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Understanding Digital Customer Expectations: Walking the Line Between Innovation and Customer Experience

The previous decade has seen tremendous growth in online shopping. Ecommerce sales totaled 19.6 percent of all sales in 2020, compared to only 7.1 percent in 2011, reports Jessica Young at DigitalCommerce360.

With this growth in online shopping has come an increased comfort level among customers with digital communication, purchasing and business. Today, customers find online platforms and mobile apps a familiar space in which to transact business, from buying personal items to purchasing insurance coverage.

The majority of insurance customers are, in fact, willing to share more personal data with insurers and even switch between various physical and digital channels to find the most efficient path to their goal, write Accenture’s Jean-François Gasc and Erik Sandquist.

Customers Frustrated by Insurers Slow To Adopt Tech

Insurers, however, haven’t shown the same level of comfort or familiarity with online business spaces. “The traction of many companies’ accelerated or automated underwriting programs has been limited, largely because insurers have taken a cautious, incremental approach to scaling automated decision making,” write Ramnath Balasubramanian, Ari Chester and Nick Milinkovich at McKinsey.

For many customers, insurers’ reluctance to commit to digital platforms and other technological means of communication is its own source of frustration.

Customers may also become exasperated when a digital platform or similar tool allows them to carry out some tasks, but doesn’t provide the support necessary for the customer to fully understand and navigate the insurance process. A platform, website or app can cause a customer to quit in annoyance if it neither answers questions nor provides a way for the customer to reach the carrier or an experienced agent.

Use Tech as a Means to an End

Customers’ demand for online insurance quotes and placement options may give some insurers the impression that it’s the tech that matters.

The technology does affect the customer’s overall experience and relationship with the carrier, as well as with agents and brokers. A positive effect requires the insurer not only to provide easy-to-use digital access for customers, but also to leverage that technology in order to improve connections between customers and human agents, brokers and customer service representatives.

One way to use technology in the service of better customer relationships is to choose tools that enhance communication by making information readily available throughout the conversation. A customer who begins their journey by typing in their name, address and other key information on a website or mobile app, for example, should not have to repeat that information verbally once they reach out to a carrier representative, agent or broker through the same platform.

It’s also important to consider how customers experience similar business transactions on other platforms, explains Heather Smith, managing director at LV=General Insurance Group. When customers gather information or make other purchases online, their ability to reach human experts when needed influences their expectations when the subject is insurance.

“Being aware of conversations that have occurred across different channels is therefore important, and there’s a need to use data intelligently to enhance those conversations,” says Smith.

While some insurers have hesitated to embrace digital platforms and similar technologies, most understand the importance of seeing the use of these tools from the customer’s point of view.

In one PwC study, 79 percent of responding insurance executives agreed that “insurers will increasingly engage in ecosystems that serve broad needs of customers, where insurance is only part of the customer value chain,” write Katie Klutts and fellow PwC researchers. Using technology as a tool to connect customers with human insurance experts enhances the customer value chain.

The right technology can enable intelligent growth of customer relationships toward key insurer goals. Insurers can enhance customer relationships by using the tech as a means to achieve better communication with customers. By looking at how the technology facilitates communication between customers and experts, insurers can focus on cultivating long-term relationships that satisfy customers, agents, brokers and carriers alike.

Customers have adapted to an online world. They’ve developed a level of comfort with mobile apps and digital platforms, and they increasingly expect companies across industries to offer these tools alongside the ability to communicate easily with human experts when the need arises. When insurers don’t meet these expectations, customers’ goodwill toward the insurer suffers.

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