Having opened up the last post with a Simon & Garfunkel lyric I thought I’d go one better this time, and actually incorporate one into the headline!
Customer service has long since been at the heart of the successful insurance broker, hasn’t it? The local, trusted expert who’d come to the home, sit in your kitchen and discuss the policies and cover that best suited your needs and circumstances, based on a knowledge and empathy that they’d taken the time to understand.
A romantic notion of a time long-past? A way of doing business that’s been eroded by a changing technologically driven world, full of call-centres and comparison sites? A production-line approach to insurance that’s become faceless, impersonal, uncaring, and all about seeking and selling the cheapest product?
And the erosion of customer service.
But is that really the case?
Well, the industry doesn’t exactly have the best reputation when it comes to customer care. A 2016 survey reporting, somewhat triumphantly, that insurance was no longer in the top 3 worst industries for customer service – but still in the top 5! A quarter of those asked saying they believed the industry to be poor in that regard.
Still, an improvement on previous years nonetheless.
Technology as a Solution, not a Cause
Technology, specifically, the internet, hasn’t really been a cause of poor customer service. But it has been the catalyst by which poor service has been brought to wider attention.
The rise of social media, of review sites such as TripAdvisor, Yelp, or Glassdoor, have provided consumers with platforms to make extremely public their customer service horror stories, and to name, shame, and at times seriously harm a brand.
Something which, I’m sure, the PR department at United Airlines might attest to, in their more reflective moments, given the recent, violently explicit example of poor (to say the least) customer care to go viral. And the reason the company have announced major changes to their customer care policies, following the incident.
In this respect, technology and the internet acts a policing measure to which companies need to pay heed. One poor customer care incident can escalate quickly once it hits social feeds; and that can be costly.
However, technology also offers the tools by which companies can deliver better customer service, and customer service that fits the needs of the modern customer.
In regard to the insurance industry, the rise of high-speed wireless internet, digital platforms, and cloud-based technology offers opportunities to address some of the key areas in which the public are routinely critical when it comes to the customer care they receive.
- Speed of resolution
- Laborious processes and form filling
Meeting Customer Needs and Expectations
Insurers and brokers have the facility these days to offer amazing, and simplified, accessibility to their clients, something that is highly desired by a population of smart phone owners who are used to such ready access.
Apps that can provide instant access to policy details, and which can get the claims process rolling with the press of a thumb, offering a speed of response that ticks the box for client’s service expectations.
After all, many of the interactions a client will have with an insurer will arise at times of potential crisis (of various scales) or mishap. A big part of the customer care process in those instances is the speed at which a response and resolution can occur.
But what about the human interaction, I hear you say?
Well, again, isn’t this all about the way in which we use technology to enhance a service?
For instance, through automated processes, virtual assistants, and ‘bots’, smaller claims can be resolved swiftly. Customers claiming against a lost or stolen pair of trainers just want a quick settlement. Why use up human time on this when a tech process can have it dealt with?
On the other hand, when your house has flooded, chances are you’ll be seeking the comforting support and help of an actual person.
A person more readily available, now that they can let their technological assistant take care of the smaller claims.
And the admin. And the reporting. And the data inputting.
Technology is not a replacement of human operations. It’s supposed to be utilised to support the business. Providing more time for the broker to focus on the customer. To manage the relationships, get to understand their needs, and be there when they’re needed.
Just like they always have been.