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Today’s consumers are at the centre of their own digital network – and at every touch point they expect the business they’re dealing with to know who they are, and to be able to pick up the conversation where they left off. For insurers, delivering that omni-channel experience is critical to engaging customers as well as enabling agents to sell more and provide better service.

“We’re seeing an evolution in the insurance industry towards customer-centricity,” says Dennis Vanderlip, insurance industry director at Microsoft. “Insurers have realized that they need to fight to gain and retain customers through improved relationship management. They need to make every aspect of their business – from risk to policies, pricing and claims processing – more customer centric. That means understanding their customers as individuals, partnering with them to help them achieve their dreams by providing better services, and tracking the communications that transpire along the way.”

Delivering that service means bringing together information from traditionally siloed processes to enable a seamless experience for agents, as well as customers. In an industry that includes independent agents and brokers as well as direct employees and call centre staff, insurers face the unique challenge of providing an omni-channel experience for all. Because just like consumers, an agent who sells the products of several insurers will choose to do more business with the one that makes it easy for them.

“Agents and brokers need to get data and documents across as quickly as possible, with all the information required from the insured, so they can provide comparative quotes that suit the customer’s budget,” says Vanderlip. “If the quote is too high the sale could be lost. But if the broker can have a rich conversation and gather all the information around the customer’s requirements, and can use an online portal to tweak the product to the right price point or search the market and provide comparative quotes while they’re talking to the customer, that can enable them to conclude the business there and then.”

By harnessing the latest technologies, insurers can join up the data from those systems and deliver the information, tools and service capabilities that customers and agents need, across any channel. Once they have a view across channels, insurers can deliver personalized content to customers, and serve up the customer relationship management tools and insights that agents need to sell more.

That personalized experience needs to flow seamlessly into the call centre. With an increasing amount of information at their fingertips, consumers expect more from their conversations with service desk staff, and it’s imperative that those people have a 360-degree view of the customer and of the company’s products, so they can provide proactive service. “By the time they’re on the phone to the call centre, customers already know a lot about the products they want so they’re likely to ask more difficult questions and expect increasing levels of expertise from staff. Call centre staff need insight into where the customer is in their cycle, and real-time information is critical to achieving that,” says Vanderlip. The same principles apply to enabling a seamless experience for agents and brokers. By combining data from different channels with familiar tools such as Office 365 and Dynamics 365, insurers can empower field workers and streamline the process of identifying the right products at the right prices.

Anytime, anywhere access is essential to any omni-channel experience. Mobile capabilities are obviously having an impact on the industry, but as greater capabilities emerge we are only beginning to see their full potential. “Mobility is enabling new business models for insurers, including app-based scenarios such as telematics,” says Vanderlip. “If a car insurance customer or prospective customer has an app that monitors their driving habits and how far they drive, that might enable them to get advice on how to reduce fuel costs, to compare their driving with their friends, or to get a tailored insurance product that suits their needs. But it also increases that consumer’s engagement with the insurer. Instead of communicating with the insurance company only when they buy their policy, when they claim or when they leave, they’re in contact on a daily or weekly basis.”

Insurers that enable an omni-channel environment stand not only to empower workers with insights from a growing range of systems, channels and applications, but also to provide an environment that truly engages customers and agents. The result is a business that is much greater than the sum of its parts.


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