You’re a big advocate for disrupting the traditional travel insurance sector; what are the flaws that you are aiming to fix?
One of the major challenges the industry is facing is a lack of consumer education. Insurers often prioritise selling travel insurance at the expense of customer learning, but we need to use our expertise to guide customers through the complexities of travel insurance. The traditional travel insurance model has been one-size-fits-all, but this model is no longer effective. Compared to other industries, the travel insurance industry is lagging behind in technology adoption. At VisitorsCoverage, we’re very focused on technology and want to harness the power of technology to streamline the travel insurance buying experience. Customers expect a one-swipe buy experience like Amazon offers. As tech innovators, we aspire to bring that kind of efficiency and experience to the travel insurance industry.
How has Luna, your AI smart bot, changed how you do business and interact with your customers?
Luna gives customers the ability to learn, access and manage their policies at their convenience. Luna has been especially integral during the pandemic, providing global travellers with essential assistance around the clock. Luna has been instrumental in improving the customer experience and our overall productivity.
Customer loyalty has always been notoriously difficult to gain in the travel insurance sector; why do you think this is, and what should insurers do about it?
Insurance has a reputation for being complicated in consumers’ minds, and travel insurance is no exception. Insurers often use jargon that the average traveller doesn’t understand. That’s why VisitorsCoverage prioritises education and outstanding customer service. If insurers want customer loyalty, they need to be transparent, not just about plan benefits and policy exclusions, but about who they are as a company. The sale doesn’t end at purchase, it continues until a claim is processed efficiently. The industry needs to improve touchpoints in the entire customer journey, instead of just focusing narrowly on the customer acquisition aspects. Education and customer service should be embedded in the backend claims process by providing more visibility to the customer at every step.
Customer education is a key challenge for travel insurers – can more be done to explain why travel insurance is needed and why it’s vital that people understand their policies?
We believe an educated customer is a happy customer. The root of customer dissatisfaction with travel insurance is an industry-wide lack of focus on customer education. Consumers have to navigate through complicated policy documents filled with industry jargon and evasive language. The traditional insurance model was agent or broker driven, and agents were expected to be experts in travel insurance. In this era of tech innovation and swipe-to-buy online businesses, however, customers are less likely to connect with an agent by phone. Consequently, the responsibility of travel insurance education has fallen on consumers. We must empower travellers. This means making sure they have the tools and resources they need to understand their policy documents, coverage benefits and limitations and make informed decisions.
What do you enjoy about working in this challenging business?
Coming from a technology background, applying any and all aspects of technology to solve problems is an absolute joy for me, especially in the internet technologies and consumer solutions domains. Travel insurance is an underserved industry from the technology standpoint. There’s a wide scope and a variety of opportunities to apply my knowledge and creativity toward disrupting this industry. I’m lucky and thankful to work in this space. Disrupting a highly regulated industry with so many dependencies in the value chain is more than challenging, but solving these issues is what keeps me motivated and happy. I thoroughly enjoy what I do.
Technology is in a constant state of evolution; what’s the next ‘big thing’ that insurers need to look out for on the horizon that’s going to change how customers behave or how insurance is delivered?
The world is very fast paced. As technology increases, so does that pace. Our goal as insurers should be to make the travel insurance buying process as simple and dependable as a one-click Amazon purchase. As more people turn to travel insurance for security, they’ll also want more flexibility. Improved, tech-driven distribution, customisable policies and pay-as-you-go travel insurance are vital to travellers’ peace of mind. Travel insurance is not, at the moment, something you can buy with just a swipe or a click. Travellers need to research their travel insurance options. Besides technology adoption, the existing distribution model needs an overhaul. Modern consumers want more control on how, when and what they buy. Insurers and distributors need to deliver an experience that puts travellers at the centre of every process.
Travel insurance regulation is different from state to state in the US, do you think that there are ways the industry could be redefined and regulated that could help improve take up and understanding of the product?
When compared to more popular mainstream insurance types like home, auto and health insurance, travel insurance regulations aren’t as clearly defined. This creates complications and confusion, which adversely affects innovation and technology-driven disruptions in this sector. Travel insurance is a niche but growing market that has had to follow legacy rules designed for mainstream insurance. The result is as frustrating for travel insurers as it is for travellers. Much more work needs to be done to ensure that the travel insurance sector has clear and specific regulations that address the nuances of travel insurance.
While there is undoubtedly an element of pent-up demand for travel since the world started reopening after Covid lockdowns, do you think we will see a return to pre-pandemic levels of travel any time soon?
There’s certainly reason for optimism. As vaccination is now approved for children five and older, we’ll see a surge in family travel in 2022. While it’s too early to officially label 2022 as the year of travel, the early indicators suggest we’re likely to see a return to pre-pandemic travel levels. In early November of 2021, the US and many other countries reopened for international travel. In fact, the Washington Post reported that the Transportation Security Administration screened 20.9 million people during the 10-day Thanksgiving travel period, 89 per cent of levels recorded before the pandemic. We’ve already noticed a spike in our traffic and sales that’s even higher than pre-pandemic levels. While the Omicron variant of Covid made travellers wary, we’re hopeful that the pandemic will subside; there are promising days ahead for the travel insurance industry.
What can the insurance industry learn from its experiences with Covid that it can take forward to improve – either in its products or its services?
The pandemic was a game-changer for every company in the world. But it’s changed the travel industry forever. Those of us in the insurance industry learned that our business models need to be adaptable. We need to be able to pivot at limited notice to offer travellers the services and products that meet their changing needs. At VisitorsCoverage, we were able to do this successfully by harnessing the power of technology and having an adaptable workforce. While launching our smartbot at the height of the pandemic, we saw firsthand how crucial emerging technology is to the industry’s success. We need to cultivate the agility and ingenuity inspired by the pandemic and create products and services that address the evolving needs of the modern traveller.