'Making It Easy' Is The Stepping Stone To Digital Journey

Brands that smoothened out and reduced friction during interactions tended to have higher 1.3 X times higher advocacy levels among their customers

Financial security became a fundamental consumer need as a result of the pandemic, resulting in strong growth momentum for the life insurance industry. With more than 20 competitors in the sector, the landscape is competitive and difficult, especially as product and pricing differentiation is limited due to the highly regulated nature of the industry. There's also the ever-evolving consumer, who today has fewer exit barriers across all categories, including life insurance. With 1 in 5 customers claiming that they intend to cancel an existing policy and purchase another in the next 1 year, securing loyalty is getting tougher. In terms of service expectations, life insurance is now competing with other consumer categories. Given the rise of the new revolutionised customer, there is a definite requirement of prioritising Customer experience to ensure customer loyalty.

With the fast digitisation and technological advancements within companies, the customer experience for the industry has substantially enhanced. Options for online purchase, speedy policy issuance, quick and convenient telephonic medical interviews, online payment choices, and so on are all examples of how digitisation has improved the customer experience. However, in the last 2-3 years, differentiation on technology-aided aspects has grown limited and instead is fast becoming a hygiene requirement.

Customers' expectations are no longer singularly focussed on the product, rather are increasingly focused on brands that are Easy to Deal with, including responsive Customer Support when required, making their lives better. Failure to deliver on these expectations often leads to customers either switching to alternatives or becoming passive. Switching brands has never been easier in this competitive landscape.

Brands that smoothened out and reduced friction during interactions tended to have higher 1.3 X times higher advocacy levels among their customers.

Brands can help match customer’s overarching need for ‘Ease of Dealing’ by ensuring some key guiding principles while designing their customer journey

1) Be Flexible – Retailers like ‘Zara’ and ‘H&M’ are driven by a no-questions-asked return/ replacement policy to delight the customers, and e-commerce is allowing scheduled delivery to build customer comfort. However, financial products and services providers, such as life insurance, are, nevertheless, a far way from this. While there is a free look period in the life insurance industry for the consumer's benefit, knowledge is minimal and the process is far from simple.

2) Make it easy for customers to ‘Reach a human’– The demand for digital self-service channels is urgent, and everyone is rushing to implement AI-based self-service customer support solutions. While self-service tools might save firms a lot of money, the human touch is still quite important when it comes to helping customers create trust. The importance of being able to communicate with someone when there is a problem or a unique circumstance should not be underestimated. There is a true requirement for customers to be able to contact their human support team in a frictionless manner. Failure to do so may result in long-term client defection. To ensure client loyalty, the right balance of technology and people is required. Approximately 7 in 10 Online Life insurance buyers still interact with an Agent or their Bank RM before actually buying one.

3) Empower the Front Line - Customers are increasingly engaging in more digital behaviour in the life insurance market. For the time being, Customer Service and Agents remain unquestionable touchpoints. Poor resolution and untimely solutions offered by agents and under-empowered contact centres continue to have a detrimental influence on customer loyalty. Providing timely and relevant customer support becomes a challenge when channels are often siloed. It's vital to provide them with the tools they need to provide excellent customer service. They'll be better equipped to comprehend the customer's perceptions and expectations of the brand if they have access to customer interaction history across channels. They'll also be in a better position to create a wonderful customer experience. While the life insurance industry is showing an improvement across most experiences, the Call Center experience is stagnant for customers.

4) Service wherever and whenever with care & empathy – 24/7 customer support through multiple channels is hygiene now. Additionally, customer support is about helping people and by resonating emotionally with customers, brands can ensure an optimal collaborative solution is reached for the benefit of the customers. Overall, 8 in 10 customers sought out interactions with their Life Insurance service provider in the past 1 year, seeking either information, service request, or complaint resolution. Hence, easy access should remain a priority.

5) Anticipate customers’ need for interaction and support throughout their customer journey- Using customer data, anticipate requests and information most desired by customers and empower the customers themselves by providing easy-to-use solutions– updating an address, and account information. Offer training and support to help educate these consumers. Interaction continues to remain important for now in the Life insurance sector even post-purchase, with 3 in 4 customers wanting the Agent/ Bank RM to engage at least once in 6 months to provide reminders, updates about new policies, especially the Millennial Metro Customer.

*The author is Piyali Chatterjee, Senior Vice President, CX, Hansa Research

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