‘Customer first’ is an oft-repeated mantra when it comes to the digitalisation of insurance broking. But how do you achieve that goal? And where are brokers most likely to come unstuck? Fiona Nicolson investigates
The Covid-19 pandemic accelerated the shift to buying online; people have become more accustomed to buying whatever they want whenever they want it – and that includes insurance.
Many brokers have taken this on board, according to insurance-broker software specialists, Applied Systems’ 2021 digital-technology-adoption survey, conducted in Q1 last year. It revealed that around two thirds (66%) of those surveyed (1819 independent brokerages across the UK, Ireland, US and Canada) already had a digital strategy in place.
And they’re not stopping there: many are keen to expand the digitalisation of their businesses. Aviva’s ‘broker barometer’ research, published in August this year found that of the 220 general insurance brokers surveyed in late March/early April, 70% said they’d be interested or very interested in further digitalisation or automation – with improving customer service the top reason given by more than half (58%) of respondents.
The McKinsey Global Insurance Report 2022 also places the spotlight on the customer, recommending that insurance leaders capitalise on nine key value ‘levers’, one of which is to enhance and personalise customer engagement and experience.
Some of the many ways to provide customers with a positive digital experience might include a clear and easy to navigate website; helpful, up-to-date information and insights – such as explaining the implications of recent market developments; consistency of access and experience across different digital channels; and straightforward but secure access to policy documents through self-service portals.
Alex Potts, head of digital innovation at Bridge Insurance Brokers, emphasises the importance of high-quality content, as he explains: “The content you’re providing in the digital world needs to be relevant and exciting, otherwise the customer will swipe or scroll on to something else. Also, customers are conditioned to get more than one quote, so they will have multiple tabs open, to check details and compare prices. The digital ‘journey’, therefore, has to be fast and slick, to keep their attention.”
Whatever the digital experience includes, it must focus on a fundamental requirement, says Philip Williams, chief operations officer at Clear Group: “Customers just want fantastic service. Sometimes they want to be able to log on to a portal at 11 o’clock at night because they need to engage with their insurance then and there. Sometimes they want to be able to handle admin at a time that suits them. On other occasions they just want a reliable expert to help solve a problem, whether over the phone, in person or online.”
Putting the customer first is therefore the top priority when digitalising processes, as he explains: “The key to implementing a digital interaction is to not think of it as a digital interaction. It’s being there in the best way that suits customers. Efficiency and cost are part of the equation, but they are only part of it.
“Having the right material available online helps when engaging a customer on a more technical subject and self-service portals are an invaluable tool to deliver efficiency for customers, brokers and the wider business. However, the mission should not be: how do we take what we do today and deliver in a digital way? Instead, we should focus on how we seamlessly blend the capabilities that digital provides into the perfect customer service.”
And there is a good reason for this, warns Williams: “Not taking a seamless approach leads to poor customer experiences. These experiences often arise due to a desire to implement a platform or initiative without taking into account the whole customer journey.”
There are also some other specific ‘don’ts’ to avoid, when it comes to digitisation. Peter Blanc, group chief executive at Aston Lark says: “Clients hate digital journeys with no ability to exit or talk to a human. In other words, we shouldn’t use digital to ‘force’ clients into an efficient journey that could leave them unsatisfied and unable to get a solution.”
To keep doing things better digitally, investment is crucial, says Potts: “A way for brokers to improve their digital interaction with customers would be to allocate a larger budget for researching customer habits and for staying on top of trends. The average customer’s wants and needs are ever-changing due to new digital innovations emerging.”
Collaboration within the insurance sector should be a priority too, suggests Emily Kenna, director at Sense Risk Solutions: “We need to listen to our customers and think about how we can make the insurance process simpler, faster and more accessible for them. Technology will help with that, and we need to start speaking to insurers on how we can both address this need.”