On a recent business trip, the ever-changing dynamics of customer service really hit home for me. I walked into a pharmacy to replace a tube of toothpaste and was confronted with two checkout lines. The shortest line led to the regular counter, where a real, live human being was helping customers. The longer line of customers stood in front of a group of four self-serve checkout stands.
Trends in our own insurance industry ran through my head as I watched my fellow travelers and shoppers:
- Why were more people willing to join a longer line to receive less service?
- Did the option of four self-serve stands translate into a promise that those lines would move more quickly?
- Or did customers actually want to swipe chewing gum and bottled water themselves?
Behavioral scientists will reach for deeper motivations, such as the empowerment of doing something yourself or the desire to avoid human interaction during some transactions. And researchers who study business trends will remind us that drugstores and grocery stores save money on personnel when customers become their own checkers and baggers.
Can you guess which lane I chose? Standing there with my tube of toothpaste and an impulse buy of bottled water, I waited in the self-serve line and thought about companies that make their customers do extra work in the purchase cycle.
In our industry, carriers have typically arranged insurance offerings — particularly voluntary products — in ways that make someone, somewhere do extra work before completing an initial sales cycle. This isn’t intentional; what makes sense for carriers doesn’t always translate into the end-user’s convenience.