Many agents understand in principle that “customer experience” is the sum total of an agency’s interactions with prospects and policyholders. In practice, however, customer service often ends up focusing more on the policy transaction and claims, and less on what today’s customers are demanding from the businesses they patronize. As a consequence, most agents need to rethink their digital presence in shaping their overall customer experience.
“Agents rightly place a high priority on quickly executing a request, including grinding out policy pages and processing renewals,” says Jon Picoult, founder of Watermark Consulting, a customer experience advisory firm. “It’s easy to lose sight, however, of how a client is made to feel through the course of these interactions. The agency may have delivered the client’s policy packet in record time – but how did that client feel after opening up a 25-page policy document, riddled with legalese and jargon? Does that inspire confidence in the purchase decision? Does it make clients feel like the agent values them and their time?
On the claims event, Picoult calls it the “classic moment-of-truth” that agents should obviously work hard to make as impressive as possible. It’s a mistake, though, to focus on claims to the exclusion of other parts of the policyholder lifecycle.
“Most clients won’t have a claim in any given year,” he says. “So an agent who counts on a great claims-handling experience to differentiate his or her practice is leaving a bunch of clients out in the cold. Equal emphasis needs to be placed on figuring out how to engage policyholders and how to demonstrate the value you provide outside of claim time.”
Smartphone growth explosion has opened up Internet access to most consumers, which has driven demand for better customer expe-
riences via technology. According to a Pew Internet report last February, 87 percent of American adults use the internet, with 95 percent or more among households above $75,000, young adults ages 18-29 and those with college degrees. More than two-thirds (68 percent ) of adults connect to the internet with mobile devices such as smartphones or tablet computers.
Insurers are taking note. According to an SMA survey, 62 percent of the carriers surveyed are investing in Web self-service projects this year, and more than 50 percent are working on e-billing and e-delivery.
“The tougher it is for a customer to purchase, use and service your product, the less likely you are to earn their business, let alone their loyalty,” Picoult says.
“For many prospects, an agent’s website is the storefront, period,” he says. “Right or wrong, people will make snap judgments based on their reaction to a company’s website.”
In evaluating a website, key questions include:
- Is it visually appealing?
- Are available products/services clearly and simply described, and easily accessible with one click?
- Is it easy to contact someone for more information?
- Is it mobile-optimized so it can be read easily on a smartphone?
- Does it offer an app to give clients easy access to pay bills, review coverages and submit claims?
Picoult also says many agencies neglect the importance of collecting the email addresses of their clients for a variety of uses, including time-sensitive communications and periodically surveying them.
“Focus on the interaction, not just the transaction,” he says.
This is the fifth of a series on the technology issues facing agents. The focus is on practical solutions on many fronts.