Travel insurance as an ecosystem

ITIJ 219 | April 2019
Richard Coleman, European Director at Collinson, explains how customer experience can act as a differentiator.
There’s no denying that travel insurers operate in a challenging environment – the maturity of the market, combined with the price-sensitive, savvy end customer and what some believe is a non-essential purchase, unlike car insurance, throws up a host of obstacles. More often than not, customers feel limited affinity with their insurance provider during the life of the policy, with the only contact being if they need to make a claim. In order to compete effectively in this market, it is ever more important for travel insurers to focus on customer experience, underpinned by deep customer insight. 
It’s no longer enough to just improve your products and services; today you are competing with the best experience a customer has ever had, regardless of the brand or sector they have had it with. Therefore, customer expectations are incredibly high.
The role of personalisation
One of the ways in which customer experience can be improved is through personalisation – letting the consumer know that you understand who they are and what they need.
People want and expect a more engaging experience. Having recently surveyed over 2,000 UK insurance customers, almost one-third (31 per cent) said that they received communications that weren’t personalised at all, and less than one-quarter (24 per cent) felt that their insurer treated them like an individual, as opposed to a number.
customers feel limited affinity with their insurance provider during the life of the policy, with the only contact being if they need to make a claim
For insurers, personalisation can be very powerful. It allows us to tailor bespoke products to the customer’s needs. Of course, to help create more meaningful, individualised interactions, data is needed – something which historically has been difficult to extract. However, as consumers begin to understand the interplay between data and better personalisation, they become more willing to share their data with the brands they trust, in return for better, simpler and more individualised experiences.
For example, when working with travel brands and airlines, we use data collected during the booking path to offer the appropriate travel insurance product at the right time. By offering this more tailored product, along with any relevant add-ons, the customer sees their needs reflected in the product suggestion and is more likely to purchase.
Making the proposition richer and more engaging through personalisation is incredibly important for the insurance market. However, it is still a product that customers rarely use once bought – so, for travel insurers, creating more tangible and useful ways to stay in the minds of customers is crucial.
Adding value to the customer experience 
To begin with, it is worth focusing on joining the dots of the wider traveller journey in order to create a differentiated ecosystem of products and services to enhance the overall experience. With experiences becoming more highly valued, ‘moments of truth’ can be found outside of the ‘linear’ customer journey. 
For example, by identifying the pain points in the customer journey, insurers can look to relieve them. Flight delay assistance products such as SmartDelay provide immediate access to an airport lounge in the event of a flight delay. Imagine the relief delayed travellers feel when a lounge access voucher is immediately sent to their mobile – and how vivid and long-lasting that brand experience will be.
Another example might be to find ways to over-deliver on the core promises of your travel insurance. The central promise is that if a policyholder is unwell, their travel insurance provider will look after them. But what if they’re just not feeling 100 per cent and they simply want to access medical advice on the go? Digital health service apps such as Babylon Health can be embedded into the travel insurance proposition so customers can go through and utilise its services on their mobile or consult with a doctor via a video call about anything that is medically bothering them – a great benefit. 
consumers expect services to be instantly available, seamless, personalised and on their terms
The importance of choice in customer experience
Choice and convenience are key; consumers expect speed and 24/7 access, which you can only get through a true ‘omnichannel’ approach to policy administration and claims handling.
An ‘omnichannel’ approach allows customers to choose how they interact with an insurer at any point in their journey. All of these interactions are joined up in the back-end system, giving the claims handler a single view of the customer’s contact. With a simple travel claim, such as lost luggage for example, it may be possible for the customer to self-serve online. With a more complex claim, such as a medical claim, it’s important that the necessary ‘human channels’ are in place for customers to quickly talk to a true expert. The key is finding a balance between the human and digital interaction at the correct time – it’s so important that insurance providers get this right, and provide choice, given the impact it can have on a customer who is in the middle of a travel claim.
Final thought
Living in the expectation economy, consumers are choice-rich and just as likely to compare their claims handling experience with the service they get from their mobile network provider or bank. They expect services to be instantly available, seamless, personalised and on their terms. It’s up to insurers to offer the right choice at the optimal time – this is absolutely where customer service is headed. 
Richard Coleman

Richard Coleman has over 20 years’ experience within insurance as both broker and insurer. He is responsible for delivering Collinson’s strategy for the European region which extends to insurance and assistance, loyalty and travel experiences. He is also on the advisory board of data technology firm Cytora.