How to get Self-Service Insurance Right

MPL GraphicIt’s a competitive market out there. Using aggregators to shop around for the best deals online is a common practice nowadays and it applies to every industry, including insurance. Customers have expectations about self-service offerings, and they’re willing to do some heavy-lifting in return for saving time and hassle.

It’s a competitive market out there. Using aggregators to shop around for the best deals online is a common practice nowadays and it applies to every industry, including insurance. Customers have expectations about self-service offerings, and they’re willing to do some heavy-lifting in return for saving time and hassle.

Why should you be working on your online self-service insurance offerings? If you’re sold on the benefits, what’s the best way to go about it? That’s the topic of Jon McNeill’s recent article in Carrier Management, Meeting the Challenges of Self-Service Insurance.

Opportunity in the market

The demand for self-service systems and products is growing rapidly. Deloitte’s 2014 report is unequivocal about the need to deliver in this area. But it’s also cognizant of the fact that insurers should not view online self-service products as a replacement for their existing sales force.

The role of an agent is not obsolete – it’s evolving.

Although there is an appetite for self-service products, insurance is a complex commodity and prospective policyholders may still need significant support to obtain the correct policy with the level of coverage they desire. Some personal lines such as auto, more readily lend themselves to commoditization – but innovative carriers who incorporate self-service channels into other lines stand to make huge gains.

According to Insightbee, 73% of auto insurance shoppers researched their options online. That’s a significant increase from 55% in 2008. The same story is revealed with life and annuity as 61% researched online in 2012, up from just 38% in 2006. The problem is that what people are finding when they try to shop for insurance online is not meeting their needs. Just 50% of customers found what they were looking for.

There’s an opportunity here to deliver simpler, streamlined services, and to enhance those offerings with traditional sales agents. Self-service isn’t about sweeping away the old, it’s about enhancing your existing product line and creating a new acquisition channel.

Boosting customer loyalty

Self-service access to insurance services is desirable for all customer segments because it puts the customer in control. Yet it’s vital that the service is accessible and efficient, so that they have a positive experience and find what they need.

If insurers get this balance right, then early communication with clients can be very effective in building brand loyalty and even encouraging customers to promote their products. According to Bain, brand promoters are worth three times as much as passive customers over their lifetime. They’ll buy more products than other customers and they’ll refer friends and family.

There’s also an opportunity here to differentiate and deliver service that’s streamlined and efficient. You can build more accurate inventories, reduce the cost of claims investigation and customer acquisition, and speed up the claims process, all while making life easier for your customers.

Consider also that self-service portals are highly likely to be your first point of contact with new customers. You know what they say about first impressions. If you can make a good one, you can keep a customer for life.

See for yourself how far the self-service model can take you. A case in point is Enservio’s portal MyPropertyLoss.com designed to help policyholders create a contents inventory that’s securely stored in the cloud and not prone to fire or theft. It’s a good example of ways to make life easier for customers.

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