The insurance industry has developed an industrial-strength capacity to deal with catastrophes. Yet, due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, insurers face new challenges. How do you transition workforces to a work-from-home environment in a typically slow-moving industry that does not have the infrastructure, bandwidth, and disaster recovery plans to keep operations running?
Despite these challenges, new opportunities emerge for leading carriers to support their policyholders, producers, and service partners. In a recent webinar, “How Insurers Drive Engagement During Times of Crisis,” Amica Life described how their workforces were forced to quickly move to a 100% virtual environment. This is big news for an industry traditionally slow to implement change. But by transforming some of their strategies, insurers can help their organizations now and into the future. Let’s look at how:
Identify current business impacts
Before COVID-19, most insurance policies did not cover pandemic-related issues. However, due to the high impact of COVID-19 around the globe, insurers are now preparing for potential changes brought on by government-imposed shutdowns, including possible retroactive mandates by legislation. These changes could spell implications for insurers and policyholders alike.
The first step to building a new strategy is to look at how this pandemic might impact your business. How will policy changes transform the ways you serve your customers? For example:
- Workers’ compensation and similar coverages worldwide continue to experience higher claims volumes.
- Significant expenses will likely impact affected low premium coverages, such as travel policies. These, however, may not pay claims. Some insurers, such as Allianz, have expanded coverage for coronavirus-related delays or cancellations for policyholders who become ill before, or during, their trip.
- Most disability claims stem from illnesses, like COVID-19, rather than injuries. As the virus spreads, life insurers are likely to see a rise in life, long-term care, and disability claims.
- Volatile financial markets will impact investment income for all insurers, especially life carriers with annuities and retirement products. Insurers should monitor their investment portfolios and consider diversifying if needed.
Adapt your services to new ways of doing business
Even in the midst of a crisis, customers will still experience storms and auto accidents. They expect insurers to maintain service while keeping employees, agents, and customers safe. With agents working from home, insurers that still rely on manual processes will find it difficult to continue serving customers, fulfilling claims, and maintaining sales at scale. That’s where a digital environment can help.
Amica Life has taken the first steps toward digital enablement to serve customers now and into the future. Their Technology Services Officer, Hamza Rafiq, stated, “We’re trying to strike that balance between technology and the human touch. We focus on where we can improve touchless customer experiences by looking at business processes that don’t add value and automating processes that improve the customer experience.” For Amica Life, that means offering customers options for how, where, and when to engage. For example, customers can use modern, digital tools to apply for policies online, or they can choose to apply by speaking directly with an agent.
There are many steps insurers can take toward a digital transformation to carry them into the future. Here are some strategies for managing immediate operational challenges:
- Identify digital opportunities. When moving to a virtual environment, it’s critical to get digital solutions to employees. For example, setting up cloud-based call center software your agents can access over Wi-Fi provides stability during disruption and reduces downtime. It also gives your teams a holistic view of the customer they can use to better understand and adapt to their changing needs. Ultimately, this understanding is what leads to trust and longer-lasting relationships.
- Set employees up for success. Moving from an office to a work-from-home environment can be disruptive and stressful. Provide collaboration tools to help replace day-to-day interactions, as well as tools for dealing with stress and disruption. For example, Quip combines documents, spreadsheets, and chat to help teams work collaboratively from anywhere. Some companies have begun sending periodic surveys to employees to gauge mental health. Others have connected their teams with online support tools like Supportiv and Lyra Health.
- Take advantage of existing tools. Many insurers are looking for ways to use the tools they already have for new purposes. For example, they could use an email marketing tool to send internal announcements to staff and producers. When it comes to communicating with customers, use data and insights from your marketing tools. Look at the data of customers who may be struggling and identify the ones who are most at risk. Proactively reach out to customers to provide information on claims processes, alternative channels, coverage elements, and risk management. You can also ask customers for feedback directly and use their insight to improve your online experiences.
Streamline inbound requests
As the pandemic continues, certain lines of business will see an increase in claims. The influx of calls generated by customers needing to file claims or asking questions about their policies could overwhelm many traditional channels — for instance, call centers which may not currently be operating at full capacity.
To ensure customers have access to the information and tools they need, Amica Life has introduced more self-service components. For your organization, this could mean introducing online claim filing or chatbots to answer customer questions.
Hamza Rafiq of Amica Life said, “COVID-19 has and will continue to impact the way the world operates. … Continued modernization and transformation of our digital platforms will help us stay ahead and right near the customer when they need us.’’
Here are some ways you can make sure your organization is ready with modern tools and digital channels to provide customers with the information they need when they need it.
- Set up online processes. Setting up online claims intake will take stress off call centers and automatically route claims to the appropriate adjusters for processing. Over time, begin incorporating other communication tools like bots, chat, text and straight-through processing.
- Streamline appointment scheduling. Point customers to your website to schedule appointments to alleviate traffic to your customer service lines. If call reps notice customers are asking many of the same questions, consider publishing a page on your website that addresses these concerns. When call volumes are high, let callers know they can visit the website to find answers to common questions.
- Automate with bots. Chatbots can offer a full range of services that free staff to handle more complex tasks. Chat windows enable contact center resources to handle more than one customer at a time.
Proactive communication is key
An empathetic, customer-centric response to the current crisis will uphold customer satisfaction, lower overall expenses, and ultimately increase customer lifetime value (CLV). This requires insurers to understand customers and commit to better communication. Insurers can do this by using analytics and audience insight to build targeted, contextually-relevant journeys. Use your website data to see where users are spending time. Or practice social listening to understand the kinds of questions customers are asking and the content they are sharing.
Amica Life adjusts its customer experience based on feedback it gathers from customers as well as data from its app. They learned that the faster a customer could apply for coverage from a quote, the more likely they were to follow through with a purchase. Their teams also pay close attention to market trends and industry data to better understand what customers are looking for.
With insights like these, you can build relevant, empathetic journeys that meet customers where they are. For instance, consumers have moved towards more digital, self-service experiences in the past few years by educating themselves, getting quotes, and even applying for insurance online. However, carriers are seeing clear points in the journey where consumers want a human touch to take over.
Keep these things in mind when communicating with customers:
- Step up risk management. Look at individual customer accounts to help reduce their potential for loss. Ensuring your agents have ready access to customer relationship management (CRM) data can give them the information they need when communicating with individual customers in the moment. Internally, identify best practices to mitigate claims and manage books effectively.
- Be aware of reputational risk. With so many people being affected by the COVID-19 pandemic — and high numbers of claims being filed — be aware of how denials may impact the reputation of your business and the entire industry.
- Understand customer anxieties. Use social listening, internal expertise, and audience personas to anticipate customer questions. Manage their expectations, so you can develop content, resources, and experiences that inspire trust and long-lasting relationships.
Next Steps and Resources
Insurers can focus on future-proofing their organizations by enhancing their products and services. Those who focus on managing risk and digital operations will have a lasting impact on the industry. To learn more, read the High Volume Claims solution guide.
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