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Larry Augustin, CEO SugarCRM

The new Insurance Act in the UK finally came into force last weekending a period of anticipation and preparation that, to my mind at least, has been characterised by a lot of discussion but also broad agreement that the changes will benefit both customers and insurers alike.

It’s no surprise that data management is one of the areas that has seen the most change in this new iteration of the Act. Computerised record-keeping has been a feature of the insurance industry for decades but as systems become ever-more automated the amount of data held by insurers has increased exponentially. Therefore, the new requirements for precision and transparency, as well as the outlawing of “data dumping” by businesses making claims, seem to me to be both necessary and founded in good sense.

Data is only as good as the means by which to interpret, utilise and deploy it. Now that the law demands transparency and assumes that if one employee is in possession of a piece of information that everyone else within their company is aware of the same, then the systems by which data is stored and shared need to be more robust and flexible than ever.

When looking to adjust their processes to comply with the new Act, insurers should consider that the quality of their ‘back-end’ data management systems could well make a crucial difference to their ability to retain customers. In both the B2B and B2C worlds, infidelity is rife amongst insurance customers who are more empowered, more social and more vocal than ever before. Therefore, in an increasingly competitive marketplace any insurer seen to be slow in responding to changing customer demands risks losing business in an instant.

The key to satisfying these empowered customers is by taking a human approach to customer service. A recent Accenture report found 76% of consumers prefer dealing with human beings over digital channels to solve their customer service issues. Human interaction is a core component of customer satisfaction and using it in combination with digital capabilities will deliver an experience that is truly personal. Provide this, and customers will begin to feel truly valued.

‘InsurTech’ like CRM systems are supporting insurers to deliver a human element to their customer experience. The technology takes data of multiple types, from multiple sources – and presents it to an employee in a manner that gives them all the relevant information they need to better manage the full customer life cycle. Equipping employees with this information allows them to inspire customer loyalty through consistently delivering a relevant, personalised and frictionless customer experience.

All of which is a worthy aim but there’s evidence that the insurance sector has some way to go before this is universally achieved. The new Act has arrived shortly after the publication of the latest edition of the UK Customer Satisfaction Index showing that although the insurance industry is on an upward trend in terms of its ability to keep customers happy, with a satisfaction score rising to 79.4%, there remains a lot of discontent.

These feelings could be compounded further still by a consequence of the new Insurance Act that I’ve not seen discussed. Now that a claimant will, rightly, be held to a greater level of scrutiny and transparency then they will be a whole less tolerant of inefficiency on the part of their insurer. Insurers therefore need to be alive to this possibility and ensure that their systems are robust and flexible enough to ensure that their service remains as responsive and efficient as possible.

I’ve always seen the relationship between insurers and their customers not as a traditional service model, in which insurance is just one of a suite of required utilities just like gas or electricity but as a partnership based on mutual need and responsibility. I am pleased therefore that the law is now in place to make this a requirement rather than simply an aspiration.

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