Will Customer Experience Be the Biggest Insurance Challenge of 2021?

It’s no secret that the insurance industry has historically been one of the slowest to adopt technology.  

The arrival of the pandemic last year propelled the insurance industry into a virtual era, causing insurers to scramble to adopt new technology and rethink the digital customer experience. However, the industry still faces many hurdles in this area, including: 

  • Distrust arising when customers learned their policies did not cover COVID-related health and business issues 
  • Frustration when customers could not easily contact insurers to answer their policy-related questions 
  • Disappointment in the delay to offer new insurance solutions to bridge the gap 
  • Anxious customers who now feel they are not covered for future emergencies 
  • Increased distance felt by customers who previously had negative insurance experiences, but now feel more disconnected from their providers due to the lack of coverage 

These hurdles, along with pre-existing negative perceptions of the overall industry, have put a spotlight on what may now be the industry’s biggest challenge in 2021: delivering an exceptional digital customer experience to retain those it promised to protect.  

Why Does It Matter? 

Insurance was born from community spirit, where many came together to protect the losses of a few individuals. Especially over the last century, this spirit has been lost in the pursuit of profitable business models and highly regulated market. Insurers have not generally succeeded in establishing a meaningful relationship with customers leading to loyalty, and without a massive turnaround in digital strategy, insurers risk losing customers and irreversibly damaging the industry’s reputation further.  

As last week’s court ruling in the UK shows, customers have spent months fighting insurers for pandemic coverage (in this case, to secure business interruption payments). The general sentiment in the market is not positive, and in an already-competitive landscape, insurers must do everything they can to ensure their customers have a better experience this year.  

Can an Improved Digital Experience Help? 

In short, yes, and it has already begun to show positive impact. Global market research company Ipsos recently surveyed 2,500 insurance customers from China, Hong Kong, Singapore, and Australia, and found that customers placed the highest value on the speed of processing policies and claims online when selecting a carrier. In places such as Australia, where purchasing a private health insurance policy is not optional, efforts to create a smooth and positive experience can reduce resentment in customers who view insurance as a forced expenditure.  

The challenge is to create a more personalized experience while employing digital platforms — after all, the objective is to preserve human interaction where it is most impactful. A good example of a personalized digital interaction is a video consultation with an advisor at the time of purchase, which allows new policyholders to get answers specific to their unique situations. On the other hand, removing the need for a wet signature will speed up the process favorably, and so replacing human interaction with a digital signature would prove effective in this case. 

So, Where Do I Begin? 

While the strategy will vary from organization to organization, we recommend starting by connecting with your customers and hearing their perspectives. How do customers feel about your organization’s current experience? What are they saying on social media and to customer service representatives? If this sounds familiar, it’s because this is Stage 1 of the Design Thinking methodology: Empathize. Often, customers are seen as numbers (or data) — numbers of calls answered, premiums calculated, or policies underwritten — and not human beings with unique lives, jobs, and dreams. When creating a strategy, is it important to consider those who will be most impacted; in this case, it is the customer.  

Collecting customer insights is another process where human interaction is impactful. Observing the customer’s body language and tone can provide additional insight into how the customer really feels and can help insurers identify specific areas of the current experience that may be distressing or difficult. Once those insights are available, it’s time to innovate! 

Perhaps 2021 will be the year that the industry can improve customer perceptions and prove that it is here to provide support and peace of mind. Will this be the year that insurers return to their community-driven roots? 

We will cross our fingers and wait to find out! 

Let us help you reinvent your digital customer experience. Check out our innovation consulting services, such as our Design Thinking Sprints, where our Certified Innovation Experts will guide your teams to develop a human-centered solution that satisfies what your customers actually want.