The insurance business has a lot to learn from the ecommerce sector.
Take it from Ash Shah, Regional Property and Casualty CIO and chief of staff at AXA Asia.
He said the way ecommerce firms such as Amazon, eBay or Alibaba empower customers to browse through a catalogue of products, purchase at speed, get updates on the shipping progress and get instant feedback is what the insurance industry should be moving into.
“We want to give people, our customers, an omnichannel experience so they have convenience when they decide to interact with us, so we are using self-service to give our customers a better experience and an omnichannel experience”, he said.
Self-service is at the heart of this strategy. The ideal situation, according to Shah, is for customers to be able to talk to an insurance agent about reviewing their policies, whether by phone or through their iPad, whenever they want.
In Asia, where AXA has a large workforce, mobile and ecommerce channels complement the existing ones where customers can reach out to the company.
“In particular, when buying something as expensive as life insurance -which is a high-value product-, sometimes customers require the need to have advise before they are purchased," Shah explained.
"And this is where agents, workers [and] bank assurance partners come in to play. So our access approach is primarily omnichannel. We need to do all offerings, and it is up to the consumers to have the choice which channel to use."
Simplicity and ease of use
A study conducted by Accenture confirmed that 80 per cent of insurance users are prioritising ease of use and simplicity in the user interface to guarantee a more human-like experience.
The Accenture Technology Vision for Insurance 2017 also noted that between 44 per cent to 68 per cent of today’s ‘new’ insurance consumers prefer digital channels and want relevant content delivered in real time.
But while the focus is mostly on technologies like blockchain, artificial intelligence (AI) and IoT, Accenture believes that the most significant innovations will come from how companies design these tools with employees, customer, intermediaries and partners in mind.
Shah noted that almost every company now in the insurance sector is doing "customer first", "customer help" or "customer service" provision.
“We are now very much focused on the customer experience”, he said.
Where to invest in technology?
Like most organisations, Shah said they look at return on investment (ROI) and where is the right place to invest when adopting a technology for better customer experience.
“We also look at what our competitors are doing and where technology and innovations are needing us and where we need to be”, he said.
“For example, all hotels have Wi-Fi now because it's given as a product, so insurance needs to do the same. A person can contact you through a website and have a real interaction with a person”, Shah explained. “It’s becoming more prevalent with fintech and insurtech.”
In the area of claims notification, Shah said the mobile channel is crucial.
“We want people to be able to notify [us] immediately when they've had a claim… They [can] use a mobile phone to send a picture of the crash or the damage on their car”, he said.
“The other angle why self-service is important is because the administrative costs”, added the CIO, explaining that simple things like changing one’s address or incorrect data can be done through self-service.
No silver bullet
Management consulting firm McKinsey cautioned, however, that “there is no silver bullet interaction that ensures customer satisfaction.”
Its premise is that a successful redesign typically involves considering processes from the customer perspective and optimising back-office processes accordingly to provide simple and fast claims services.
The consultant concedes that enabling true innovative customer journeys requires a combination of upgrades to the technology platforms as well as the digital integration of partners in the claims industry ecosystem.