Crafting the customer experience

ITIJ 213, October 2018
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Sofie Quidenus-Wahlforss, Co-Founder and CEO of Berlin-based startup omni:us, asks how digital innovation can help traditional insurers keep customers first
 
In any consumer-facing business, customer experience is essential to success. This is especially true for the insurance industry, where policy values and customer retention rates drive profit. Yet the insurance field is littered with unique communication obstacles which can make the path to satisfactory customer experiences difficult to attain.
Sometimes viewed as a grudge purchase, customer perspectives of insurance are often tinged with resentment over high monthly fees for an indefinite payout, making trust low and hard to build: according to a 2016 Accenture report, only 20 per cent of customers found their insurer trustworthy. In the event of a payout arising, customers typically require fast, promising results from a company with which they’ve had limited contact. Such customers will have already endured stressors leading to the need for insurance, requiring an even higher standard of customer service from the insurer.
In any consumer-facing business, customer experience is essential to success
In response to the many challenges faced, new technology such as artificial intelligence, machine learning and personalised chatbots are changing public standards of satisfactory service. As enhanced customer experience is what most insurance executives seek to improve, according to a 2017 report by Insurance Nexus, it’s a vital aspect of business, which innovative solutions like omni:us can help.
At omni:us, we produce artificial intelligence solutions for insurance companies on behalf of the customer, with the aim of reducing customer wait times and enhancing their overall interaction by automating the tedious administrative tasks that take up so much of the company’s time. Often, we see reductions in claims processing of up to 80 per cent, freeing up the agents’ time to focus on customers in need.
By reading and understanding submitted claims forms like a human, such solutions can extract information from a huge volume of arbitrary documents, regardless of various layouts and text type (digital vs handwritten). While intrinsically helpful to the insurer, customers first and foremost benefit from this innovation as we allow them, in the height of a stressful situation, to conveniently submit and resolve claims of any sort without constraints.
according to a 2016 Accenture report, only 20 per cent of customers found their insurer trustworthy
Especially considering the versatility of AI solutions and customer technology available, there are multiple ways that traditional insurers can work with complementary technology to improve, maintain and enhance their customer’s experience for the best possible result. In order to do so, it’s important to consider five aspects that can make or break customer expectations: 
  • Convenience: Technology drives convenience, and the same rings true for insurance – 79 per cent of consumers worldwide say they will use a digital channel for insurance interactions over the next few years, according to Raconteur. The rise of mobile-first technology, including apps, means that consumers have come to expect seamless interactions in all areas of their lives, and insurance is no exception. In addition to AI solutions that simplify the claims process or policy comparison, chatbots and mobile portals help break down the barriers between customers and their insurers. 
  • Immediacy: From policy choice to payout, customers are always looking for responsive companies to trust, so digital solutions that work to speed up any part of the process are key. Solutions that rely on Natural Language Processing to read, understand and extract useful information from documents can automate the labour-intensive aspects of insurance practice, helping traditional companies reduce customer wait times with faster processing.
  • Accuracy: As EY points out, rising consumer expectations and an increased willingness to switch to new providers are forcing insurers to be more accountable, transparent and effective. Wrongly denying a payout in a time of need is a nightmare for all insurers and their customers. Luckily, technological innovations cut down on human error while increasing accuracy, preventing incorrect decisions on behalf of customers and fraudulent claims for insurers. 
  • Transparency: With customer trust already difficult to achieve, insurers should understand the customer’s reluctance towards insurance as a grudge purchase and provide options for decent coverage at costs as low as possible, an opening where AI technology can greatly simplify the application process. For example, brokers may rely on AI to extract all relevant data from various policies and produce an in-depth comparison within minutes, servicing customers to a higher degree while allowing the focus to be on customer-facing interactions rather than intensive comparison calculations.
  • Excellent customer service: Ultimately this will be on insurers to provide as a human element is always needed, as EY’s latest surveys show that 40 per cent of consumers decide to continue insurer relationships based on the quality of the experience. Luckily, with all the free time AI solutions and new technology can create for businesses once labour-intensive tasks are automated, this will be even easier to deliver. ■