The insurance industry has been plagued with call-center problems for the better part of a decade.
Consider the 2008 report from Genyses Worldwide, “Customer Service Strategies for the Insurance Industry,” which found that mishandled policyholder phone calls was a leading cause of insurance customer dissatisfaction — this at a time when the insurance industry as a whole began to experience slower growth and consolidation.
More contemporary research has concluded that nearly all insurance customers who reach out to a carrier via telephone are placed on hold, and it takes less than a minute of being on hold for a business relationship to suffer, says David Squibb, a customer experience expert and chief sales and marketing officer of Xpertdoc, the global communications technology firm based in Terrebonne, Quebec, Canada.
Squibb believes the simplest way for P&C companies and partners to properly handle phone calls is to replace traditional call centers with technology-driven communications solutions.
Here, he answers five questions about that idea, and offers suggestions that carriers can use to reduce policyholder reliance on telephone calls.
PC360: What is the connection between call centers and customer satisfaction in the insurance business?
Squibb: Customer satisfaction plays a vital role, not just in keeping customers but also in attracting new customers through positive word-of-mouth referrals. For call centers, keeping customers satisfied means not only processing claims, billing inquiries, and new account applications but also resolving issues and complaints quickly and efficiently. Nearly three-quarters of customers say they will return if complaints are resolved quickly, according to recent studies.
PC360: What are potential solutions to the challenges posed by call center communications?
Squibb: Many call centers lack the appropriate tools and software needed to deliver on customer needs and expectations. On average, 26% of an agent’s time is spent looking for relevant data in various systems during each customer contact. Merging separate database management solutions in an organization (accounting/billing, marketing automation and CRM platforms) to one unified platform like a CCM, can give agents a complete view of a customer at any given time and touch point while reducing response times.
For call centers, keeping customers satisfied means not only processing claims, billing inquiries, and new account applications but also resolving issues and complaints quickly and efficiently. (Photo: iStock)
PC360: What role will chatbots play in the future of insurance industry customer communications?
Squibb: The “chatbot” phenomenon isn’t new to the insurance industry and has been widely used for over a decade. (For example, Allie is Allianz’s online assistant, Mia answers customer’s insurance queries for Co-op Banking Group, and Arbie “works” for RBC Insurance in Canada).
According to Gartner, AI bots will power 85% of all customer service interactions by the year 2020. A good chatbot can help an insurance company offer a better experience to its customers because they provide users an easy way to get the information they need. They can show users one response at a time with a quick and personalized approach including images, content, links, call-to-action buttons or direct payment options based on user input at a specific point.
From a claims perspective, more carriers are turning to chatbots to automate repetitive communication functions like registering the first notice of loss, arranging emergency assistance, and offering pre- and post-disaster assistance.
PC360: What other emerging technologies can insurance providers, agents, claims agents and executives capitalize on to build their business?
Squibb: Blockchain is seen as one of the major technology disruptors in the insurance industry. Its ability to send, receive and store information has the underlying power to disrupt the way insurers’ process digital transactions.
According to a report by KPMG, one of the more disruptive uses of blockchain in insurance is the development of ‘smart contract’ models: “Smart contracts contain self-executing protocols that work with a blockchain to enforce the performance of a contract across all counterparties. Claims data is shared across all counterparties. Identities and contract provisions are immediately verified. Payments are automatically made. And, as a result, less adjudication and negotiation is required and costs are minimized.”
PC360: What tip or message do you have for insurance businesses that may be struggling to find adequate resources to keep pace with innovation demands?
Squibb: Leverage technology partners that can deliver real results in short timeframes. Modern solutions (like Xpertdoc) allow carriers to fill the resource gap by rethinking their approach and game plan to deliver real results to their customers.
Automation that employs business rules, AI, dynamic conditional content can remove the burden from limited insurance staff and propel their customer engagement capabilities forward in a major way.