Going “Channel-Less”: Differentiation in the Insurance Market Through Digital Transformation and Seamless Customer Engagement
The last decade or so has seen insurance customers move away from predominantly in-person relationships with their brokers and, mirroring broader consumer behavior trends, toward largely online and digital interactions. Concurrently, and somewhat consequently, the insurance industry has seen its products become more commoditized and consumer behavior more price-driven in the market. Though convenient, online sign-ups and account management often lack the personal touch—and that factor, combined with the low cost of switching to a competitor, has served to limit the opportunity for insurers to differentiate themselves in avenues other than price. As a result, customer retention continues to be a challenge, and insurers are looking to digitally transform to achieve seamless customer engagement and regain their service-driven points of differentiation.
Underscoring the imperative to digitally transform are two factors. One is that doing nothing opens up the possibility of disruption or loss of market share to competitors, and the other is that consumers are being passively trained to expect the best from their online experiences, where a great digital experience with one brand raises the bar for all others. Like companies in other industries, insurers are increasingly using emerging channels like chatbots in Facebook Messenger and WhatsApp to service customers, as well as in existing channels like apps, email and phone. The end goal of digital transformation, says Christopher Hall, senior vice president of operations at Precisely, , is to make customer engagement through this mesh of options so seamless as to be “channel-less.”
However, achieving that requires an effort grounded in data and a comprehensive single view of the customer, which facilitates hand-offs to different channels as the customers’ needs change. With potentially complex insurance quotes or policy issuances, the likelihood is high that customers may need to utilize multiple channels—from apps to chatbots to telephone representatives—for a single engagement. To facilitate this, it is necessary that technology supports the engagement across those channels, associates are furnished with the relevant information and the transition between channels is smoothed. “It’s really about putting insurers in the shoes of their customers to better navigate the experience they’re trying to provide,” explains Hall.