Putting people at the heart of digital transformation
Elevating the customer and employee experience to meet rising expectations and remain competitive in the digital world
When the pandemic forced the industry to rapidly accelerate their digital transformation, many were forced to adopt a quick fix, one-size-fits-all approach to meet rocketing customer demand. Now, however, with customers increasingly comfortable with digital solutions, insurers are having to up their game to meet the increased expectations of both customers and employees. There is, however, a meaningful gap between customer expectations and customer experience, something which proved front of mind for the senior industry executives who came together to discuss digital transformation in insurance in a series of Insurance Innovators roundtables, sponsored by Smart Communications and Salesforce.
“Customers want that Amazon-like experience…for their preferences and details to be known and incorporated into personalised, thoughtful digital interactions”
Ruth Fisk, Smart Communications
“Customers want that Amazon-like experience,” said Ruth Fisk, VP of Strategy, Insurance at Smart Communications. “They expect their preferences and details to be known and incorporated into personalised, thoughtful digital interactions.”
“The front door is the Amazon experience but when they come through, they get the Blockbuster experience”
Roundtable participants were clear, however, that the industry is failing to meet these expectations.
James Russell, Head of Claims Transformation at esure group, said insurers lag customer experience leaders such as Amazon or Virgin Atlantic. “The fact that we work with a regulated product, deep-seated ways of working and many legacy systems make it often hard for us to deliver the experience we as consumers now expect,” he said.
Others agreed. “The front door of that first insurance journey of a customer is the Amazon experience but when they come through that policy journey, they get the Blockbuster experience,” said one participant.
This observation struck a chord with many participants. “That front door’s almost a facade and we have some work to do yet on those backend systems to really streamline those digital engagements throughout the entire life cycle,” said Ruth Fisk, who said a recent study of the global general insurance market by Smart Communications found that 17 per cent felt they were on a good path to digitalisation whereas 83 per cent believed they were just getting started.
Digital transformation and the augmented human
Magdalena Ramada, Senior Director, Insurtech Innovation Leader at Willis Towers Watson, gave an informative talk about her company’s vision of the “augmented human” and their role in the digital transformation of the industry.
“You can augment a human with data, you can augment a human with technology, with the right cultural shift and with skills,” she explained.
“Digitisation really should be agnostic to channel and product”
Magdalena Ramada, Willis Towers Watson
Ramada stressed that digitisation isn’t just about a product, channel or front-end interface. “Digitisation really should be agnostic to channel and product,” she said. “It should be about generating the right data assets and the right frequency, enabling different decision-makers to access insights at the right moment so that they can have a better decision-making process.”
“If you want the customer to transition through that value chain seamlessly without the Blockbuster experience at the end, you really need to have all of the decision makers being able to see the same data,” she said. “You need to have a single view of that customer, of their risk and of their needs and to be able to interact with it, sometimes at very different frequencies.”
Ruth Fisk of Smart Communications pointed out that digitisation is about much more than providing a mobile channel, with seamless multi-channel switching increasingly a hygiene factor for today’s customers.
“Customers want simple, connected, real time, two-way conversations whenever they need it in the channel of their preference,” she said. “They want to engage with you in multiple different ways and they want to be able to shift from one channel to the next. They expect their insurance company to have digital tools that support hyper-personalisation and enhanced two way customer conversations.”
Switching seamlessly between channels is a big issue. “If a customer’s logging a claim digitally, for example, in the evening and something happens and they drop out of that journey for whatever reason, sometimes there’s not the human at the end of the phone or on a webchat to help out in a timely fashion,” said one insurer. “That smooth in and out of different channels is quite difficult.”
Keeping the human in the loop
While automation will be essential to facilitate seamless channel switching and deliver personalised experiences at scale, humans are still very much part of the loop.
“Digital, in my view, means interaction in the medium the customer chooses or needs,” said James Russell of Esure. “That means self-service automation where it’s appropriate and human interaction where it’s needed.”
“Human touch will outperform technology… technology can help, but it still needs to feel human”
James Russell, Esure
“But I would argue that actually human touch will outperform technology. And sure, technology can help, but it still needs to feel human. And I think that’s really, really important, something that we have to hang onto.”
Indeed, it’s clear that even digitally-savvy policyholders who are keen to use self-serve options still value the facility to contact a human. James Webb, Head P&C Insurer Solutions at Salesforce, said it’s important to be able to provide quick and effective human interventions so that a customer can complete their digital journey as quickly and painlessly as possible. He shared his recent experience with his bank where he got stuck on a digital process and the agent could mirror his digital application, see what the issue was and unblock it so the online journey was freed up.
“It was the agent’s ability to give good advice and be digitally empowered that helped me move forward and provided a great experience,” said Webb. “This hybrid experience is particularly useful to help customers get to where they want to be very quickly.”
And Magdalena Ramada of Willis Towers Watson pointed out that the Amazon experience isn’t an exact fit for insurance. “Have you ever tried to contact an Amazon agent? Because I have. You don’t want to have that experience, it sucks,” she said.
Sidestepping legacy issues
When it comes to digital transformation, legacy systems remain a major stumbling block. “We’ve been really trying to invest in rebuilding those 40 maybe 50 year old legacy systems so that we can connect them in a seamless way to new platforms and new services,” said one insurer. “That’s where a lot of our work has really been going because if you haven’t got that, then you really can’t do the stuff at the front really.”
Magdalena Ramada of Willis Towers Watson said too many insurers are hamstrung by systems that are policy-centric rather than customer-centric. “It’s one of the reasons why there is a lot of friction generated in the customer journey,” she said. “The technology stack does not generate the right data assets and does not interact with the human like it should because it is policy-centric.”
“One company found the quickest way to launch an electric vehicle insurance policy on an aggregator site was to create a separate business unit”
James Webb, Salesforce
James Webb of Salesforce said for some companies the solution is to sidestep the legacy system whenever possible. “One company found the quickest way to launch an electric vehicle insurance policy on an aggregator site was to create a separate business unit,” he said. “Leave the existing tech stack as it is and then move fast doing something separate, new and unencumbered by the legacy. Then, if that works, bring other products across.”
“We have built our customer digital journeys on a low code platform, which is what interacts with our legacy systems”
Cloud adoption and low code, no code applications play a key role in the transformation process, helping insurers to straddle the gap between the legacy system and smart new digital apps. “We have built our customer digital journeys on a low code platform, which is what interacts with our legacy systems,” said one insurer.
Another added: “The challenge around low-code no-code is essentially ensuring you’ve got the right marriage of the sort of IT support and the business ownership to allow you to make the changes you need to change for customer benefit and be able to do it quickly.”
Empowering and engaging people
This requires colleagues to work differently “We’ve done a lot of work with colleagues in terms of engaging them with technology and how that can enhance the customer journey,” said one insurer. “This hybrid model has allowed us to actually gain speed because we have two-week sprints so we can change things really, really quickly, something we’ve never had the capability of being able to do on legacy platforms so it’s opened up new opportunities for us.”
Indeed, digital transformation is as much about culture as it is technology, and brings benefits for both employee and customer.
“The engagement and capability of our people are absolutely crucial to doing the right thing for customers and being able to do things at speed.”
“Our people want to be able to work in this way and to be part of this change,” said one. “Culture is key. The engagement and capability of our people are absolutely crucial to doing the right thing for customers and being able to do things at speed.”
James Webb of Salesforce reported seeing “an increasing amount of concern” in both North America and Europe about how to attract and retain talented employees, especially those with the digital skills to take the business forward. “That cultural experience within the firm is really critical, particularly for the younger generation,” said Webb.
“It’s interesting how much we’re talking about culture and the DNA of organisation’s culture, and that the tech is almost becoming complimentary to that”
Nick Kelly, Smart Communications
Nick Kelly, account director at Smart Communications, found it fascinating that culture was such an important part of the roundtable discussion. “It’s interesting how much we’re talking about culture and the DNA of organisation’s culture, and that the tech is almost becoming complimentary to that,” he said.
Doing this right is going to require companies to be transparent with colleagues about the future of work.
“We can obsess about the customer and ask our frontline colleagues to perform feats of heroism in the face of complex claims scenarios, weather events, hurricanes, but all is lost if we don’t take our colleagues and our supply partners on the transformation journey with us,” said James Russell of Esure.
Others agreed. “When any of us might be embarking on the thought of designing, creating a digital provision for our customers, bringing the colleagues into it at the very earliest stage is absolutely crucial,” said one, adding that it was important not to duck the question about the potential impact on jobs. “You absolutely have to tackle that head on and be honest about that.”
Another agreed. “You need to be really honest and open about what that change is going to deliver for folk. HR is as important as IT through these changes, because they need to understand the people who are going to get on the bus, and those who aren’t. You need to offer retraining and support but eventually, if it’s just not right for the person, there needs to be an exit process. That’s not easy, but that’s the reality.”
Above all, the workforce of the future will have to be open to innovation and willing to lean into the future. Some of our participants expressed impatience with current industry mindsets, which are too complacent and fail to embrace innovation.
“More of us need to have a much healthier dissatisfaction with the status quo,” said one. Most people are quite happy with things as they are because they don’t know anything different. That’s why I’d welcome Amazon to come in and act as a wake-up call and catalyst for change.”
ROUNDTABLE PRODUCED IN PARTNERSHIP WITH
Salesforce, the global CRM leader, enables companies to connect to their customers in a whole new way. With its innovative Customer Success Platform, Salesforce sets the global standard for customer relationship management, engagement, and intelligence by integrating sales, service, marketing, community, analytics, IoT, and app development in a trusted cloud for businesses of every size and industry.
To learn more, visit https://www.salesforce.com/uk/
Smart Communications enables banks, lenders and other financial services institutions to transform the way they engage with customers, advisors and intermediaries for a digital-first world. From new account opening and onboarding to account and loan services, the Smart Communications Conversation Cloud™ platform makes it easier for financial institutions to deliver a personalized, frictionless experience that’s both compliant and promotes their brands, whether clients prefer to interact via digital or print channels. Financial institutions around the world see results measured in increased wallet share and loyalty, faster time to market, greater efficiency, and reduced compliance risks. Smart Communications is headquartered in the UK and serves more than 650 customers from offices located across North America, Europe, and Asia Pacific, including all of the G15 investment banks. In 2022, the company was named in the IDC FinTech Rankings and in the WeathTech100 list.