By Steve Murray, Solutions Director at IPI
Consumer behaviours have undoubtedly changed as a result of the pandemic, with more people than ever using digital channels like social media and chatbots as part of their customer journeys. With younger, digital natives also moving into the consumer market, meeting consumer expectations has never been more important.
The rise of omnichannel CX
It’s no secret that the use of digital channels increased dramatically throughout lockdown, from a Netflix boom to a surge in online grocery orders. The convenience and ease offered by digital channels have seen the likes of mobile apps, voice assistants and automated services become more popular than ever with customers, and research from McKinsey suggests the majority of consumers who have increased their use of digital and omnichannel services during the pandemic expect to sustain these activities into the future.
Omnichannel experiences have truly become part of everyday life – and people expect to have options, particularly when it comes to the customer experience (CX). This is especially true for Gen Z digital natives who have an even stronger desire and expectation for a self-service, omnichannel CX. As they enter the marketplace, they will expect to be able to contact their insurance provider through an app or chatbot, long before they will consider picking up the phone.
As customers becoming increasingly comfortable with buying products, and even complicated insurance policies, online, they will inevitably be drawn to those companies that can provide a stellar digital offering. Therefore, offering a multi-channel CX is paramount.
In fact, KPMG found that 85% of insurance CEOs say that COVID-19 has accelerated the digitisation of their operations, whereas 78% say it has turbo-charged progress on the creation of a seamless digital customer experience. It’s clear that the pandemic has forced many insurers to jump on the digital ship, however, there is still much work to be done to ensure customer expectations of an omni-channel CX are met.
The benefits of omnichannel
What does an omnichannel CX offering entail? In simple terms, it means offering customers more than a phone line to contact their insurance providers, i.e. automated or AI-powered chatbots, social media messaging, video calls and/or email. True omnichannel also joins these channels in a coherent way, providing visibility of a customers interactions and experiences as they move across these different channels and touch points.
The benefits of this approach are many. Firstly, having an omnichannel offering ensures that current customer expectations are met – they will have multiple communication channels to reach their provider in a way that suits them. Many digital channels – such as automated chatbots that contain pre-populated answers – are also available 24/7, meaning customers can reach out when it’s convenient for them, putting the power in their hands.
Secondly, brand reputation and loyalty will improve. PWC found that 41% of policyholders who had difficulties with their insurers due to a lack of digital capabilities are more likely to switch providers, so being able to meet customer expectations is essentials.
Customer service agents will also feel the benefits of omnichannel. These agents – the ones consumers speak to over the phone, over email and other channels – are a key part of any insurance customer journey. But it can be a tough shift, especially with the busy phonelines and short-staffing seen during the pandemic. By shifting to an omnichannel model, insurers can lift some of the burden from agents’ shoulders by directing routine customer queries (such as updating contact details) onto automated channels like chatbots, leaving agents more time to handle complex tasks with customers over channels like phone and video.
Indeed, face-to-face video chat can be a huge helping hand, especially when agents are speaking with customers who are distressed or upset. Not only are video channels second nature to customers now, but by seeing the face behind the voice, customers and agents can build a greater sense of human connection – which is essential for a great customer experience.
Finally, by supporting customer service agents with the right tools to handle customer expectations, insurers can build a greater sense of input and trust for agents. This will empower them to put their full training to the test, leaving them engaged, productive and more capable than ever to provide an exceptional CX.
Starting your omnichannel journey? Try a chatbot
There is very little a chatbot cannot handle, and if you are looking to move beyond phone lines, a chatbot is a good place to start an omnichannel journey. Many insurers have already made this move. Allianz, for example, has ‘Allie’, a 24/7 online assistant that customers can ask questions to at any time of day or night; and ‘Mia’ is the Co-op’s offering, answering customer queries on insurance.
Luckily, implementing a chatbot is also relatively straightforward and can be deployed in as little as three days. For insurers keen to get their own chatbot up-and-running, here are some things to keep in mind:
- Journey: Determine what aspect of the customer journey your chatbot will help with – simply automating claims or taking customers on a full end-to-end journey? Also keep in mind how you will measure success metrics and who will own the chatbot’s delivery. While no large team of specialists is required to implement a chatbot, it does pay to have a subject matter expert on hand to oversee everything, including the content and the customer journey.
- Dialogue: These are the answers the chatbot will need for the customer journey. What will the chatbot’s tone of voice be – conversational, informative, casual or formal? It’s important to develop a Q&A style that customers can connect with, that represents your brand and delivers the right answers. Keep pre-existing platforms and data sources like website FAQs in mind here to reduce workload and see what customers really want to know.
- Style: What will your chatbot look like – will it resemble a robot or have a human avatar? Will it have a name or a specific colour palette? Ensure your chatbot is aligned with your brand and is attractive to customers so that they will be drawn to click on it, rather than reach for the phone.
- Test, launch & learn: Testing out the bot is a must to see where content is missing or adjustments can be made. Making the tool available to customers is often the best way to make sure it’s performing at its best, and as you gather more information, you can develop the chatbot’s capabilities and learn from customers to ensure you truly meet their needs and expectations.
Omnichannel CX is here to stay. Customers expect it, it’s helpful for customer service agents, and it helps insurance brands build loyalty and trust with their customer base. Whether just implementing a chatbot to ease the burden on phone lines, or running the whole gamut of omnichannel offering, from social media messaging to video calls, insurers that can meet customer expectations today will see the benefits tomorrow.