Digital disruption introduced a dizzying array of options for insurers, agents, and customers. Yet more technology is not always good technology, especially when it introduces confusion rather than convenience.
To help carriers meet their business goals, insurance technology must focus on the user experience. Whether the user is a customer, agent or insurer employee, the ability to adapt easily to the new tools and deploy them to meet key goals is a must.
The early days of the technology rush often focused on tech for tech’s sake. Digital tools were touted as the way to solve previously insurmountable problems and to usher in a new world of productivity and optimism.
As digital tools became commonplace, so did our habits of using them. The 2021 Gartner Customer Service and Support survey, for example, found that generations from Boomers to Gen Z all tend to start their insurance purchase journeys digitally, even if they prefer different points of initial contact, writes Deb Alvord, vice president and analyst in Gartner’s customer service and support practice.
The belief in technology as its own source of good and the adoption of it into everyday life have not always proceeded together smoothly, however. Websites, mobile apps and platforms that don’t meet customers’ real-life needs tend to wither as customers migrate toward tools that are simple and intuitive to use. Likewise, a company that invests in a platform with a weak focus on user interfaces and the user experience may find its investment dollars wasted, as its staff continue to stick to familiar ways of working rather than grappling with software that makes their jobs more difficult.
“A digital strategy is not developing a new, ‘hip,’ snazzy website or launching a smartphone app,” writes Brian Kelley, managing director at management consulting firm Quincy Analytics. Rather, tech choices must be built on a deep understanding both of the business needs to be met and the human behaviors that lead people — customers, agents and employees — to the tool in the first place.
To align technology with human needs, insurers must leave the digital realm and return, temporarily, to the human. Focusing on user experience means focusing on how people move through and understand the world.
“UX goes beyond the digital user interface to examine the holistic journeys that customers go through to achieve tasks and use products and services. An understanding of those journeys is essential in creating trust and transparency to help customers fulfill their insurance needs,” writes Jon Fukuda, cofounder and principal at professional services consultancy Limina.
Taking the customer’s perspective is essential to choosing a platform that makes sense to users. Yet with customers’ expectations and outlook changing rapidly, insurers need to understand where customers stand today in order to provide the experience they seek.
For example, insurance customers are now more likely to look for coverage that addresses both personal and commercial exposure, write EY’s Charlie Mihaliak and Chris Raimondo. As more people take on side gigs or work remotely, they see their own personal and commercial lives converging, and they expect coverage to reflect that reality.
Also, customers have begun to look beyond their own immediate needs and interests when it comes to buying insurance, Mihaliak and Raimondo say. Faced with a panoply of natural risks like climate change, wildfires, hurricanes and pandemics, customers are now more interested in whether insurance companies behave as responsible environmental and social citizens.
There’s a broad consensus among insurers that embracing digital tools will drive individual carriers and the industry forward. Yet which tools are chosen will matter. User-focused platforms will include features like:
“The industry is poised for a period of purposeful growth” as it arises from its recent challenges, write Isabelle Santenac and co-authors at EY. To embrace that growth, insurers will need to embrace platforms that purposefully place the user first.
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