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Insurance: 6 keys to improving customer service thanks to self-service solutions

Written by

 Jeremy Gallemard

No one is safe from a catastrophe. Anyone can experience an accident or material damage. And in these situations, you know the adage: Prevention is better than a cure. So to protect themselves, individuals and professionals sign up for insurance and pensions.

Their expectations? To be covered in case of misfortune…and, above all, to get a maximum of information from their insurers. Today, precision, rapidity and availability are the pillars of customer relations.

To meet their customers’ needs efficiently and bring a good customer service, financial services companies in general, and insurance companies in particular, have several priorities. Two of them are: to optimise their processes thanks to the digitalisation of the customer experience and to fight against the threat of new competitors in the highly competitive market of the insurance industry. To meet this double challenge, insurers can bet on one key solution: self-service.

In this article, discover how self-service responds to the needs of insurers and policyholders and to get the maximum customer retention, throughout the customer journey. Smart Tribune is sharing 6 keys to improving insurance customer service thanks to self-care solutions.

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The insurance industry and self-service: a winning combination?

Competition and mass digitalisation: the reality of the insurance sector

Imagine: Mrs. Smith would like to buy some home insurance. And the good news is that she is not lacking for choice. To make her decision, different criteria are important to her: the quality of the insurance customer service; clear information regarding the contract; a simple and intuitive signup process; availability and flexibility on the part of the insurer, etc.

Like 52% of consumers and 80% of Millennials, Mrs. Smith is ready to sign up for an insurtech insurance (Bain & Company, 2018). These new actors (neo-insurers) rely on a 100% digital model. Signup takes 2 minutes and reimbursements are made in 1 click. It’s a real 2.0 revolution which threatens more traditional actors in the sector.

customer service in insurance industry

In the end, Mrs. Smith opts for a traditional insurer. Conscious of their clients’ demanding criteria, of the reality of the market, and of the acceleration of the digital transformation, the insurer recently made a decision: to set up self-care tools to improve customer experience and satisfaction.

  • For 64% of insurers, self-service does not prevent the maintenance of “traditional” direct client relationships. The two are compatible.
    Assurance du mouvement survey, 2022

Self-service: tools to help policyholders

Like 73% of the insurers who envision strategic investments in self-service over the next two years, Mrs. Smith’s insurer has realised something: that digital transformation is a necessity for the insurance industry. And in their eyes, as for 84.12% of the sector, self-service is one of the main pillars of the digital transformation (L’assurance en mouvement, 2022).

Self-service consists of giving customers and prospects the possibility of using online or collaborative resources in order to find relevant and instant answers to their questions. Self-service relies on tools that automate responses to simple questions, 24/7. Besides making the user experience more clear and intuitive, these tools help free up customer services. In the banking and insurance sector, self-service can decrease solicitations of customer service by 12% on average. 

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Among the most appreciated self-service tools for insurance customer service:

  • The dynamic FAQ: This is a bank of questions organised by theme, accessible from the insurer’s website. The dynamic FAQ takes the form of a search bar. To propose a relevant response to the user, the FAQ integrates a Natural Language Processing (NLP) engine, or keyword search.
  • The help box: This tool relies on some of the FAQ content to provide a good customer service. When a user visits the website, a window can pop up offering help. This window reuses some of the frequently asked questions (based on the page visited) and relies on some of the FAQ’s content to offer immediate responses.
  • The chatbot: This conversational robot can chat with customers instantly. Chatbots take the form of a chat integrated into a website. This conversational assistant draws its intelligence from responses in predefined scenarios and thanks to machine learning. For 75% of consumers, the chatbot is the ideal insurance customer service solution so that customers don’t have to wait for an available customer service agent (BotNation, 2021).
  • Internal self-service: Certain self-service tools are only available to employees. In that case, we’re talking about internal self-care or internal databases. This type of tool facilitates (sometimes complex) searches for agents in responding to customer expectations.
  • In terms of self-service, 83% of insurers plan to set up an online customer portal, 57% plan to set up a dynamic FAQ and 43% plan to set up a chatbot.

Insurance and self-service: Policyholders expectations

At the start of their journey, the policyholder expects an easy, quick sign-up process. At the same time, and in the face of complex products and offers (life insurance, reimbursements for treatment, guarantees, etc.), insurance providers must present a simple and intuitive offer. Because signing up for an insurance product is mostly considered an obligation (like with car insurance, for example), the role of the insurer is to improve the “experience,” turning it into a seamless, pleasant customer experience without friction.

customer self-service

Then, throughout the customer journey, the policyholder hopes for adequate availability and quality service. Let’s go back to Mrs. Smith, who signed up for some home insurance a few months ago. She has just noticed a leak in her house and she contacts her insurance immediately to report this unpredicted event. 

Her immediate need is to be reassured, to speak with someone she trusts, to be guided along the process. She expects a real understanding of the situation and seamless service from her insurer.  For example, if there’s an error in the claim, that could slow down reimbursements, which heavily impacts customer satisfaction and customer loyalty.

To meet these expectations, the user experience must be pushed to the maximum, in particular, in these three strategic steps of the policyholder’s journey:

  • Signing up for an insurance product
  • Making a claim
  • Requesting a reimbursement (in the case of a private insurance) or compensation (pension, life insurance, etc.)

The good news is that throughout the customer journey (especially during these three steps) self-service is a precious ally for insurance companies.

  • 81% of customers try to solve a problem themselves before contacting customer service.

6 keys to improving customer service for policyholders via self-service

1. Qualify the need to simplify procedures for policyholders

2. Optimise the customer journey to improve conversion and satisfaction

3. To increase agent availability thanks to self-service

4. Overcome seasonality and unpredictable events thanks to self-service

5. Grow the level of team knowledge thanks to internal self-service

6. Collect feedback to improve service for policyholders

1. Qualify the need to simplify procedures for policyholders

Let’s return to the example of Mrs. Smith. Her leak began on Sunday evening. Her first reaction was to use the insurance company’s dynamic FAQ to see what steps to take. With this self-service tool that guarantees customer autonomy, her need was fulfilled instantly. Based on the keyword “leak”, the dynamic FAQ offered a precise and instant response.

Self-service qualifies user needs, simplifying the process. The more precise a user’s search, the more precise the response. And if the policyholder can’t find the answer, the self-care tool facilitates the escalation of contact to customer service.

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If Mrs. Smith had used a chatbot, the tool would also have met her expectations. For example, thanks to a question asked with the word “leak”, the tool instantly records the need and the request. In the face of a complex situation, the request is forwarded to an agent who can immediately see the issue at hand. Thanks to self-service, there’s no more need to re-explain the problem that needs to be resolved: the transmission of information is omnichannel! It’s a real time savings for customers and agents.

  • Over 2 in 3 policyholders say they’re ready to manage their claims 100% online.
    Deloitte 2019

2. Optimise the customer journey to improve conversion and satisfaction

A few years ago, when customers made a claim and need to find customer support, they had to go to the insurance company’s office. Today, the customer journey is going digital and getting simpler at the same time. Whatever their need, customers can now count on the same level of good customer service but remotely.

Using a chatbot, a help box, a dynamic FAQ…the points of contact are multiplying while support time is decreasing. On the professional side, 37% of insurance companies aim for an immediate treatment of signups, and 31% try to manage claims within a day (L’assurance en Mouvement, 2019). At each step of the customer journey, immediacy remains a priority for all. 

This optimisation of the customer journey in financial services thanks to self-service removes the obstacles to making a purchase. Active 24/7, these tools improve conversion, all while delivering a rapid, memorable experience, which contributes to the reinforcement of customer satisfaction and retention and a better insurance customer experience. Ultimately, it’s a virtuous cycle for insurance companies: conversion, retention, satisfaction. The impacts on insurance customer service are many!

  • 49% of French people prefer online customer support from their insurance, for example, through self-service tools.
    Crédit Agricole Assurances, 2021 

3. To increase agent availability thanks to self-service

For many years, in the insurance sector, the availability of agents was strongly affected by one key element: the lack of diversity and variety in communication channels. So even for the simplest issue, whatever the issue, whether a serious accident or a forgotten password, a claim or a request for a certificate, contact centres and agents were the only points of contact.

Now, self-service reduces the incoming flow of requests to agents. Incoming tickets that are considered simple (level 1 requests) can be automated. For example, a chatbot can respond to low value added requests, and also direct customers to a dynamic FAQ for more information.

Thanks to artificial intelligence, self-care tools can evaluate and prioritise needs. Thus, it can automatically treat a request, direct a user to a complementary resource, or facilitate the escalation of contact to customer service. With these automated solutions, insurance customer service agents are more available. The tools help the agents, they don’t replace them.

  • Time freed up for teams is considered the second advantage of self-service for insurance companies, just after the overall improvement of the customer experience.
    L’Assurance en Mouvement, 2021

4. Overcome seasonality and unpredictable events thanks to self-service

In the insurance sector, some periods are busier than others. For example, during back-to-school season, we find an increase in the purchase of student insurance. At the beginning of the year, there may be peaks in subscriptions or cancellations due to renewals of insurance policies. And although known within the insurance industry, this seasonality is not always easy to anticipate. In theory, one would have to increase customer service staff, for short periods of time. But in reality, the most lasting solution is elsewhere, in a nutshell: self-service.

For example, a conversational AI trained to manage certain seasonal situations can free up insurance customer service teams. But that's not all! In the face of sometimes unpredictable events, these tools are also a huge help. Consider hail storms, hurricanes, flooding, fires…all these climatic events impact the over-solicitation of insurance customer service.

In the face of these emergencies, insurance industry professionals cannot leave customers waiting in panic and uncertainty. They want to quickly obtain information about their rights to reimbursement, to start having work done, or replacing damaged property. Self-service tools are once again the key to improving the insurance customer experience. For example, in the case of a weather event, insurance companies’ dynamic FAQs in affected areas can be updated in real time. The challenge for insurance customer service is to facilitate access to information to a large number of people, by writing questions and answers that respond to user key words. Bonus feature: This content is “SEO friendly” and helps improve natural referencing for the site and its FAQs.

5. Grow the level of team knowledge thanks to internal self-service

The domain of insurance is complex, requiring agents to have a complex level of expertise, regarding things like the purchase of a contract, making a claim or getting information about damages and guarantees. Industry knowledge and customer knowledge should go together in order to meet expectations.

To get there, employees can count on an internal knowledge base (like Smart Knowledge) for a better customer support. This tool, accessible only to team members, centralises all company and customer information. In a single place, employees can access processes, talking points and essential information regarding the company and its products.

This self-service tool is a real advantage for every insurance customer service team to get build your customer loyalty and brand loyalty. No more need to search indefinitely for information across various tools, or to ask a manager in a complex case. All the solutions are centralised in this database, so teams can help customers in a precise, personalised way.

  • Only 40% of policyholders think their insurer delivers a high level of value in terms of quality.
    Bain & Company, 2018

6. Collect feedback to improve service for policyholders

Self-service is an excellent means for collecting policyholder feedback. This feedback enables the evaluation of the quality of customer service provided. By measuring and analysing comments, insurance companies demonstrate ongoing improvement. Today, there are 3 sources of feedback:

  • Collecting inquiries via the FAQ search engine:  This method enables the enrichment of customer knowledge. Each inquiry is saved and highlighted internally. The company can thus see which questions and keywords are the most common, and which inquiries remain unresolved.
  • Analysing the intentions of the users via the chatbot: Thanks to NLP (Natural Language Processing), chatbots can analyse user intention. Requests and emotional states are collected, for better customer understanding.
  • Gather user feedback: After using a self-service solution, the question, “Did you find this response useful?” may be asked. Users can click on “yes” or “no.” 

The insurance sector is going digital and becoming more and more competitive. At the same time, customer expectations are evolving in every customer service team. Throughout the process, the keywords are: instantaneity, precision, smoothness, autonomy. So to efficiently respond to the demands of the market, the solution is self-service!

Self-service tools improve insurance customer experiences, all while reducing the workload of customer service, while improving customer loyalty and customer retention. Everyone wins, all the time.

Check more: Smart Tribune's insurance customers.

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Jeremy Gallemard

Hello! I'm Jérémy, President & Co-founder of Smart Tribune. With my background in the digital & customer experience space I'm happy to share my insight & practical advice on customer experience today & what it might look like tomorrow. Happy reading!

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