While some insurers are leveraging technology to improve the digital customer experience, many providers are losing business by clinging to archaic business practices that no longer meet customers’ expectations.
In the highly competitive insurance industry, contact center agents play a critical role in winning and retaining customers. And while some insurers are leveraging technology to improve the digital customer experience, many providers are losing business by clinging to archaic business practices that no longer meet customers’ expectations.
To understand the advantages that innovative contact center systems can offer, it helps to first consider how traditional operator protocols can fall short of the mark. In a new era when consumers are using electronic communications more than ever before, customers have come to expect calls and chats with contact center operators to provide the same prompt service and convenience they experienced in retail showrooms, if not more. Patience for waiting on hold, transfers, and being asked to repeat information grows shorter and shorter.
Nevertheless, nearly all insurance customers who reach out to a provider by telephone are placed on hold. On average, agents spend 26% of their time during a customer interaction searching for relevant data.
Mediocre results like these reflect inadequate operator support systems more often than they do training deficiencies. In fact, insurance contact center agents typically undergo more customer service training than their counterparts in other industries.
One reason for this is that it takes greater skill and training to sell intangible products than items a customer can touch or physically receive. Second, except for routine health maintenance, insurance chiefly benefits the customer in times of crisis. People dislike discussing negative potentialities, but that is often the point of discussion between insurers and their customers, depending on the reason for the call. Without proper training, a contact center agent can make things worse instead of better.
How, then, can a technology platform help an insurer equip its contact center agents with the tools they need to serve customers quickly and efficiently, while elevating the customer experience to preserve those relationships and business over the long term? And how can the same technology address other challenges in contact center operations, such as the need to adjust to tremendous fluctuations in incoming contact volume between open-enrollment periods and the off season?
Insurance contact centers modernize
When state and local governments began to order business closures and urging organizations to work from home to slow the spread of COVID-19, contact centers already using cloud-based servers and remote or mobile workstations were able to easily adapt. For many others, the pandemic provided the impetus to upgrade to new operating platforms better suited to supporting remote agents.
In addition to providing remote operator capability, state-of-the-art platforms offer vast improvements over earlier, siloed contact center systems. Whether in the contact center or at home, agent reporting and dashboards enable operators to track incoming contacts across voice, chat and email channels. Remote supervisors can view a team’s activities in real time and intervene or reassign resources, as needed.
Real-time reporting can reduce a world of woes by alerting supervisors to situations as they occur, rather than learning of a problem from a report that runs hourly or even daily. Immediate fixes save time, money and can reduce losses when problems such as dropped calls would otherwise recur.
The introduction of chat features, chat-bots, and email for customer service has touched every industry and has helped customers and agents alike. Customers are now able to complete routine tasks like balance inquiries or a change of beneficiaries over these more convenient channels, rather than having to speak with an agent. In turn, this is helping to mitigate call volumes that would otherwise be far higher, so voice operators can focus on those more demanding inquiries that call for human interaction and empathy.
However, multiple communication channels demand sophisticated, omnichannel management. Agents need visibility across the customer journey, which may progress from a website or social media chat to a voice call or other format.
A contact center platform can provide agents with that holistic viewpoint via customer histories called up automatically on their screen. These would document a customer’s history of previous calls, claims, renewals, payment preferences and other data. Agents can use this information not only to build rapport, but also to suggest policy adjustments and suggest options for additional coverage.
A positive contact center customer experience is vital because these agents have become the primary point of contact between providers and many of their customers. They allow the company to touch the masses and not the select few and allow customers to easily access information and keep in touch with the company when, and how often, they choose.
With potentially thousands of customers per day, platforms collect a trove of data relating to the company, its products, customer preferences, demand trends, policies sold or serviced via specific communication channels and other valuable information and key performance indicators. Platforms with analytic features can help insurers turn the data generated in their contact center operations into actionable insight, helping to anticipate seasonal staffing needs or identify and smooth pain points in the customer experience.
As many insurers have discovered, upgrading to a market-leading contact center platform offers far more than the ability to allow agents to work from home. Technology that helps agents to quickly resolve customers’ issues, streamlines operational processes within the contact center, and provides strategic insight for the larger organization represents advantages that will continue to perform for years to come.
Tim Eyre is the Chief Marketing Officer at Aceyus. As CMO, his key focus is to represent the voice of the Aceyus customer, identify hidden opportunities for new messaging, and lead internal Product, Sales and Marketing teams in providing actionable solutions for Aceyus customers.