There are many reasons why a business might see a downturn in fortune. From macro-economic collapse to aggressive competitors, changes to regulations that directly affect the business, political uncertainty, being slow to innovate; all these and more can undo the hard work that has been spent building up a viable, profitable company.
Yet dig beneath the surface of those issues, and despite the apparent variations there is a fundamental truth in all of them – that the true reason for failure is an inability to change. History is littered with the names of once industry-leading companies that did not change their business model to reflect the evolving needs and demands of the market. Some have gone completely; others are shadows of their former selves. And if previous crises have taught us anything, it is that no one is too big to fall.
Accelerated consumer demands
The pandemic will be blamed for much of it, and it will be a significant factor. Alongside hospitality, tourism and entertainment, some insurers have also borne the brunt of the devastating effects of COVID-19. Yet as they seek to recover, they are faced with challenges that existed previously, but have now been accelerated. We’re at a point now where consumers are expecting much more intuitive experiences and services from the brands they buy from, and that includes insurance companies.
From new channels and ways of purchasing, to heightened expectations of what good looks like, insurers are going to have to do much more with, in many cases, a workforce that is dispersed, disengaged, and underequipped to meet customer demands.
That means they need to adapt. They need to be able to offer self-service, social-media based customer interactions, mobile, and ecommerce, and they need to be able to offer it at the same standard as leaders in other sectors, all with a remote workforce. It doesn’t matter whether you’re selling insurance for cars, appliances, homes or lives, whether you’ve been in business 12 months or 50 years – you will be judged against the standards set by the best brands that a consumer deals with from any sector not just your own.
Decision-makers know this – a new study from Verint found insurance professionals are most concerned with their ability to quickly and effectively interact with their clients. Some of the challenges they see include being able to respond to client needs in a timely and effective manner, building strong relationships with clients in an increasingly remote environment and providing employees with the tools they need to effectively service client needs while working from home.
Ushering in a new era of customer engagement
It all points to creating a new approach to customer engagement. Insurers need to recognise that they have to deliver an always-on experience, irrespective of channel, while at the same time taking into account the fact that their workforce isn’t going to scale to meet the challenge. In fact, just a third of insurance companies planned to increase customer experience related staffing in 2021, compared to 53% of financial service companies and 49% of healthcare providers.
What’s the solution? The answer combines culture and technology to create an approach known as boundless customer engagement.
It’s cultural because it demands a mindset change. One that sees the entire organisation as responsible for delivering an exemplary experience, not just customer service, or a subsection thereof. Where key performance indicators and objectives across all functions are dialled into how that department or team supports the delivery of better customer experiences. It’s also about empowering workforces to act appropriately and deliver the best response to customers, allowing the entire organisation to adapt and act faster.
Combining technology and culture
It needs to be cultural, because culture defines how the next part is used. Technology is inherently neutral – it is only through its deployment and adoption that it becomes either a force for good or simply a quicker root to short-term margin improvement. If the right cultural mindset is in place, then the technology that underpins it all will deliver boundless customer engagement.
It will do this through enabling the right balance of automation and human touch, allowing teams to scale without leaving customers feeling as if they are at the mercy of an impersonal algorithm. With artificial intelligence, everything from front-end chatbots to back-end knowledge management systems serving up the right information at the right time, can be deployed to meet accelerated customer expectations.
2021 – the year of boundless customer engagement
By combining a culture shift with the deployment of technology, insurers will be able to break down the barriers that disrupt better customer experiences and meet demand. And they’ll be able to do it without having to massively scale up or put teams under intolerable pressure.
Whatever else happens, the consumer experience in 2021 is going to be one characterised by speed, by intuition, and by a vast array of touchpoints. For insurers to be able to deliver on this promise without dramatically undermining their own employees will take a new approach – one that connects the realities of work today with data and experiences to build enduring relationships through boundless customer engagement. In doing so, insurance providers will drive real business outcomes that ensures ongoing performance, irrespective of the wider economic climate.
By Steve Bell, VP EMEA Solutions Consulting, Verint Systems