Six insights from our virtual insurance roundtable event facilitated by MarketforceLive

Earlier this month, a closed group of senior executives from the UK’s largest insurance providers met at a virtual industry roundtable led by imimobile’s Peter Brown and Alex Klose to discuss the key challenges and learnings from their digital transformation initiatives.

Written by Sravani Gade on

Last year created challenges for businesses across all sectors, forcing many sectors to accelerate or adopt digital solutions at scale. The insurance industry also faced significant challenges in embracing digital strategies for customer journeys that have traditionally been handled manually. Managing their workforce remotely had only added to the complexity of the situation.

We, at imimobile, wanted to engage in a conversation with the UK’s largest insurance providers to really understand their challenges of large-scale digital transformation projects and share key takeaways that hopefully will benefit the wider industry.

We thank all our guests for their willingness to share their organization’s digital transformation journeys with us candidly. The discussion brought out captivating inputs from all participants who hold diverse positions ranging from claims, customer service to marketing and change delivery. It was fascinating to hear that all businesses shared common challenges and we have summarized the core themes below.

Overcoming legacy infrastructure is a real challenge

Legacy systems have proven to be the single biggest challenge for insurance companies in driving digital transformation and building interactive customer journeys quickly. Dated systems (some several decades old) and data silos built for ‘policy management’ now struggle to pivot to ‘customer management’ as their strategy. Working with those legacy systems has impacted the adoption and effectiveness of omnichannel or multichannel customer service, with businesses struggling to identify the right channels to support their customers.

The potential solution to this challenge seemed to be a comprehensive customer interaction management platform that could seamlessly orchestrate customer communications across multiple channels. The platform should be flexible to work with existing systems or completely bypass them saving months of manual effort in reprogramming. One of the participants shared how their organization replaced their legacy telephony system with a digitally enabled contact center in just eight days! Completing a project of this magnitude would have previously taken 12 to 15 months.

The agreed objective across all guests for this year was to move away from legacy systems and work towards delivering a digital-first, customer-centric experience by providing support to customers in real-time.

The pandemic has changed the rules of customer engagement

The pandemic has significantly accelerated digital transformation projects. With lockdowns and remote working enforced for many people across the globe, businesses have witnessed a huge surge in inbound inquiries forcing them to diversify their customer touchpoints. One participant shared how they had seen double the traffic on their online platforms when compared to pre-COVID times.

While few organizations have digitized over 50% of their customer interactions, others are experimenting with a few digital channels at first to assess the response.

The need to leverage customer data to provide a consistent and conversational customer experience is paramount. In 2021, all of our guests want to experiment and analyze the role that digital communication channels play across the customer lifecycle.

Choosing the right messaging channel is imperative

Customers increasingly expect a conversational experience from their insurance providers in real-time to inbound inquiries or claims. Businesses have, over the years, adopted messaging channels such as SMS and are experimenting with interactive channels like WhatsApp, or Apple Business Chat which have shown improved customer engagement and increased NPS.

Through the discussion, one insurer shared that 30% of their claims are now processed only on digital channels and that they can collect witness statements significantly quicker over SMS. Collecting information to process claims swiftly used to take days or weeks but mobile messaging allows customers to respond in minutes or hours. Another participant shared how 40% of their customer base took to messaging channels to make mid-term policy adjustments or motor claims.

With 2 billion monthly active users, WhatsApp undoubtedly is a popular channel among customers. One of the insurers who recently introduced WhatsApp to their existing customers, saw 90% of the customers opting for engaging over WhatsApp when given the choice with 10% returning to the chat months later to restart their conversations.

Messaging channels are now empowering insurers to be proactive with their communications. However, they are yet to strike a balance between offering multiple channels and ensuring their effectiveness. Going forward, insurers want to understand and assess how customers switch between various channels and the role these channels play across the entire customer lifecycle.

Effective customer service combines customer data, virtual assistants, and live chat

Most of the insurers had experimented with or implemented virtual assistants or live chat as their main customer service touchpoints. While customers preferred to chat with the chatbot or the agent for their inquiry, insurers saw mixed results.

One of the insurers shared how chats took longer for query resolution while another informed how the contact propensity of customers who use live chat is lower than customers who use voice. However, customers’ tendency to use digital channels for quote-to-buy, payment, or mid-term policy adjustments has increased by approximately 40%.

Insurers have, therefore, modified the adoption of live chats for specific journeys like sales and service. The role of virtual assistants evolved from being front line chat agents to ‘concierge’ bots that could direct customers to human agents or nudge them towards self-service options.

With customer service no longer being limited to a ‘9-5’ schedule, it is important that agents have access to customer data at all times hosted on a centralized platform to provide effective resolutions to customer inquiries.

Voice remains an important channel for building trust

All insurers unanimously agreed that voice remains the channel of preference among customers when discussing complex inquiries or looking for advice and help. Voice is seen as the channel to build customer trust and deepen the relationship with customers based on empathy.

Insurers are now looking to initiate ‘digital voice’ for end-to-end transactions and invest in sentiment analysis to further amplify its impact.

In 2021, developing a tone of voice that distinctly identifies your brand across digital channels will become key to delivering a meaningful CX. Additionally, merging voice & digital channels to build a holistic picture of the customer to then analyze the entire customer lifecycle will become a strategic objective for insurers.

Hybrid-working and the workplace of the future

The pandemic has blurred the lines of fixed hours for customer service. Customer inquiries have slightly shifted away from the typical 9-5 peak times. The future of customer service seems to be heading towards a hybrid-working model where agents will be deployed more flexibly based on the demand, skills required, and the value they provide.

With remote working being the reality for the foreseeable future, businesses and customers can both benefit by introducing flexible hours of operations this year. Agents can choose to work around the time of day that suits them best and insurers can ensure customer support beyond their regular hours of operation.

Following our roundtable discussion, it’s clear that nearly 60% of insurers are increasing their spending on digital transformation this year. We believe the key to delivering a meaningful customer experience will be to adopt a ‘test & learn’ approach, bridging legacy systems, and proactively engaging with customers through digital channels.

Let us know what digital transformation means for your business in 2021.

Check out our insurance solutions to find out more.