Like any other industry, technology is forcing insurance companies to change the way they do business. Specifically, it’s widely accepted that direct sales, via the internet and other mobile avenues, are diminishing the value of the agent distribution model. A McKinsey report cited that in 2003, local insurance agents wrote 80% of new Private Passenger Autos (PPA), decreasing to 63% in 2010. Another noted that in 2010, 22% more quote requests were made online than in 2009. In years past especially, a large part of a personal lines insurer’s value proposition was the insurance agent. This agent played an important role as the liaison between an insurance provider and the customer; the same role that the Internet (via direct sales) is now providing. The statistics above show that while insurance agents are certainly not going away, the utilization of agents is decreasing.
What Does this Mean?
Insurance companies are forced to adapt and make changes to best serve their customer. Specifically, if you cut out agent interaction from the customer experience, how do your customers interact with you? Outside of the Internet, the primary interaction is through a claims center and specifically, claims specialists or adjustors. Claims centers essentially become the only point of interaction your customer will ever have with a person representing your company. This means your claims specialists and adjustors play an increasingly important role in your customers’ experience. And of course, it’s no secret that customer experience is vital to retention.
High Performance Contact Center (HPCC)
When you remove agents from the equation, one of the only times a customer will interact with their insurance company is when they have to make a claim. Insurance carriers can focus on utilizing specific aspects of the HPCC methodology in claims to drive value and helping organizations develop a customer focused approach.
Investing time in the following three areas will help foster a more customer centric claims center and better overall experience:
- Be on the cutting edge of cross-channel technologies –
Organizations are now finding that customers desire to interact with them via their preferred channel. Adopting technologies like live chat and proactive chat give customers the option to make claims or ask policy related questions while at work or sitting at Starbucks. The idea is that customers have someone on the other end of a conversation, where an agent formerly was for that customer, but now on the customer’s schedule and at their convenience. This allows clients to get answers to the questions they have, right when they have them.
- Make cross-training a competitive advantage of your customer service –
With personal lines insurance sales shifting towards direct channels, customers have a minimal number of chances to ask questions about their policy. Cross-training claims specialists and helping them understand your organization ensures they act as true representatives of your organization and intentionally communicate your message. When specialists can articulate your competitive advantage, it will help you retain customers. For example, in a time when the focus on relationships is transitioning to the ease of doing business online, clients may only see numbers on a page. So when a customer has a claim and learns their rates may go up, your team of cross-trained professionals will articulate the true advantages that your organization provides over a competitor.
- Utilize customer feedback to measure and enhance performance –
Do you have a strong understanding of how your customers feel about their experience with your claims center? By utilizing survey tools and Voice of the Customer (which refers to capturing customer preferences, expectations, and aversions so it can be communicated internally) you can appreciate a customer’s experience when they need to make a claim (with emphasis on ‘measure it or it doesn’t matter’). From there, you’re able to focus your training dollars in areas that drive measurable improvements, rather than blindly spending on training across the board.
As technology and direct sales replace the human component of the personal lines insurance sales model, finding ways to enhance customer service is challenging. By continually listening to your customers and tailoring interactions to their needs, your organization will increase retention and loyalty.