Modernizing Insurance: How Technology And Human Interaction Provides A Seamless Customer Service
Insurance carriers are increasingly choosing to make processes fully digital, instead of having their employees speak with insureds in real-time. As automation tools and advanced technologies become readily accessible, it’s important to recognize both the benefits and pitfalls of this strategy. Using technology without understanding the implications on the overall customer experience can have detrimental effects (i.e. frustration or skepticism) on the relationships you build with policyholders.
Fundamentally, insurance companies’ claims departments and contact centers go hand-in-hand with good customer experience. Claims and billing are some of the only touchpoints an insurance company has with its customers, yet many companies chose to automate both processes through technology, such as artificial intelligence and chatbots. At such a pivotal point in the relationship-building process between carrier and policyholder, how can insurance companies ensure they’re delivering a best-in-class customer experience while still leveraging the benefits technology can bring? In my opinion, this starts with hiring the right people, paying attention to customer data, and giving your customers options for how they communicate.
The customer engagement front line
Many insurance companies are choosing to move some or all of their claims departments to call centers that are either offsite or detached from the rest of their company’s operations. While this may be an important cost-savings tactic, it can detract from the opportunity to present customers with seamless end-to-end user experience.
To create a genuine, authentic experience reflective of your brand, consider keeping critical customer-facing operations, such as claims and billing, in-house. Filing a claim or speaking to a customer during the billing process is a tremendous opportunity for value creation, so having these functions sit within the larger organization fosters a synergy that gets transferred from your CX team to your customer. One of the best strategies and insurance company can use in customer-facing roles is utilizing employees with various professional backgrounds and the right skillset, since hiring the right employee is critical for customer service. Employees who can distill complicated insurance topics into straightforward language generally provide greater ease and understanding of what’s happening to their customers. What’s even more important is to hire associates who aspire to have deep knowledge and understanding of your company’s values, operating models, and internal processes. These are the best representatives of your brand, making them the most qualified candidates to be on the front line when something goes wrong.
Treat contact centers as insight centers
Gathering insights from your customer base allow you to extract data more easily and, subsequently, identify areas for improvement. Utilizing free-form sections of customer satisfaction surveys are a great way to prompt open, honest feedback on what’s important to your customers and how your company can positively impact their experience with your organization. This is a key area where time, commitment, culture, and technology come together to yield the significant benefits of unstructured data.
Customer insights can also help insurers better understand and serve their customers. Oftentimes, customers only reach out to contact centers after they’ve been unable to resolve their issues using existing self-service technology. Identifying and understanding areas where current technology isn’t enough, and where humans may need to be involved until improvements are made, is a fundamental insight that should be understood. Many companies simply track whether the issue was resolved. But, what organizations shouldn’t lose sight of are those times when a customer intended to resolve an issue on his/her own, but ultimately required interaction with a CX member to resolve it. How do you get that same customer the same result with reduced effort? Keeping your eye on that (and challenging your organization to identify and take action) is one of the best ways to ensure that you’re providing a terrific overall customer experience.
Go for authenticity
Today, customers are accustomed to interacting with chatbots and using technology, which provides distinct advantages such as scale and efficiency. However, organizations must be careful in choosing those areas where they intend to deploy technology and how they intend to deploy it. The best way to avoid customer frustration is to be transparent, letting customers know they’re speaking to a chatbot (if they are), but providing them with the option to request a real person at any time. Often, when a customer finally reaches someone who lives after using technology, they’re discontent and anxious. Simply providing the option of having a real person goes a long way towards giving the customer a sense of control in the situation and trust that they are not just another number. Even so, it’s important that this transition happens seamlessly. A live representative should know exactly where the customer’s conversation left off and be able to help without the need to repeat information. A customer shouldn’t feel like they are being handed off or that their time is being wasted.
Having employees take an unscripted approach also helps further the customer experience by adding empathy and eliminating any robotic, unnatural conversations. While underlying issues may be common, each caller is unique, and that’s where some companies miss the boat on customer experience. Individual circumstances vary with each customer, and human judgment is often required for figuring out the best way to communicate, handle, and resolve issues most effectively and in a manner that results in the best experience for the customer. Furthermore, a human conversation allows for opportunities to uncover — and prevent — additional issues before they become problems. It provides the chance to develop relationships and reveals opportunities to provide different services.
In this digitally-driven era, it’s easy to lose sight of what’s important in the customer journey. Technology should be used for the purpose of enhancing customer relationships, not just for the sake of them. Forming relationships with customers is what differentiates organizations across the board. To keep pace and remain a leader in today’s marketplace, look for ways to drive efficiencies with new technology without removing the irreplaceable human element.