For both businesses and consumers, the coronavirus has unleashed a tidal wave of uncertainty, with supply chains halted, holidays cancelled and so much else that we take for granted, disrupted. As a result, consumers are looking for reassurance wherever they can find it. With purchases, especially high value products like insurance, that reassurance comes from connecting with other people.
Since March, when lockdown began, there has been a dramatic increase in the number of phone calls being made by consumers, as many have found that text on a screen just isn’t enough. This doesn’t solely demonstrate a need for social interaction, customers also want clarity.
But the insurance industry has some work to do when it comes to giving customers what they want. A study conducted by the UK Customer Satisfaction Index – investigating how customers feel they are treated across various industries – found that the insurance sector’s customer satisfaction score has been falling steadily year on year. From January 2019 to January 2020 it fell by 1.4 points, the third largest fall of all sectors. With companies now considering how their businesses might look post-lockdown, it will be key for the insurance sector to reinvigorate the customer experience. The best way to do that? By realising the full potential of the phone call.
Phone calls improve customer retention rates
BrightLocal research found that 60% of consumers prefer to contact a business over the phone after finding them online. Another recent study shows that ads prompting customers to call had higher retention rates, were processed faster, and resulted in customers spending 28% more than via other channels.
So, how can you improve the experience the customer has when they pick up the phone? Technology is the answer but it’s also the problem. Customers are often greeted with a pre-recorded voice telling them to ‘Press 1 for…, Press 2 for…’ etc, and while this has been seen as the most efficient way to route calls, for customers it’s intensely frustrating and a huge turnoff. In fact, Interactive Voice Response (IVR) drop-off rates can be as high as 50% – a colossal loss when every customer counts.
Put simply, phone calls are hugely effective, but they have to be handled well. This means removing all of the unnecessary obstacles that exist between the company and its customer. While some will opt for the ease of use of an online insurance transaction, it doesn’t always provide the best outcome. Customers can’t ask a website about a particular nuance of a policy or find out if their specific set of circumstances are covered if they’re not included in a ‘Frequently asked questions’ section, for example.
Some transactions can be infinitely improved by being one to one. Our own research revealed that despite a rise in online self-service, only 15% of people don’t think human interaction is important when they’re making a purchase, and 62% want a more personalised experience when buying over the phone. This is more bad news for IVR systems, which are anything but personal.
Thinking differently about the customer experience
The best way to give your customers the kind of experience they’re looking for is to know what they want before they even call you. By using technology that connects the online and offline experience it’s possible to anticipate the questions that customers might want to ask on the phone by being alerted, in real time, to their browsing history with your brand. Having this level of understanding enables you to tailor each customer’s experience and make it as smooth and effective as possible.
Many companies take this one step further by automatically routing calls to agents that have specialist knowledge, in a particular policy area, for example. This saves the customer from hanging on the call and being passed from person to person – improving conversion rates and loyalty.
Other tactics to improve customer satisfaction have included routing callers based upon their location to operators with a similar accent – the psychological notion being that we respond better to people who sound familiar. Similarly, some believe that certain accents, including Scottish, Welsh, or Geordie, are the most appealing to callers.
In order to recover from the impact of Covid-19, insurance companies have to understand the mindset of their customers and do everything they can to connect with them. At a time when we’re craving personal interaction more than ever, the potential of the phone call seems too big to ignore.
By Ross Fobian, CEO of call-tracking provider ResponseTap