Original article appeared in Insurance Thought Leadership November 2021
Carriers look to their marketing organizations to be the voice of the customer. Most organizations focus their marketing messages on product functionality and features because they are organized by product or channel, but this can limit the findings and insights generated from market research. Some often lack a deep understanding of the drivers of a particular product’s appeal and the benefits the products provide. The pandemic has shifted customer needs, making it even more difficult to track and understand how customers are interacting with carriers. This has led to significant growth in customer experience (CX) technologies.
Technology leaders recognize the need for investing in CX technologies. They want their organizations to be more customer-centric so they can identify ways to enhance the overall customer experience. Forward-thinking leaders are also looking to remove barriers that hurt internal productivity and employee engagement. Too often, however, other business priorities and expense pressures make investing in emerging technologies difficult, particularly when the organization is dealing with the costs associated with maintaining legacy systems.
The pandemic changed everything. It created a sense of urgency for digital transformation unlike anything else. To remain in business during lockdown, carriers had to dedicate resources to accelerate remote work. As employees worked from home, customers were conducting business digitally. This reset the baseline for customer expectations in ways that few would have foreseen. Customers quickly adapted to conducting their business online and expect their carriers to deliver online, hassle-free experiences. Carriers are now paying more attention to the ways in which customers engage online.
Research by Deloitte found that 80% of consumers say the experience an insurance company provides is as important as its products. If carriers can find ways to really understand customer behaviors as they interact with the products and services across channels, carriers will begin to understand why it is important to invest now in technologies that are built to optimize the customer experience.
Fortunately, advances in technologies such as voice-of-the-customer (VoC) make it possible to gain insights on customer preferences and behavior patterns using more data than what traditionally comes from surveys, focus groups and other forms of feedback. VoCs combine traditionally siloed applications to integrate structured and unstructured data. This makes it possible to fundamentally change the way in which customer data is gathered, managed, analyzed and leveraged because every customer’s experience can be included.
Many VoC solutions are enabled by AI and expanded speech analytics. This, coupled with natural language processing, makes it possible to analyze large amounts of unstructured, real-time data and produce graphically appealing, semantic data models to understand customer sentiments when interacting with carriers. When VoCs are deployed across all channels and customer touchpoints, these insights can be invaluable. Carriers can use these insights to identify customer pain points, underused solutions, and inconsistencies across products and channels. VoCs can also capture suggestions for improvements in existing products and services coming directly from customers by understanding patterns of behavior and sentiment in the words customers use.
Digital experience monitoring (DEM) is another technology gaining industry traction. It enables optimization of operational experiences and behaviors of digital agents, humans or machines as they interact with enterprise applications and services. DEM solutions provide deeper visibility into user interaction across applications, channels and platforms. From data that already exists, they can uncover ways that consumers think about the decisions they make in the products and services they offer.
Carriers have the challenge of identifying knowledge gaps for both internal users (their employees) and external users (their customers). Those gaps will be different because the different types of users are using different areas of the software. DEM can help identify what those training and support needs are to provide that additional support. For their internal users, this can be anything from a classroom style training or addition of tool tips. For the external users, this will likely be the addition of tool tips or some type of help text.
DEM solutions can identify bottlenecks that hurt employee productivity and engagement. Most carriers have support centers that require employees to submit requests for issue resolution. With DEMs, organizations can monitor where problems are occurring and the people who are having the problems and quickly respond as necessary. Not only does this help to attract and retain a high-performing workforce by providing a state-of-the-art technical environment, it has the potential of reducing the rising costs associated with providing remote support.
As insurers accelerate their digital transformation initiatives, their strategic operations should incorporate solutions like VoC and DEM. Too often, users are unable to effectively explain what they like and don’t like about particular solutions. Nor are they able to describe what makes the platform hard to use. These technologies provide “behind the scenes,” real-time monitoring to deeply understand where pain points and bottlenecks exist. The sooner issues are identified, the sooner they can be fixed.
One of the biggest challenges of implementing any type of new technology is a lack of buy-in from the leaders and others within the organization. Overcoming this requires the ability to align the solution’s benefits to the carriers’ overall strategy. It’s easy to say that VoC and DEM solutions support a carrier’s strategy for profitable growth, but to get the investment approved one should be prepared to answer questions that will clearly articulate how these technologies will lead to new sales, improved retention and reduced costs. One advantage that VoC and DEM technologies have over others is that they produce data that can be used to generate insights and inform decisions to help the company become more agile in responding to changing customers’ needs.
Another challenge of these types of solutions is a lack of clarity on what will happen if the system produces results different than the opinions of the decision-makers. Most people, if given the same data and assumptions, are reasonable and will do what is in the best interest of the company if they believe the data. Understanding the critical success factors from the decision maker’s perspective is key.
The shift to digital is not going away. Neither are solutions that enable carriers to engage customers online. Companies that continue to rely on siloed technology designed around products instead of the customers will find it increasingly difficult to be agile and responsive. Implementing solutions like VoC and DEM can help to identify areas that have the greatest impact on the total user experience. The opportunities for carriers to grow their bottom lines through the use of CX technologies will do nothing but increase. Although the pandemic isn’t over, it opened the door for change. Let’s hope carriers will seize the opportunity to do more for the customers they serve.