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Leveraging Digital Resources in the Time of COVID-19

The insurance industry is facing an onslaught of claims arising from the COVID-19 pandemic, from small businesses to corporate clients – and insurers must be proactive, both in communicating coverage gaps and proactively assisting customers in getting the right coverage.

But with social distancing keeping insurers, agents and customers at literal arms’ length, it’s critical that insurers promote and teach their customers to use their digital insurance services, says a new report by Forrester Analytics.

“Address the Near-Term Impact of COVID-19 on Insurance While Demonstrating Customer Advocacy for Long-Term Growth” emphasizes the need for insurers to leverage and continue to enhance their digital resources to weather the pandemic and beyond.

Since the introduction of the smart phone, insurers have built assorted mobile apps, sites, and tools. But statistics show that customers seldom downloaded or used them, preferring to both file and check claim status via “human channels” (Forrester data show that only 3% of UK online adults and 4% of French online adults engage with their insurers through chatbots). “But in the new era of social distancing and call center wait times wrought by COVID-19, now’s the time to show off those investments; customers will be more likely or even have no alternative but to use them,” the report states.

Insurers must show customers not only that they have digital servicing tools, but how to really use them, including making voice assistants COVID-19 smart.

More importantly, insurers must handle any form of customer communication with empathy and a sense of advocacy, the report finds. This is especially important since many small business customers are learning that their business interruption coverage mostly exclude BI due to new and emerging diseases. “Call centers and agents will be tied up explaining coverage limits that should have been made obvious at the time of purchase,” the report finds.

“Now is the time for insurers to demonstrate their customer advocacy. It’s the right thing to do and will benefit firms further down the line. That’s because of the perception on the part of the customer that a firm does what’s best for them, not just what’s best for the firm’s own bottom line is a key driver of loyalty and future purchase intent at retail financial services firms.”

The report recommends that insurers:

Show what the digital functionality does, not just what it is. MetLife’s MyDirect site includes demo videos that tout how easy the mobile site features are to use, while Allstate and other insurers have YouTube videos showing off the DIY features of their photo claiming capabilities.

Enlist your human and IVR resources. Insurers should use their hold-time messages to promote digital services to save customers time, as well as recruiting customer service reps and field resources working from home to serve as virtual “geniuses” who can set up on-demand, how-to webinars, and “on call” times for live interactions.

Start or keep training voice assistants. While many insurers rely on chatbots to handle claims, most have not been specifically trained to respond to COVID-19 claims. Now is a good time to get voice assistants on the front lines for at least listening to calls and developing skills to handle COVID-19 inquiries.

Keep investing in digital capabilities. RPA and AI solutions that connect the contact center, agency, and customer portals will simplify underwriting and claims, while mobile capabilities like SMS text, online, or video chat simplify customer communication.

Use the crisis as a springboard for innovation. If there’s an upside to the COVID-19 crisis, it lies in how the situation is emphasizing the need for innovative ways to communicate. Insurers should continue to invest in emerging technologies that augment distribution (conversational interfaces), improve business processes (AI and machine learning), and drive customer engagement (IoT and sensors).

To access the full report, go to https://go.forrester.com/

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