Conventional wisdom suggests that making your customers work to buy something is a recipe for losing business. After all, the history of the rise and fall of the dot-com era is punctuated with cautionary tales of businesses that used technology to shift operating costs onto customers.
Add to that the fact that most consumers view insurance as a necessary evil and its easy to see why so many early attempts at online insurance sales failed. So, how will the insurance industry shift some of the “work” and its associated expenses to customers?
We already have two factors working against us: (1) the technology needed to enable “click-to-close” in a multi-carrier environment isnt available yet, and (2) insurance buying is too complex to expect customers to change their buying behavior overnight.
SEMCI (Single Entry Multiple-Company Interface) will have the most impact on how technology will disseminate the front-end administrative burden among carrier, agent and customer in order to reduce expenses while improving speed and accuracy. SEMCI will make it possible for trusted advisors (agents, banks, accountants) or, in the case of a portal environment, customers to fill out a single application and submit it to multiple carriers without modifying it for each individual carrier.
To the customer, SEMCI is available today, in that they can fill out a single application and get multiple quotes from a backroom care center. This is a practical first step in delivering SEMCIone that may not reduce costs but still teaches customers and trusted advisors new behaviors. When the connections to the carriers are finally built, margins and accuracy will improve.
The best potential for expense reduction today is customer “self-help” on the back-end, and this technology will be available soon. So rather than sit back and wait for SEMCI, it makes much more sense to put efficient manual processes in place for front-end services and combine them with the back-end technology. Then it just becomes a matter of “flipping the switch” from the manual process to the automated one.
At the same time, youre keeping a close watch on customer buying behavior and coaxing trusted advisors and customers toward the technology as its being turned on. For example, you start with something thats relatively simple to do online, such as obtaining auto ID cards or certificates of insurance. Then when SEMCI becomes a reality, youre a few steps closer to asking them to research, query and self-serve online.