When it comes to purchasing insurance, people have more options than ever before.
Insurtech companies like CoverWallet are snatching an increasingly large segment of the market. According to CB Insights data, $2.56 billion was invested in insurtech startups in 2018 alone.
Meanwhile, the insurance carriers are pursuing initiatives to attract customers directly rather than through agencies.
These threats are all the more pressing because today’s customers prefer a digital approach in all aspects of their lives, insurance included. Agencies that can’t provide a great customer experience won’t survive in this newly competitive landscape.
Happily, agents have one significant advantage over both insurtech and carriers: They can combine the best aspects of the new technology with a personal touch that those competitors can’t match. Here’s how to build an experience that will delight your customers and keep them loyal to you and your agency.
How Insurance Customers Have Changed (and What They Want Now)
Insurance agencies simply can’t afford to continue offering an analog service when the majority of customers demand digital.
The “traditional” agency’s application process subjects customers to a series of phone calls and emails, dozens of forms to fill out by hand, and long delays while agents process the paperwork. This process is unacceptably slow to a generation of people accustomed to clicking a mouse, ordering what they need, and getting it with same-day delivery.
A recent study by Accenture found that 46% of insurance respondents are Quality Seekers who value high-quality service that includes “automating routine transactions and emphasizing personalization and high-touch service.”
The second-most-populous group of respondents in the survey, the Nomads, made up 39% of the survey’s respondents. They prefer to buy insurance through online channels.
Agencies that can’t provide a high-quality digital customer experience, or one that’s personalized, risk losing access to the lion’s share of their potential customers.
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Modern insurance customers want three things:
- Clear communication. Customers want easy access to information, and they want it fast. They also expect multiple communication options, including digital ones such as social media and in-app chat.
- Value-added services. Customers prefer concierge-level service, even from insurance agencies. They want someone who will assist with tedious or difficult insurance-related tasks.
- Ease of use. Customers want providers to save them time and minimize data-entry by adding automation to the greatest extent possible. They also prefer access to help 24/7, even if it comes from a robot.
This doesn’t mean that companies should completely automate and digitize their customer experience. Customers continue to value and appreciate personal, human contact. Technology is something you should use to make parts of the insurance-buying process more efficient and automatic, freeing up your team to spend more time reaching out to customers in personalized ways.
Let’s take a deeper dive into each of these three areas to explore some potential solutions.
Communication: Meet Your Customers Where They Are
If you use the traditional agency approach to customer communication, you’re probably not delivering a great customer experience.
Typically, the only time agencies contact their customers is when renewal time approaches, meaning that customers hear from agencies only once or twice a year—and only when they’re asking for money. That isn’t the basis for a strong, loyal relationship.
Another problem that frustrates customers is when agencies offer only a few, limited means of access—typically just phone or just email. No one likes to wait on hold, and that’s an intergenerational complaint. According to Salesforce, customers of all ages highly value multichannel access to customer support.
Providing more access to the channels that customers want to use, rather than limiting how people can contact you, will help you attract customers and build more customer loyalty. Here are the three most important channels to focus on:
- Online portals. Customers in all age groups are heavy users of online portals, even baby boomers. More than half of the latest generation of customers prefer to use online portals for communication, and more than three-fourths of all customers use them at least occasionally.
- Social media. The generations are split on social media use. It’s extremely important for millennials, with more than half preferring to communicate via social media and 86% using it on some level. Most baby boomers don’t consider it a preferred channel, so this can be a blind spot if your business has historically relied on boomers.
- Mobile apps. A staggering 90% of millennials use mobile apps for communication, and 61% consider them a preferred channel. Mobile-app use is also strong for older generations: 72% for baby boomers and 82% for Gen Xers.
With the rise of these new communications mediums, the stakes of offering customer service have become much higher.
Customers today greatly value positive interactions, but they’re also quite hostile about interactions that they perceive as wasting their valuable time. This can be a significant problem for insurance agencies without a plan in place for delivering a great communication experience, given that the traditional application and renewal process typically involves its fair share of phone calls, emails, and back-and-forths.
Easy Document Storage And Transfer
“Smart-forms” allows agents and clients to attach comments to questions for easy collaboration.
Indio is a “command center” that keeps all important information in one place and helps you coordinate all of your customer communication.
When you use Indio to run your agency, all of your forms and customer information, including exposure data, are all stored together. That means fewer emails flying back and forth at renewal time.
Agents can add comments to forms, and customers can reply to those comments online, providing an easy-to-use method of in-app communication. Agents can securely provide their customers with access to their submission packet by emailing an encrypted link.
Lastly, agents don’t need to reach out to figure out how much progress customers have made in filling out their forms. Instead, they can just check their real-time progress online, reducing the need for annoying reminder calls and emails to customers.
Added-Value: Find Out What Your Customers Really Want
Insurance has the highest customer-acquisition cost of all industries—it costs seven to nine times as much to attract a new customer as it does to retain an old one. Keeping your customers around as long as possible reduces the need to spend money acquiring replacement customers.
Giving your customers a highly valuable experience above all else is how you get that retention to happen.
A study by Temkin Group found that customer experience correlated almost perfectly to loyalty and that 87% of customers with a very good customer experience came back to that company for more, versus 18% of customers who had a very poor customer experience.
But not all value-added services truly add value. Customers know what they want, and most of what’s outside of that is considered worthless. Agencies can determine the best ways to add value either informally (by casually asking customers for feedback during regular interactions) or formally (by sending a survey). This feedback will tell agents which services will be most effective for building customer loyalty.
In general, insurance customers tend to prefer benefits that save them time, save them money, or help them out in situations that can benefit from an insurance agency’s expertise.
Keep in mind that value-added services don’t have to be big and expensive for insurance agencies to offer. Small add-ons that offer convenience and peace of mind can make a huge difference to insurance customers:
- Appointment-setting. Both health and life insurance customers particularly value help with finding doctors and scheduling appointments, something that’s relatively simple for insurance agents to provide. P&C agencies can provide similar value by booking appointments with maintenance service providers and the like.
- Security. Customers are entrusting their insurance agents with sensitive data, and they want to know that their information is safe. Most customers buy insurance in the first place to provide peace of mind, so services that add an extra layer of security are a natural fit.
- Expert assistance. Tasks that are challenging for customers may be trivial for agents, making them an opportunity to add value. For example, agents might travel to a new customer’s office and take photos of their buildings, vehicles, and other fixed assets to serve as “before” photos in case they need to file a claim in the future.
As an insurance agency, think about where your excess capabilities line up with your customers’ needs. Taking care of your customers in ways they truly find helpful is what is going to build customer loyalty and help you build a stronger business.
Offer White-Labeled Services As A Value-Add
Because the Indio dashboard is white-labeled, insurance agents can present many of Indio’s features as value-added services, including
- Secure online document storage, which keeps customer data safe in the event of an office fire or similar disaster.
- the ability to access forms from a computer, smartphone, or tablet, which makes it easy for customers to retrieve information at need.
- E-signature tools, which allow customers to complete the entire application within a single platform rather than requiring them to print, sign, scan, and email documents.
Not only are these services valuable for end users, but by making it easier to keep forms and documents safe, fill them out, and send them to your agents, the services also help fulfill the desire that most people have for an easy and clear channel of communication with their insurance agency.
Automation: Do Your Customers’ Manual Labor for Them
Agencies that use technology to automate repetitive, data-entry-intense tasks are providing a boon for customers as well as for themselves.
A chatbot that can give immediate, correct answers to customer questions 24 hours a day is a perk that your insurance customers will strongly appreciate. And such a bot takes away the need for agents to spend time answering simple questions, which lets them spend that time on tasks that can’t be automated—like talking to or acquiring more customers. No wonder Gartner predicts that chatbots will take over 85% of customer service interactions by 2020.
While nearly every step in the insurance process can be automated at some level, agencies would be wise to focus on areas where automation will provide the greatest benefit for the lowest cost. The chart below gives some automation options that agencies can narrow down to the most promising processes for them.
Customers don’t want the entire customer experience to be automated. In fact, 77% of customers say they’ve chosen, recommended, or paid more for companies that offer personalized experiences. But they do accept and even want a certain amount of automation in their interactions with your agency.
A number of customer-facing processes in this chart can be automated in ways that will enrich the customer experience, including the following:
- Managing all policies in one location. If all policy data for a customer is stored together, agencies can use “smart forms” that automatically share data and pre-populate fields.
- Prevention of miscommunication. Automation tools that flag changes and bring potential errors to light can prevent costly problems later in the insurance lifecycle.
- Automated FAQs. If customers have questions about how to fill out a form, having answers automatically pop up at the click of a mouse can be a tremendous help.
The renewal process at most insurance agencies is particularly ripe for automation. If you’re going to lose a customer, it’s likely to happen when their policy is up for renewal, since that’s a natural time for them to start shopping around. Thus, the easier you make it for a customer to renew, the better your customer-retention rate will be. Automation can expedite the renewal process and build customer loyalty in the process.
Automate Customer Data Entry
Indio provides built-in tools to help automate inefficient tasks and processes.
Automation can be difficult and costly to implement. Fortunately, Indio comes with several built-in automation tools, including the following:
- Fields pre-populate with data from other forms, so customers only have to fill in a given piece of information once. For example, if a customer enters their name on one form, Indio automatically fills in the “name” field on all of the other forms.
- Automatic import from previous applications at renewal time. Customers need only review the data and correct any fields that have changed since the previous year.
- A track-changes tool that time-stamps and logs any changes to forms and exposure data. This makes it easy for agents to keep track of changes without needing to contact customers.
People have an expectation for this kind of service and experience from their consumer tools—and it won’t be long before they expect the same kind of technological sophistication everywhere.
Building a Better Insurance Agency Customer Experience
Customer loyalty is the bedrock of growth for an insurance agency. The longer you keep a customer happy, the more they’re going to help you grow over time. And here, building a great customer experience is the key.
A digital insurance platform like Indio is one of the most powerful tools you can have for communicating clearly with your customers, delivering more value, and automating away all of the other stuff.