Simplified Customer Communications
Yields Substantive Returns
K Online data capture: The foundation
for account and customer Information access and maintenance, online
forms, and payment functionality
K Data integration: Multi-system
data sharing based on common data
elements, which can lead to single
customer views across channels
Collectively, these elements add up
to a robust communications operating
model capable of supporting an enter-
prise-scale program to optimize custom-
er communications across functions and
the full range of customer touch points.
It is clear that customers are looking
for more from their insurers’ digital
offerings. Though many in the industry
recognize that insurance companies
still lag in terms of digital capabilities,
progress remains slow and intermittent.
Consumers have signaled they are ready
to do more through such channels. That
readiness gives many options to increase
efficiencies and boost loyalty through
K SMS updates on application and claims
status to reduce inbound calls and
provide information more frequently
K Web chat as a means for handling
many common interactions
K Interactive, guided tools to support,
for example, an annual enrollment
process with conversational guided
Digitizing service processes and
improving front-end access to infor-
mation may require some fortification
and enhancements on the technology
front. Integrated back-end systems and
intuitive self-service tools are necessary
for consumers to get the information
they need, when and how they want it.
However, for most insurers, this is work
that is long overdue. The business case
described above more than justifies the
modernization of legacy systems and the
integration of data across functions.
It’s not enough for insurers to simply build these new digital capabilities.
They must also build awareness of their
availability and actively promote their use.
This is where regular communications
(such as billing notices) can also be used
to strengthen the overall relationships.
Further, they must offer consumers the
ability to set their own preferences for the
frequency at which and channels through
which they receive information. Personal-
ization may even be viewed as the “secret
sauce” for effective communications, given
that 16 percent of consumers never want
to hear from their insurance providers,
according to EY’s consumer research.
Overcoming the digital divide
Many insurers have been reluctant to
fully embrace digital channels for fear of
alienating their agent, broker or advisor
networks. Given the prevalence of digital
adoption in other industries and the
maturity of offerings from digital leaders,
the time has come for insurers to address
this reluctance. Fundamentally, it is a matter of finding the right balance of direct
digital self-service and agent-supported
services and offerings. Insurers should engage important strategic distribution partners to co-develop customer relationship
strategies that offer mutual benefits.
Yes, some legacy models will be broken
down, but consumer expectations (not to
mention demographic shifts) are forcing
such changes. They expect more options
for receiving information, asking questions
and otherwise engaging their insurers.
Tomorrow’s consumers will not think of
digital as a separate channel, but as the
central storefront for all things insurance.
At a minimum, if agents are to be
primarily responsible for consumer
relationships, insurers have the right
to define standards for policyholder
communications. They also have a
clear incentive to support brokers with
training, templates, and other tools that
promote quality in all of their interac-
tions. To some extent, this boils down to
consumer data ownership. Insurers must
have access to basic contact information
for their policyholders. With such accu-
rate information and the right commu-
nications operating model, insurers can
design, produce, and distribute content
to come from advisors and brokers at
scale and in a timely fashion.
Lastly, when it comes to simplifying
customer communications, the scope of
initial projects is important to consider.
Many insurers have undertaken targeted pilot projects to improve specific
communications from, for example, the
claims organization. Such efforts may
be necessary, but they are unlikely to
realize the full value compared to those
that coordinate across functions as part
of a broad-based, holistic approach.
Case in point: A claim may cause many
interactions with a consumer, but most
customers won’t have a claim.
Bottom line: ubiquitous performance improves opportunities
There is plenty of room for insurers to
improve current communications practices.
Every channel, each interaction, and all
customer touch points represent opportunities to deliver what customers are looking
for. That includes paper correspondence,
in-person interactions, as well as call center
inquiries and digital self-service tools.
A clear experience strategy and com-
munications operating model, along with
appropriate methods, standards and tools
are required. Coordination of activities
and clear insight into dependencies across
the enterprise are also important variables
in the drive to “clear and simple.”
Yes, there is much work to do to
realize the benefits of a clear and simple
approach to communications. However,
insurers should recognize the effort can
make a positive difference in financial
results. In seeking to offer an intuitive,
holistic and integrated customer experi-
ence across channels, customer centric-
ity becomes a bottom-line rather than a
“feel good” objective. ITA
Bernhard Klein Wassink is a principal
in EY’s financial services office. Kaenan Hertz, PhD is an executive director in the financial services customer
experience practice of EY. Melanie
Henderson is a senior manager in
the Financial Services Customer
Experience Practice at EY.