The four stages of the insurance customer journey: Don’t get left behind

Home and auto insurance companies are constantly battling against “customer leakage” or the loss of customers due to emerging alternative options. Here, Vance Clipson lays out the four stages of the insurance customer journey with ways to improve the experience, decrease company costs, and increase satisfaction and customer retention.
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Home and auto insurance companies can avoid customer leakage by building a customer experience around automated and natural self-service options.

In my most recent post, I discussed how health plans came in dead last out of 20 industries in the 2016 Temkin Experience Ratings. Other industries have evolved their customer experience, raising consumer expectations that health plans are simply not meeting (but there are steps health plans can take to improve).

Auto and home insurance carriers fare much better, but still have a way to go until they catch up with other top industries. I’ve written before about how insurers need to start leveraging technology to elevate the claims experience for their customers, including the use of self-service solutions like proactive engagement (or automated communications), web-based virtual assistants and intelligent, conversational interactive voice response (IVR). As consumers, we’ve come to expect seamless, cross-channel service, and as much as we like our insurance agent, we don’t want to call them if we don’t have to.

But claims are only one part of the insurance customer journey. I see the journey in four broad stages, with specific touch points and interactions within each. And each has particular opportunities for self-service and automation that can lower operational costs (e.g., reduce the necessity of live agents) while enhancing customer satisfaction – a key to retention:

  1. Customer acquisition – This phase, which includes consumer evaluation of coverage and premium quotes, is an excellent opportunity to demonstrate how easy it will be to do business with you as a company. It is also a critical period when it comes to minimizing “leakage” of prospective customers. Website content needs to be as easy to understand and navigate as possible – consider the use of a virtual assistant to help answer questions, steer customers toward resources and even provide quotes. Shoppers often call in to verify a quote they’ve been provided online, but using proactive engagement, like an automated voice, text or email confirmation, of that quote can help deflect calls. If the call does come in, a well-designed IVR that employs natural language understanding (NLU) can help contain those calls and boost satisfaction. If a shopper “abandons their cart” before completion, use a proactive engagement channel to encourage them to complete the transaction.
  1. Premium payment – This phase of the journey is no less important, starting with automated payment sign up. Virtual assistants and IVRs can make this process easy, ensuring timely revenue streams and reducing delinquency and collections later on. For those not on automated payments, automated reminders through the customer’s channel of choice should make it easy to take action from their computer, or better yet, their phone. Transferring directly to a payment web page or payment-enabled IVR from a clickable text is recommended.
  1. Claims processing – While the initial claim application often requires a call in to your contact center, your IVR should be designed for the most efficient and accurate call routing – consider NLU to enable customers to bypass frustrating menus, key pad presses and directed dialogue with conversational language. From there, virtual assistants and IVRs can address customers’ claims inquiries once they’re “behind the log-in,” or better yet, send the automated claims status updates through text, automated voice or email. And don’t forget the ability of sophisticated proactive engagement platforms to not only send out reminders or confirmation of claims adjuster appointments, but enable rescheduling within the applications to maximize their bandwidth.
  1. Customer renewal and retention – The cycle begins again, with a reminder for the customer to renew. I suggest beginning this phase with a customer survey to gauge their satisfaction with your company and their coverage. This may even trigger a different treatment for that customer depending on their answers.

There’s a lot of potential in the insurance customer journey – from cutting operational costs to creating more bandwidth and opportunity for your employees to improving customer satisfaction and retention.  While insurance carriers have done relatively well in experience ratings, if your company isn’t taking steps to improve on the touch points noted above, the “stage” coach – and your competitors — may leave you behind.

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Vance Clipson

About Vance Clipson

Vance Clipson, senior principal, industry solutions focuses on the healthcare and insurance verticals for Nuance Communications. Clipson brings 25 years of experience translating industry needs and data into market strategy and programs. Prior to joining Nuance, Clipson held positions with Milliman, PacifiCare Health Systems, United Dental Care and the American Cancer Society.