Insurance companies are currently facing one of the greatest challenge in recent decades: digitalisation. Insurers are also faced with the question of how sales are going to work in this digital future. How will they get in touch with customers? How will customers get in touch with them? In short, how is the customer touchpoint going to change?
The interaction between customers and their insurer will change fundamentally. New communication channels and points of contact are being created. These must be utilised and integrated into the sales process effectively. None of the market participants has been able to establish a true omni-channel sales operation as yet, and it is therefore crucial that insurance companies put themselves in an optimal position to gain a competitive advantage.
This advantage can only be achieved if intermediaries’ advice solutions consistently focus on the customer and are incorporated into the existing system landscape. This means that digitalised and standardised customer advice must be an integral part of the customer journey, and that any sales and advice applications used must interlink seamlessly across different media. The various sales channels must be intelligently connected with each other in order to optimise customer dialogue. In the future, customers will take it for granted that they are able to freely choose whichever sales channel they prefer at any given time. The dialogue must therefore be designed and supported coherently in its entirety and across all touchpoints. This ensures a consistent customer experience across all channels, and also that no customer information is lost between the individual channels as well as providing a cross-channel 360-degree customer view. That makes life much easier for both customers and intermediaries because it will eliminate many of the unnecessary and time-consuming steps they still have to take every time they move from one sales channel to another.
Effective omni-channel advice is also going to change the sales activity profile and thus the sales process on the whole. The different sales channels will increasingly become an access point for customers and therefore less of a point of sale. It is going to become much more important to use the various touchpoints to provide customers with information about the portfolio of services they are receiving rather than just for the sale of insurance products. The customer needs to be able to enter the buying process at any time and from anywhere.
Event-based communication will become increasingly important for this reason. Customers can be addressed on a more individual and personal level if the various sales channels are interlinked and the ever growing number of touchpoints provided by digitalisation. Customers are likely to expect that insurance products offered are highly individualised and relevant to their particular situation. Consistent and intelligent utilisation of customer data and all available touchpoints is therefore becoming increasingly essential in order to create a positive customer experience. The aim is to identify and make the most of events that trigger customer interest in certain financial issues. Individualised offers, based on these events and occasions, should be presented to customers because they are likely to be more open to engage with the particular financial issue in these situations. Insurers who recognise and exploit these occasions gain competitive advantage and can position themselves with customers at a decisive moment, thus winning and/or reinforcing trust.
Winning trust however, also needs to be achieved by focusing the omni-channel approach more strongly on customers’ experiences. Sales as the single focal point will no longer be enough. You need to provide a consistent omni-channel experience across all touchpoints. The trend is to move away from pure sales-oriented marketing towards “customer service-oriented sales”. This also means that sales agents must be willing to disclose information and knowledge about both their new and existing customers. Of course, the current sales-based compensation model will also have to change so that it becomes more lucrative to provide customer care and the information derived from it. The need for traditional insurance intermediaries is going to decline as more and more sales become digital. The activities of sales agents will likely change in such a way that they will need to identify and anticipate customers’ needs and arouse their interest.
In order to implement the omni-channel approach, insurers must first ensure that the technology prerequisites are in place. A lack of interfaces is a major obstacle. A fully accessible real-time dialogue with the customer is vitally important. This means that technology needs to make this dialogue possible on different devices and also from a variety of locations. Customers must be able to contact their insurer via any device and from any location. When all these issues have been addressed and solutions implemented effectively, it will soon become clear that digitalisation is not only one of the greatest challenges for the insurance industry but above all one of its greatest opportunities in recent decades.