Using digital to anticipate customer needs at AIS

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Insurers face special challenges in the changing consumer environment. Customers expect experiences that are fast, simple, and convenient, with the ability to handle their own needs digitally from beginning to end. But how do you square these expectations with the complexities inherent in buying insurance? Customers want to be well informed, but what are the best ways to help them understand the differences between collision and comprehensive, co-pays and coinsurance, or renovations and repairs? Too much jargon will have their eyes glazing, especially on a mobile screen, and they’ll never make it through the quoting stage. How can insurers hope to meet customer expectations of the digital age?

At Auto Insurance Specialists (AIS Insurance), a Mercury Casualty subsidiary, we are already reinventing the online experience around a new kind of approach. Instead of overloading customers up front with a fog of terminology, we are trying to provide just the right information at the right time. And we do so proactively, without waiting to be asked. By providing relevant guidance in a friendly, contextual way, insurers can build trust and confidence for a deeper engagement and more profitable digital operations.

Engaging customers in the digital channel drives growth
Consumers are taking their insurance business online—whether insurers are ready for it or not. According to Accenture, 74% of consumers are willing to receive digital-only advice about what kind of insurance coverage to purchase. Meanwhile, Bain has found that the share of digitally active insurance customers has increased more than 60% in the past four years.

In these early days, live chat is already proving popular and effective for both consumers and insurers. Consumers like that chat is fast, in real time and allows them the opportunity to multitask. Chat is also far preferable to navigating an interactive voice response (IVR) system, and chat allows customers to gain information in a lower-pressure setting than a live-voice call.

For insurers, live chat aligns with key strategic priorities including improving customer experience, driving organic growth, and increasing operational efficiency. In a recent J.D. Power study of customer satisfaction, chat scored the highest by a wide margin, well ahead of email, live calls, automated self-service, or websites. This higher satisfaction can translate into additional policies and longer-term, more profitable relationships. On the operational side, chat makes it possible for agents to serve several customers at the same time, improving efficiency as well as responsiveness.

Anticipate customer needs – don’t wait for them to fail
AIS Insurance is using chat to improve agent efficiency and reduce call volume for questions like how to add drivers to a personal automobile policy. Rather than passively waiting for customers to reach out, we offer proactive chat invitations based on customer behavior. As customers land on the home page, they are reminded that live help is available. From that point on, customers are offered assistance throughout their journey when they show signs of difficulty—for example, struggling to log in or toggling between two pages of a form. Assistance is also offered at points in the journey where past customers have tended to need extra help, such as account creation.

Proactive engagement isn’t unique to AIS Insurance; many firms have deployed live chat. But the method used can make all the difference. Assistance offers based on a less nuanced mechanism, such as time-on-page fails, may not reflect a customer’s actual experience. A customer may be multi-tasking with an unrelated text message. Likewise, moving quickly doesn’t necessarily rule out a need for help. A fully confused customer might page through an insurer’s site without lingering anywhere long enough to trigger a live chat invitation.

The context-based approach we take uses actual customer behavior to determine when help is needed—much like a face-to-face interaction. As a result, help is more likely to be needed at the time it’s offered, and more likely to be offered at the time it’s needed. Relevant, timely guidance provided proactively helps reduce abandonment, increases completions, and improves customer acquisition, confidence, and satisfaction.

Continuous improvement for digital engagement
In addition to engagements that require human assistance, context-based guidance can be provided automatically to help insurers engage more customers around the clock—and reach every struggling customer, not just those who respond to a live chat invitation. Whether the strategy is assisted, unassisted, or some combination of both, a context-based approach that offers relevant guidance and the appropriate level of human assistance drives growth for insurers. By keeping customers within the self-service flow and enabling agents to chat with multiple customers at the same time, insurers can also drive significant efficiencies.

A good starting point is for insurers to focus their initial contextual guidance efforts on a limited number of key customer hesitation points and use this experience to gain expertise and inform expansion. Analytics can help insurers further refine the customer experience. By leveraging chat data to understand how customers engage, and where and how they run into trouble, firms can make real data-driven improvements to the business.

To assess the impact of a context-based engagement project, useful metrics include comparing baseline conversion rates and average order values with the levels reached for customers using chat. It can also be useful to simply ask customers what they think. One company that did found that 30% of respondents would not have contacted the company at all if they had not done so via chat.

As AIS Insurance expands its use of context-based engagement across the customer journey, we are now expanding the channel to online quoting, making it possible for customers to complete the entire process online. By meeting customer expectations for a simple, convenient, end-to-end digital experience, our goal is to set a new standard for the modern insurance industry. As other firms pursue their own initiatives, a new face of the insurance business is emerging—and just in time for today’s digital environment.

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