How Modern Customer Experiences are Built on Modern Platforms
By Chuck Wilson, Director of Business Development and Deployments at Socotra. A version of this article appeared in PropertyCasualty360.
No one’s an island—especially these days.
Insurance customers, agents, and brokers have come to expect a certain type of experience based on daily interactions with modern technology platforms like Netflix, Amazon, and Google. They know what it’s like to enjoy a customer experience that’s seamless, efficient, personal, and even fun.
Unfortunately, the insurance industry has never been synonymous with “great customer experiences.” Insurance customers still have to do things like print and fill out paper forms, populate pdfs, and contend with sluggish and unattractive websites. Agents often have to go back and forth with customers over tiresome questions, and there appears to be little to no cross-channel communication between email, phone, SMS, and fax, leading to burdensome processes and less customer loyalty.
The equation is pretty simple: the easier you make it to buy and sell insurance, the more insurance you’ll sell. The harder you make it, the less you’ll sell.
But while insurance companies clearly lag behind their retail, finance, and healthcare counterparts in the area of customer experience, the good news is that there is a path forward.
In fact, there are many paths forward.
It all comes down to that all-elusive (at least until now) concept of “experience,” whether we’re talking about the customer experience or the agent experience.
The two key questions we need to ask around user experiences are:
- What does a good customer/user experience look like in insurance?
- What technological foundations do insurers need to continually create and properly execute those experiences?
Let’s explore the answers.
What’s a good experience for insurance agents and customers?
There are certain common denominators of all great user experiences, no matter the industry:
- They’re fast.
- They’re personal.
- They’re frictionless—meaning they meet you where you are in your daily or weekly routine without you really knowing it and get you to engage because they don’t interrupt your day, but rather add to it.
Along these lines, insurance agents and brokers are looking for user experiences that work the way they do, using the channels they love. They want the user experience to be integrated into their workflows, and they want information to be available to all the parties they work with in ways that are easily accessible, transparent, and secure.
Customers, agents, and brokers also need an experience that anticipates what they want and can satisfy requests in as many ways as possible. Once a transaction begins, the app involved should provide an up-to-date web experience on any platform.
Rather than requiring extensive information, insurers should ask customers to supply only the minimal information needed to write a policy to streamline the underwriting process and optimize both the agent’s and the customer’s time. As an example, an automotive policy should require only two pieces of information: the license plate and the driver license number because that’s enough for the insurer to determine from other sources the make and model of the car, the VIN number, the loss history, and the driver’s home address.
Insurers can also embed insurance products at the point of sale—e.g., selling auto insurance at a car dealership, travel insurance on an airline’s website when someone buys a plane ticket, or even a short-term personal injury policy purchased along with a ticket at a skating rink.
To create these types of policies and experiences, insurers need the right kind of technology platform—an agile front-to-back platform that supports flexibility and speed to market.
The benefits of a modern front-to-back platform
There are numerous advantages to modern systems, such as the ability to react quickly to new trends and changes in the marketplace. Modern systems make it easy to add new product lines and update coverage rates.
In addition, a modern front-to-back platform can create the same unified portal for agents, brokers, insurers, and customers. That means that every user has an intuitive and collaborative experience that is seamlessly integrated with the underlying core system for policyholder data.
Finally, modern systems enable straight-through processing: Once a customer or an agent enters information into an insurance application, insurers can run the information against automated rating and underwriting systems to provide a price. No human intervention is necessary. This approach is more cost efficient and more accurate. And it allows data to be used for analytics, reporting and auditing.
How Can Insurers Create Powerful Customer Experiences?
Nearly all insurance companies want and need to improve the customer experience. Not all of them know how to do it or where to even start. Upgrading legacy systems can take years and by the time the upgrades are completed they’re already out of date.
One way to avoid the legacy stack upgrading nightmare is to start using a modern core platform that supports the entire insurance product lifecycle from underwriting to rating to billing to claims and reporting.
A modern core platform can be a game-changer for elevating the customer experience, allowing for:
- Much faster speed to market and the ability to react quickly to new trends and changes in the marketplace.
- Easy addition of new product lines and updated coverage rates.
- A unified portal experience for agents, brokers, insurers, and customers.
- Automatic upgrades with no downtime.
- Automated rating and underwriting systems to quote quickly with no human intervention required.
Ideally, the core platform is cloud-native, continuously improves, updates automatically, and seamlessly integrates with external systems via open APIs. Combine all of the above and insurers have a much easier, quicker, and more pleasant customer experience for all sides of the insurance equation: agents, brokers, and customers.
The Bottom Line on Customer Experience for Insurance
Ultimately it’s the customers, agents, and brokers that have the final votes. They’ll choose insurers that are the easiest to do business with, which, in the age of digital transformation, will be the same insurers that can adapt quickly to change and innovate faster than their legacy tech-dependent predecessors.
To stay competitive in the digital age, insurers are going to need to constantly update what they know about consumer expectations. They will need to understand and analyze the customer experiences provided by their industry competitors and by the customer experience standard-bearers in other industries. Most of all, they will need to challenge the assumptions and technologies they’ve historically relied upon until now in order to transition to a newer, better era of customer experience in insurance.
The time to change is now, and the way forward is a modern core platform.
About Chuck Wilson
Chuck Wilson is Director of Business Development and Deployments at Socotra. He was previously the Co-founder and CEO of Avolanta, which provided the only unified portal connecting insurers, agents, and customers. Avolanta was acquired by Socotra in May 2022.
Chuck brings more than 25 years of experience working in insurance technology. Previously, he led the insurance division at Interactive Intelligence, where he helped insurance companies around the world develop and execute customer engagement strategies. He also co-founded AcroSoft, a technology company providing content management and workflow solutions to insurers, which was acquired in 2009. He started his career as a software developer at Policy Management Systems Corporation, the first insurtech. He holds a BS in Mathematics from Barton College.