Insurance carriers should look for insights from customer service representatives and agent partners to better serve clients, as both hold valuable information about policyholder pain points in onboarding, claims and policy payments.

That was one of the key findings from a new industry report by Aite Group “Engagement in Insurance: A Channelless Strategy.” The study is based on 15 in-depth interviews with P&C, Life and health insurance companies as well as presentations by 20 carriers and service providers at the Insurance Nexus Customer Engagement Summit held in Chicago on Nov. 30.

Aite Group's Samantha Chow says insurers, to date, are overly dependent on customer feedback.

“While customer feedback does offer valuable data, it’s not enough,” says Samantha Chow, senior analyst at Aite Group. She adds the insurance industry has a very “outside-in reactive strategy” in place on how to engage with customers. That approach can cause organizations to miss out on important insights from staff that interacts with policyholders most often.

The study also notes carriers’ push for a modernized customer experience ties into the goal of going "channelless" in the near term. This is an upgrade over the more traditional term "omnichannel," as it offers more of a continuous workflow, Chow says. As an example, consumers can start the enrollment process online and have an agent pick up where they left off if they get stuck.

“The experience is more blended together, whereas omni refers to customers being able to find the same information and connect with carriers in six or seven different ways,” Chow said.

Omnichannel first

A majority of insurers are still working their way up to omnichannel, according to Aite Group. Many are focused on developing digital marketing tools for new business and customer education. An example is Travelers’ OpenHouse tool, developed in partnership with BuildFax. The program allows consumers to type in home addresses and receive a snapshot of the work that has been done on a property. Travelers can inform potential homebuyers when the roof was last replaced or the dates of any other major upgrades completed.

The researcher refers to these sorts initiatives as building blocks of engagement. They include: using newsletters, portals, websites and mobile apps for communication purposes; and leveraging wearables, telematics and smart home technology for incentive-based programs that offer direct onboarding options eschewing agents.

More of this innovation is happening in P&C than in life and health, Chow concluded. Those carriers struggling to improve on the customer experience front often site challenges brought about by legacy systems, which are not directly linked to online policy applications. Other obstacles include lack of talent, budget and technology resources.

“Insurance carriers’ legacy technology ecosystems prevent them from creating strategies to support customer engagement. These older systems prevent digital sales and marketing, the use of mobile applications, the use of advanced analytics for predicting behaviors or preventing claims, and so on,” Chow notes. “New tools and integration are necessary to overcome the legacy challenge and provide the support needed to create a channelless environment and engage with consumers throughout the policy life cycle.”

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