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Chat Support: What Do Insurance Customers Want?

Insurance customers come to the online insurance shopping process with a certain set of expectations, not only for insurance but also for the online shopping experience itself. One of these is the expectation that they will have easy access to information.

Most customers today are unsurprised to find their first chat communication is with a computerized bot, but they’re unimpressed when the bot is unable to seamlessly connect them to a human. Here’s what insurers need to know about customer expectations when it comes to online chat support.

The State of Chat Support

Early attempts to use computerized chat options for customer support tended to be lacking. Like voice-activated phone trees, they offered a very limited range of options, and often frustrated customers by being unable to adapt to changes in verbiage.

As AI became more advanced, it was deployed for a number of uses, including chat support. Today’s AI-enabled chatbots can gather information and help answer basic questions that many customers will ask. As such, they provide a useful first line of communication.

Customers are not only accustomed to chat options but often prefer them. One Salesforce study, for example, found that online chat ranked among the top five ways customers preferred to reach businesses. In-person communication also made the list, as did email and phone channels, both of which customers expect to be able to use to reach a human being.

When computerized chat is a customer’s only line of communication, therefore, the customer may become frustrated. Even the most advanced AI-based chat options can only respond to a certain range of questions. AI cannot replace the expertise of a human, nor can it adapt to the unique needs of a specific customer with the same granularity and nuance of a human agent or customer service specialist.

Balancing customers’ expectations with the business benefits of chat support, then, means implementing automated chat tools in a way that allows customers to start a conversation easily, then reach a human as soon as they need assistance the chat software cannot provide. It also means ensuring your human teams know how to partner with the chatbot for seamless interactions.

How To Offer Seamless Chat (and Human) Support

The pandemic pushed many customers to online shopping for everything from groceries to insurance policies. As a result, customers’ expectations for online shopping experiences have changed. In many cases, they’ve become more discerning: A study by TalkDesk found that 58 percent of customer respondents said their customer service expectations are higher than they were before the pandemic began.

These higher expectations extend to the use of automated chat software. While customers don’t mind interacting with such software, they have certain expectations about the interaction. Disappointing those expectations can have a profound impact on the customer experience and relationship to the insurer.

To build strong, seamless chat and human support:

  • Focus on the handoff. Before chat software, many companies focused on ways to create seamless handoffs from customer service to other departments during a single phone call. The same care must be taken to create seamless handoffs between chat software and human assistance. For example, if the chat software asks the customer for certain information, make sure the human who takes over the conversation sees the same information instantly, so they don’t have to ask for it again.
  • Know your chatbot’s limits. AI allows chatbots to adapt to differences in word use and spelling among customers, but it doesn’t replace human thought or understanding. Focus on setting clear limits for chat software and creating a quick, easy method for the software to connect a human being to the customer as soon as those limits are reached.
  • Teach team members how to partner with the chat software. Using software for live chats “requires an added layer of unique skills that phone agents might not have,” writes Rosie Greaves at volume recruitment solution Harver. When insurance company employees and agents understand how to do live chat well, they can build better rapport with customers.

Chat software has made a number of customer experiences online simpler and quicker. Used poorly, however, it can also make those experiences more complicated and frustrating. Mindful application of chat software as an adjunct to human effort, on the other hand, can help insurers realize the best of both worlds.

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