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September 23, 2020

“We cannot solve our problems with the same kind of thinking we used when we created them.”  -- Albert Einstein

Reimagining the customer experience is fast becoming a business imperative for insurance firms as we prepare for a ‘contactless’ world – something that will continue to exist even long after the COVID-19 crisis diffuses. The ongoing pandemic is driving insurers to introspect and plan for future-proofing their business against similar, unexpected systemic disruptions. Current business models and the product offerings behind them present us with a slew of opportunities for recreating the customer experience. Embracing end-to-end digitalization across the insurance value chain, with a purpose-driven approach, is a conclusive step toward creating a contactless insurance customer experience.

Dealing with the odds: During a sale, customers have a limited role in the insurance purchase process – a factor that can drive them away. One-sided actions – from business to customer – typically hinders the sale. Digital engagements, social marketing, and e-campaigns are only short-term measures to attract customers, not a long-term process for customer engagement. Current pandemic-led disruptions and the increase in socially-distanced interactions have added a new set of sensitivities and challenges.

Fundamentals of insurance remain intact; mindset and risk premises have changed

Purpose-driven experiences aligned to evolving customer expectations attract and induce loyalty. Digital technologies can facilitate instant and easy access to insurers, as well as intuitive, personalized, and contactless self-service options. These operational experiences can be enhanced using digital solutions that enable agents to co-browse and assist the customer remotely. Digital twin solutions can help build a virtual replica of the customer’s scenario and the interface he/she is using to model the experience better. In addition, virtual agents and augmented experiences are interesting areas calling for exploration in the insurance space.

In revitalizing the customer experience in the insurance industry, especially in the post-COVID world, firms must look at:

Breaking the tradition: Most insurers focus their strategies on increasing written premium, claims, cash ratios, and so on, based on a single risk or an umbrella of complemented risks. Though this approach is essential for underwriting, a shift of focus toward the customer's outcome will instill a deeper purpose and deliver a superior experience. Slicing the risks by amortized units as cost-per-risk over a period of coverage can make all the difference. Users can choose to combine risks from different categories (like motor, property, others) against time, schedule, or other parameters – under a single contract. In doing this, the customer pays a premium only for the quantum of risks he or she expects to cover.

Revisiting the customer journey: Understanding what the customer is going through when they are part of the process – in the form of hassles from purchase to benefit or claim – will create an ocean of difference. The degree of opaqueness in the purchase cycle, lack of information, subpar systems to support the entire journey, and so on, mar customer experience. Experiences that touch customers' lives while enabling actions that resonate with the business's value create a meaningful and memorable customer journey. A journey that's built on the top of a standardized design, simplified processes, empowered employees, and analytical insights for a remote, touchless, and socially distanced world will create a brand of its own.

Focusing on the loyalty factor: On their own, insurance organizations can only do so much to operate efficiently. Without a collaborative ecosystem to support, accelerate, add to a product's value, these typically translate into overhead charges on the premium and are passed on to the customer. In the digital realm, it makes sense to approach the market with an ecosystem play so that further efficiencies are created, those that increase scale, reduce costs, and eventually pay customers back for their loyalty.

Building goodwill versus delivering good experiences: Maturity, claims, and settlements are the key transactions that insurers should aim to process without hassles. Compromising on settlements or billing – inflating settlement amount, reducing genuine charge in premium, and so on – in the name of goodwill to avoid litigation is only going to cost the insurer; in a way, transacting on goodwill with poor experience, will drive the customer away. Here again, actions based on outcome and relationship will lead to customer loyalty in the long run. Decisions based on purpose creates stickiness with the customer at the point of engagement.

Enhancing customer experience: Across industries, customers have become information savvy – they evaluate through social comparison. This is no different when it comes to insurance. Customers are bound to be elated when they are served the right information at appropriate junctures, enabled through educated guesses, made aware of trade-offs, and allowed to take an informed decision. It is therefore vital to educate the customers, provide them with choices, and guiding their decisions intuitively. Empowered customers will feel connected with a brand when they are provided with choices on the products, a menu to personalize and when educated for their decisions, for their risk cover. This recreates a seamless experience like shopping on Amazon, as well enables customers to buy insurance in a socially distant world.

Insurance enterprises revisiting the customer journey will break-even faster, amid the virus outbreak!

On the whole, what counts in the journey is how the experiences connect with the customer. Engagement based on purpose, a drive for personalized choices and reimagined journey will make a huge difference in delighting customers. An action-oriented strategy that is operationally aligned and aims to drive purpose-driven outcomes will create immense value.

Sarath Chandran Mohan is an insurance consultant with the Industry Advisory Group of TCS’ Banking, Financial Services and Insurance (BFSI) business unit. He has over 21 years of experience in delivering consulting, solution development, and project management services to insurance companies. Mohan has led large transformation programs as well as managed IT operations and digital projects for TCS’ clients across North America, LATAM, Middle-East, and Africa. Mohan holds a Master’s degree in Computer Science and Engineering from the SRM University, Chennai, India.


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