Mark Mullin, Director, Digital Strategy – International, Guidewire

As they come of age, millennial customers born from the 1990s onwards are dominating the minds of all financial service sectors. What is the best way to engage with these digitally savvy consumers? What kinds of products and services will they buy? How much will all of this diverge from how other customers behave?

Answers to these and other questions are being chewed over, and no more so than in my industry, general insurance. New customer behaviours are one of the key factors driving the digitisation of insurance. Insurers need to accommodate interactions with new digital channels, like web, mobile and social. More importantly, they need access to new core processing platforms that are able to deliver the more innovative products and smarter immediacy that their customers want. What is clear is that this is a hugely exciting, challenging, and perplexing time.

Generational challenges can provide increased opportunities within the insurance sector too. The simple fact is that the last few years have seen a dramatic change in staff demographics within all areas of the industry. Mergers and acquisitions have led to many senior insurance professionals in underwriting and claims taking early retirement or voluntary redundancy, while the new organisation trims operational costs. More automated and connected processes, plus greater use of the Internet, may mean less need for human interventions along the way.

We need to accept that what is leaving the business is more than just head count. As one senior underwriter once told me, when making the customer journey more of an online one, you have to be careful that “you don’t cut the expertise out of the process.”

Expertise, traditionally, takes time to develop. I know this from personal experience; when I started my career with Royal Insurance in Canada, I benefitted from being surrounded by experts in everything – from boiler and machinery, to logistics and fleet management, to loss control, process engineering, and sprinkler systems. Access to this rich expertise helped me build my own career in the insurance industry. This is the kind of niche knowledge that has been leaving the industry for several years now.

So is this a crisis?

It is, in fact, an opportunity to revitalise customer experience management in insurance. This is possible, as long as the insurer has invested in more agile technology platforms that can adapt to the generational changes both in its workforce and its customer base.

When systems are designed to provide a true 360 degree view of the customer, they can provide the right information at the right time to empower the broker or employee to progress the customer’s claim speedily or offer a better deal on a policy that is good for both the customer and the insurer. In these cases, valuable expertise can be embedded within the systems and workflow, avoiding the need to put a customer on hold and pass them between colleagues to arrive at a decision. This improves the overall experience for the customer and eliminates frustration on all sides. With emphasis on straight-through processing, the customer journey is further enhanced – to a level they have come to expect in other service industries.

Digital interactions can transform the customer experience in simple but profound ways, for both insurer and customer. For example, only a few years ago call centre staff would be tied up in answering customer calls about what is going on with a particular claim. Today, providing claim status online can satisfy the vast majority of customers and reduces the cost and frustration of frequent inquiry calls.

Such intelligent automation and case management processes are freeing up time for the insurer to differentiate with expert personalised assistance when the circumstances warrant it. This can be around a niche market or unique requirement. In these cases, utilising subject matter experts where they can best add value will make all the difference to the insurer’s offering.

With fewer experts actually available, digital channels play an increasingly crucial role here. Online chat is a great example of how the digital journey can be made to replicate how an insurance sales person talks a customer through a complex product, answering queries and concerns. The chat box function can have the name and picture of the expert chatting to the customer. All of this makes best use of valuable expert talent while delivering a personalised experience that is convenient for both customer and insurer.

With customers demanding so much more from their insurer, a specialised digital offering is a must-have and can be a differentiator for the customer journey. The ability to personalise this service with expert advice will give insurance organisations that crucial edge over their competitors in delivering a superior customer experience.

While an aging workforce means some valuable expertise is being lost, developments in more intelligent processing systems and automation, and digital engagement capabilities, working together, help free up the best talent to handle more expert tasks, which should help ensure that insurers still have a clear way to stand apart from the competition.

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Mark MullinMark Mullin
Director, Digital Strategy – International, Guidewire

Guidewire exists to deliver the software that general insurers need to adapt and succeed in a time of rapid industry change, and to ensure that every customer succeeds in the journey.

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