Omni-Channel Customer Service – What’s that?
We’ve been talking about the need to improve customer service in the insurance industry for as long as I can remember, long before the World Wide Web was a gleam in Tim Berners-Lee’s eyes, but today’s unprecedented levels of connectivity provide us with fertile ground to achieve that excellence in customer service we all seek.
Omni-Channel Customer Service is one of the latest buzz-phrases claiming to be an essential component of an excellent customer service strategy. But what is it precisely and what does it claim to do?
The rise of ever smarter mobile devices and the ease and familiarity they now represent has meant that the distinction between communications channels has blurred. It is a given that any channel may be used to communicate with your customers; they are no longer willing to be tied to a given channel – especially one they have not themselves selected.
This all means that insurers now have to develop business models that provide excellent customer service and provide it across each and every channel that their customers want. In fact, if you don’t provide your service across all channels you probably shouldn’t think of it as excellent, no matter how good it is in other respects, hence Omni-Channel.
What’s wrong with Current Customer Service?
When Ernst & Young (EY) surveyed insurance customer relationships, they concluded that since customers only have a few interactions with their insurers, each one is critical. Every interaction, no matter how trivial, must be carried out to the same high standards. Each one builds perception and can either confirm brand value – or devalue it.
- Only 14% of customers were very satisfied with outbound communications from insurers
- 44% had no communication at all during the preceding 18 months
- Consumers want their communications to be frequent, meaningful and personalised
Frequent does not simply mean ‘lots’. It means whenever necessary, whenever the consumer can benefit from being informed of something.
Meaningful implies it can be understood, the language and terminology used must reflect the customer’s view of the world, not just the insurer’s. A gentle education may be required here but remember it is not the customer’s job to volunteer to learn.
Personalised – each communication customers receive must look like it was sent to them, not just a broadcast to the world that they happened to pick up. This also means that it comes by their preferred channel – or channels. So this is where Omni-Channel comes in.
What will you get from Omni-Channel Customer Service?
At FINEOS the customer is at the centre of all that we do and servicing the customer underpins all our applications. Any technology used to support an Omni-Channel customer service strategy should provide the insurer with:
- Enriched data with all relevant history and contact details
- Instant access to the full history and context of the customer relationship
- Alerts and warnings of critical points before they occur
- Knowledge of the customer’s communication preferences
- Triggers for outbound communications
- Automatic process and allocation of inbound communications
As for implementing that excellent customer service strategy, you need to provide your customer with easy access, whenever they want it and by their chosen channel. The experience they get must be equally satisfying across all those channels. Get it right and they will perceive:
- Immediate access,
- A sense of control,
- Speed of resolution,
- A sense they matter in the process.
Where consumers are concerned, perception is reality. I shall be developing the theme of improving customer service particularly for the Life, Accident and Health Insurance industry, in future blogs – there’s a long way to go.