbot
Whilst there are some fears that automation could jeopardise jobs, adopting new technology is actually one of the best ways in which insurers can improve both the customer and employee experience.
Automated technology in the insurance sector is already seeing widespread adoption. With a distinct rise in the volume of emails received, it’s estimated that 94% of insurance providers will enable an online chatbot by 2020, up from 44% in 2018. By speaking with a chatbot on the insurer’s website, customers can update their address, for example, without having to pick up the phone, and even if they do, AI tools can guide them through the easy parts of the call.
These automated tools are also able to take on some of the contact centre agent’s workload by completing the more mundane tasks, such as updating contact details. Not only does this reduce the overall call handling time – a key metric in the contact centre – but it also frees up the agent who will have more time to spend with the customer on the more complex matters.
Having their journey simplified and more efficiently dealt with will not only ensure a happy customer, but also reinforces their loyalty, a key marker of success in the insurance sector.
Better customer service
The customer experience is the top priority in the world of insurance, especially when a customer is calling regarding a claim. If the customer has been in a car accident, or there’s been some damage to their home, for example, chances are that emotions will be running high. In these situations, the response of the agent in the insurer’s contact centre is critical not just in dealing with the customer’s immediate concern, but also can influence that customer’s future loyalty.
Dealing with calls efficiently and resolving problems effectively the first time around should be the main goal of insurance call centre agents. In fact research has shown that customers don’t like to be kept waiting on the phone, and 76% of consumers admit that they are likely to switch brands due to a bad customer experience.
allowing the agent more time to interact with the customer on complicated
matters, staff are encouraged to provide a better, more personalised customer
experience, especially if they are rewarded for their efforts. Customers will
appreciate this attention to detail and will feel like they are really being
heard, rather than being pawned off to a robot.
By improving customer service on intricate matters, combined with a shorter wait time thanks to the bots, insurers develop a good reputation amongst customers, encouraging loyalty in an increasingly competitive marketplace.
The customer experience is, however, no longer the only important factor to consider. The employee experience is another facet of the industry that automated technology can help improve.
Keeping up morale and productivity can be tough and employee engagement has become a top priority for contact centres. In an effort to boost the mood, some insurance providers are trialling a four-day working week with no loss of pay for its staff in an effort to improve productivity, staff wellbeing and, as a result, the customer experience.
Introducing automated technology can also help achieve these goals. Speech analytics is a tool that can be especially beneficial to lightening an insurance agent’s workload. Voice recognition software and speech analytics are capable of unearthing useful information that might not have been spotted at first sight – particularly beneficial when dealing with insurance claims. For example, thousands of hours of call recordings can be analysed in seconds, with metrics such as phrases, anomalies and errors identified instantly. In short, speech analytics can help improve the employee experience by doing everything from reducing stress on agents and improving their job satisfaction, to highlighting the strongest performing agents and increasing employee retention rates.
Whilst automation technology can be used – and is being used – to support and improve the customer experience in insurance, it can also help achieve a more well-rounded contact centre. The employees are one of the most crucial aspects of the insurance contact centre, especially in delivering that all-important world-class customer experience to a customer calling with a claim or complaint. Helping employees with technology such as speech analytics that makes their job easier and more satisfying will not only make for an overall improvement in the working environment and office culture, but will also ensure that they can deliver on the customer front to keep customers loyal to their insurance provider.
TIME TO THINK OUTSIDE OF THE BLACK BOX
Mike Brockman, CEO, ThingCo
If you have the unbridled joy of parenting a teenager you’ll probably know what telematics insurance is. In very simple terms, telematics or ‘black box’ insurance enables insurance companies to track driving behaviour using technology fitted to the car or via a smartphone app. It is the first practical example of IoT – machine to machine communication of real-time data.
Telematics has been crucial to helping thousands of young people get experience on the road who would otherwise have found the cost of insurance too high. When you look at the number of road casualties in the UK over the last nine years there is a clear correlation between the rising adoption of telematics and a fall in young driver casualties[i]. The problem is that as soon as they can, young drivers chuck in telematics and take traditional insurance. As such telematics insurance has got stuck firmly in a rut.
So why is that a problem?
First, telematics saves lives – think what it could do if more drivers had it.
Secondly motor insurance costs are linked to claims costs – if we can bring down the cost of claims through the engagement, speed of response in accidents and anti-fraud benefits of using telematics data to its full potential, everyone could access cheaper insurance.
Thirdly we are living in a world deeply impacted by COVID-19. Travel trends were already altering prior to the pandemic but have changed and could remain significantly changed for the foreseeable future. Consumers are beginning to think more deeply now about their motor insurance and value for money. This may create demand for motor insurance cover that is more responsive to people’s individual driving behaviours – why pay an annual premium when you only use the car once or twice a week? On the flipside, those nervous of using public transport could see an increase in their car use. Telematics allows insurance providers to offer insurance based on actual rather than predicted use.
The fundamental reason for telematics getting stuck in a rut is insurance companies are not offering something consumers actually want and they are not deriving value from their investment in the technology. Different telematics devices give different qualities of data and that data determines the economic equation they have to resolve in terms of how much they pay for the technology and what value they get from it.
Another key factor is that if you give something away – as the insurance industry has done with telematics ‘black boxes’ – you are sending a strong signal to the customer that the technology is of no value to them and only there to serve the insurer’s need.
You need to make the device a desirable piece of technology that consumers would value in their own right – rather than something that is imposed on them to get cheaper insurance. By introducing new technologies into these devices such as Voice, camera, ADAS, black spot warnings, it becomes a truly connected device that not only helps the driver but also creates incredible amounts of data that’s useful to the insurer to manage risk and provide better customer services.
With next generation telematics, the data is no longer a one way street direct into the insurer. You can feed that data back to the customer and develop additional services such as a voice alert when they have been driving for too long without a break, an incentive of a coffee at the next rest-stop.
Telematics also transforms the claims process for the customer and the insurance provider. A crash alert can kick in and activate a voice command in the device and that will ask the driver if they had an accident, whether they need help and will alert emergency services if necessary.
This is where the data brings huge value to the insurance provider providing a whole range of detail – like a liability assessment, video footage, fault, g-force etc. This data is dynamite to First Notification of Loss team with an insurance provider.
But the biggest difference next generation telematics offers is it really strengthens the relationship with customers and insurers can make it fun as well. Insurance and fun aren’t usually two words you see in the same sentence but unlike traditional insurance, or old school telematics, it allows engagement and the opportunity to provide incentives without any big brother feeling about it.
Technology has changed massively over the last ten years, the quality of devices has developed and the Cloud has opened the potential for telematics products to be designed for customers in the most attractive way. Barriers around trust and big brother can be broken down by being absolutely clear that the data belongs to the driver – they can choose how it is used to their benefit, spelling out the advantages, being transparent and flexible.
COVID-19 is providing an opportunity to stand back and think about telematics differently – how to make it customer friendly and how to make the economics work. By leveraging next generation telematics technology the insurance market has a window of opportunity to turn the motor insurance grudge purchase into something consumers really start to value.
BRANCHES ARE THE HUMAN FACE OF YOUR BANK?
Sudeepto Mukherjee, Senior Vice President, Financial Services Lead EMEA & APAC Publicis Sapient
Branches have always played a pivotal role in a bank’s ability to acquire and service customers. Historical surveys have consistently pointed to the fact that proximity to branches is one of the key reasons that determine who consumers choose to bank with. Even with the increased adoption of mobile banking in the past decade, research from data specialists CACI had found that surprisingly, the decline of branch visitors has been modest, equating to less than 2% per year, with digital channels supplementing the customer experience rather than replacing it.
The COVID pandemic has changed all of that. It has suddenly forced consumers away from branches into call centres and web/mobile channels to meet their banking needs. So the big question is what role should branches play as we recover from this pandemic? Will branch centric business models like that of Metro Bank still thrive or will the digital only banking offerings like those from Starling and similar win out?
Banks will always have 2 different faces to consumers. The first face is one that is human and relationship based. This is the part of the bank that consumers rely on to get advice on how to manage their life savings. The face that they call upon when they are in financial distress and need help overcoming that. The face that helps them make product choices on what credit type would best suit their circumstance. The second face is that of the bank as an efficient machine that uses the best available technology, data and AI to meet transactional needs quickly. This is the face that consumers rely on to make payments in real time and conveniently. The machine that provides the ability to quickly respond to queries around account balances and transaction history. The machine that alerts consumers when certain actions are performed on their accounts. Customers expect both these faces from their bank. However, the financial crisis and the PPI scandals saw banks loose the trust and credibility of customers as they were seen to be driven more by internal profits rather than consumer needs. The human face of the bank was no longer visible to most consumers and the machine failed to live up to the expectations set by the Big Tech giants like Apple and Amazon that seamlessly provided services via their digital platforms.
The Bank Branch can play a pivotal role going forward in re-establishing this human side by helping a bank build trust and become the primary advisor for our financial needs. Instead of just meeting transactional needs like check deposits and account openings, banks can now transition branches into relationship centres where their employees are 100% focussed on financial advice and well-being of their customers. They are teachers and coaches, life-cheerleaders and financial partners – they are many in number.
Historically this model has been difficult to achieve because of the high cost of such personalised service at scale in branches. However, advancements in technology/AI coupled with the propensity of customers to use digital channels for transactional needs now make this imminently within reach .
This transition will require a fundamental shift in 3 big areas:
- Creating a strong digital infrastructure to enable an omni-channel service: Banks will have to double down on their digital transformation efforts and build an infrastructure that can serve most transactional needs seamlessly via digital channels and call centres. The operational burden on both call centre and back office staff will have to be significantly reduced by automating as many processes as possible and providing the right tools and insight to help consumers efficiently.
- Culture and Capability: This will also require a big shift in both capability and culture. Every function of a bank (like risk, finance, product control) will have to get more comfortable in leveraging technology to do a majority of the tasks currently done by humans while investments will be needed in new capabilities so front line staff can focus on building relationships at scale and provide good advice to consumers.
- Bringing customers along on this journey: All this will work only if there is also a strong focus on educating customers on how best to interact with a bank and use branches only for the most complex needs while relying on other less expensive channels for day-to day banking services.
Making this transition will not be easy. Constrained finances and a higher compliance burden, have resulted in a large technology debt and complex operating models in most banks. Banks have to take a more ambitious approach to “jump” to this new model. Digital leaders like Amazon and Netflix have shown how a shift from physical stores to a more digital centric ecosystem can not only be more efficient but also create value for consumers.
Now is the time for banks to seize this opportunity to redefine the role of branches and re-establish them as essential advice centres for meeting their communities financial needs.
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