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11 ways to adapt to an omnichannel world: Part 2

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Life insurance has never been an industry associated with rich consumer experiences or even customer centricity. It has generally been believed that low-frequency interactions and routine communications (around policy renewals, for example) were enough to sustain customer relationships, meet regulatory requirements and service customers.

But, over time, the life insurance industry has come to realize that the expectations of its consumers are now shaped largely by the experiences offered by other industries, including some whose products or services are vastly different from insurance. Nowhere is this clearer than in omnichannel servicing, an approach first developed and mastered by the retail industry. This article is part two of a three-part series we will be running in July.

The automation imperative

To establish omnichannel environments, insurers must streamline and automate underlying processes wherever possible to service customers more efficiently and capture more accurate, consistent and traceable data.

Business processes should also be made flexible to exploit the differentiation capabilities offered by each channel and support the changing habits of customers, including when and how transactions are initiated. For example, while initiating an online beneficiary change, policyholders should be offered assistance via an online help tool or live chat with a customer service representative.  

Insurers should also consider expanding self-service functionality given that customers increasingly prefer to perform simple transactions on their own. According to most recent Global Consumer Insurance Survey, 80 percent of consumers are willing to use digital and remote channel options to complete common transactions, such as change of address, bill payment and change of beneficiary. Currently, few life insurers offer such functionality on web or mobile platforms.

Automation priorities for life insurers include:

  • The use of e-applications and/or e-signatures to improve the processing time for applications

  • Straight-through processing, rules-based underwriting and point-of-sale underwriting to transform this key process

  • Online claims submission

  • Shifting away from paper statements and check processing and toward greater adoption of online and digital payment options that are ubiquitous in other industries

Related: Digitizing the insurance process – are you ready?

Technology and data: the engine of omnichannel success

Integrated omnichannel experiences are not possible without well-designed technology environments, some advanced tools, integrated data and effective data management capabilities. These represent an ambitious move forward for most life insurers. The first step is to conduct a clear assessment of current technology and data assets and their ability to evolve in support of omnichannel experiences.

Resources and skillsets must also be evaluated in terms of the ability to adopt new tools and design methods. From these baseline insights, life insurers can identify the necessary technical capabilities and data requirements to support new servicing capabilities and define a future-state operating model. Most life insurers will need to consider investment in infrastructure and flexible tools for online, mobile and social servicing.

As insurers assess the current state, they must consider the role of data management, data governance and analytics in supporting a true omnichannel solution. These behind-the-scenes capabilities may not be highly visible, but they are critical to long-term success:

  • An integrated data environment enables real-time or near-real-time access to critical information across multiple channels, required for efficient customer service.

  • Segregating responsibilities and identifying information and data owners help break down complex processes. Customer data governance helps organizations build a secure and sound environment with the right access to quality data to provide servicing.

  • More advanced analytics are already helping leaders to improve performance. They are extending beyond basic descriptive, explanatory and historical analysis to more predictive and prescriptive capabilities that can be applied across functions.

Top areas for investment include:

  • Process and workflow automation 

  • Management and governance of information assets (rules, data and other digital content) to help maintain accuracy and integrity (quality and relevance)

  • Tracking, mining, reporting (operational and analytical) capabilities 

  • The ability to rapidly, securely and reliably make the right data available anywhere and anytime

The views expressed herein are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the views of Ernst & Young LLP or the global EY organization.


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