Clients become more demanding
New technological platforms have changed the game for insurance companies, giving clients more power
In a world where bad customer experiences are starting to smash records for most viral Tweets and where rejected claims attract more boycott hashtags than political scandals, insurers need to go back to basics and rebuild trust with their customers, says Old Mutual Insure’s head of customer experience Antonia Oakes.
She says though it was possible to compete by offering the lowest insurance premium to consumers in the past, client experience has now become the primary consideration among most consumers when choosing with whom to insure their belongings.
“Research has shown that clients are willing to pay more if the experience is right. Trust now trumps the price of premiums. To build such trust, we as insurers need to go back to the basics and be humane.
“Our customers need to feel that we care. Give customers a great experience and they will buy more, be more loyal and share their experience with their friends.”
Oakes says while the shortterm insurance industry has embraced technology to improve communication and delivery of products to customers, simply rolling out digital channels is not going to build customer affinity.
“Call it an experience disconnect. Companies tout the latest technologies but they have not focused on or invested in aspects of customer experience to overlay this technology, which are the most meaningful. The trick is to use technology with purpose to make the interaction feel more human — without creating frustration for customers, while empowering employees.”
While many other markets have started using publicly available data such as social media to understand what matters to their clients for underwriting purposes, Oakes says SA insurers should start by using data they collect through telematic and similar devices effectively.
“Using social media and the internet of things to understand our clients’ behaviour is key. Obviously we have to use publicly available data responsibly and within the ambit of the Protection of Personal Information (Popi) Act, but we already have customer data that we can harvest so much insight from.
“There are huge opportunities in tracking customer behaviour to inform how companies design and develop products, processes and customer engagements — creating a warm feeling with customers at every interaction with the brand.”
Oakes says getting customers on board and the claims stage remain the two biggest pain points.
“No-one wants to be on the phone for 30 minutes answering underwriting questions or filling out loads of application forms. Everyone wants to at least be able to get a quote online and manage their own portfolios at a click of a button, be it with a broker or a customer. We have to start seeing things from the clients’ perspective. They want to be empowered to track the status of their application and remain informed without having to rely on too many channels which could result in feedback hours or days later.”
She says if the claims process is handled correctly, it is possible for insurers to build trust with their clients even if a claim is rejected.
“The claim stage is the biggest moment of truth in the customer’s journey with their insurer. We have to understand that the customer is usually traumatised by the time we get the first notification of loss. We should be trying as much as possible to reduce their trauma, not add to it,” says Oakes.
She says based on Old Mutual Insure’s records, lack of feedback has been identified as the biggest cause of dissatisfaction with the handling of claims. Just by getting a few basics right, like adhering to promised turnaround times and keeping the client and broker informed at every step of the process, insurers can change the way consumers perceive insurance — from a grudge purchase to a necessity.
“We are not as advanced as we should be in terms of effectively integrating our omnichannel platforms. However, we are on the path of correcting that.”
Oakes says the organisational culture needs to be right.
“If the strategy of the organisation isn’t putting the client at the centre, and if you are not driving the culture through correct remuneration structures for both staff and brokers, you can invest in technology but you still won’t get it right.”
Antonia Oakes: Clients willing to pay more if the experience is right