The world of insurance is changing fast. What customers want and need has shifted away from the priorities of 20, 10, or even 5 years ago. They expect companies to have things like omnichannel access, smart data integration, and lightning-fast response times, and if they don’t find these things at your agency, they’ll go somewhere else.
The good news is that the technology that inspired these new expectations can also help agencies accommodate digital-age customers without having to spend a fortune in the process.
Defining the millennial market
Most industries are used to treating millennials as a niche market. That’s no longer an option because the millennial generation is expected to outnumber baby boomers by 2019, making it the most populous living generation.
It’s time for insurance agents to accept that millennials make up the majority of potential insurance customers. Agencies need to develop a new customer experience tailored for members of this generation.
So what does the typical millennial customer want from their insurance provider? The millennial generation, comprising those born between 1981 to 1996, has the following characteristics:
- Internet-savvy. The rise of the Internet, email, social media, and smartphones all occurred while millennials were children or young adults. These are tools that most millennials grew up using and are quite comfortable with.
- Highly educated. Around four out of ten millennials hold a four-year college degree, making this the most highly educated generation around.
- Slow to move into “traditional” adulthood. Millennials have frequently been stereotyped as lazy and immature, labels that are probably due to the fact that millennials tend to wait until later in life to get married, have children, buy a home, and move into other traditional stages of adulthood. It’s likely that this delay is partly due to the 2008 Great Recession, which hit just as the core group of millennials was leaving school and launching careers. The recession, combined with high student-loan balances, made it difficult for many millennials to take on any further financial burdens.
These factors mean that millennials are quite different from previous generations when it comes to purchasing insurance. For instance, because most millennials prefer to rent rather than buy their homes, they have little need for homeowner’s insurance. But they are heavily underinsured when it comes to renter’s insurance, largely because they think they can’t afford it; one survey found that 29% of millennials believe renter’s insurance costs over $1,000 per year.
Millennials have been relatively slow to start or purchase businesses, despite the fact that they have a positive view of entrepreneurship. Indeed, 60% of millennials consider themselves entrepreneurs. Once again, a lack of finances is likely keeping many millennials from following their dreams. But as more millennials finally manage to get out from under their student-loan debt, it seems likely that many will grab the opportunity to become business owners (which means they’ll need business insurance!).
Unfortunately, millennials have a strongly negative view of both insurance carriers and insurance agents. They don’t trust insurance companies, and they think that traditional agencies are behind the times. Sixty-five percent of millennials believe their risks and concerns aren’t understood by insurance companies, and millennials are less likely to buy insurance from a local agent than any other living generation is.
In short, if you want to grab a share of the growing millennial market, you’ve got to show them that you’re not the “dinosaur” agency that expects customers to fill out insurance applications on paper or even PDFs. You’ve got to embrace technology and give millennials the digital experience they crave. Finally, you’ve got to find ways to break through the trust issues that most millennials have about insurance providers and agents.
Leveraging technology for communication
Millennials may love technology, but they appreciate the human touch, too. Regular, meaningful communication is a key part of building customer loyalty and turning millennials into advocates. What’s more, you can use technology to enhance your communication without removing the warm and fuzzy side. Frequent communication can also help you to quickly build trust with your millennial prospects and customers.
For example, you could set a reminder in your CRM to ping you whenever one of your customers has a birthday. You can then give them a call or send an e-card on the big day. Not only does this make your customers feel appreciated, but it also gives you an opportunity to check in with them and make sure they’re happy with your service. Such an approach lets you catch any problems early on, well before customers are moved to drastic action.
Social media is an excellent way to communicate with your millennial customers and prospects. Most millennials are highly active in social media, and one survey found that 47% of millennials are significantly influenced by social media when making purchases. What’s more, this is another area where technology can do some of the heavy lifting for you.
Leveraging technology for product access
Millennials expect omnichannel product availability. They want to buy, view, update, and pay for their insurance policies online. If you give them a well-designed online insurance platform, not only will you be providing them with the level of access they crave, but you’ll also be showing that you understand their needs — helping to build that all-important customer trust. That means digitizing your insurance platform should be a top priority.
A good digital insurance platform should have the following characteristics at a minimum:
- An interface that’s intuitive and easy to use for both agents and insureds.
- Interactive forms. If a customer fills out a field on one form, the dashboard should pre-populate that information into identical fields on other forms. Millennials have no patience for entering their name repeatedly into 17 different forms.
- Good security. The program will contain quantities of sensitive customer data; if an unauthorized person gains access to that data, it could cause a great deal of damage. Millennials generally feel positive about cloud providers and are willing to trust such providers to handle security, but that means it’s more important that you validate their trust by taking reasonable precautions.
- Data-entry tracking and edit tracking. For E&O purposes, it’s important to be able to verify who entered which bit of data, and when. It’s also a helpful feature for your multitasking millennial customers since they’re running a higher risk of entering the wrong information.
Assuming you don’t have an IT person at your agency, it’s also wise to look for an insurance platform that offers good training and tech support.
Leveraging technology for better support
Millennials expect 24/7 support, preferably through multiple channels. Fortunately, millennials are quite comfortable with chatbots and other artificial intelligence options. A millennial who’s just wrecked his car at 3 a.m. demands the ability to file a claim immediately, whether through a robot or a human agent. Such availability also helps to build trust by showing that you’ve made an extra effort to be there when customers need you.
Robotic process automation (RPA) is a happy example of how insurtech can be made to work for insurance agencies rather than against them. For example, you can set up a chatbot that will be available to help your insureds 24 hours a day — there are even insurance-specific chatbots preprogrammed to do such work.
Technology can help you corner the millennial market
Despite what many agents fear, they won’t be replaced by technology anytime soon. What tech will do is take over many of the tedious, data-entry-heavy tasks that agents do today, leaving them with more time and energy for complex tasks that require a human touch. Furthermore, by putting technology to good use, you can attract a larger share of today’s tech-savvy customers and grow your agency. Finally, using technology appropriately helps you retain customers; if your insureds love your digital dashboard and the level of service you provide, they’re much less likely to switch to another provider.