After almost two years of unprecedented change and accelerated digital transformation driven by the pandemic, Peter Thompson, Chief Executive Officer at BGL Insurance, looks at what consumers will expect from the brands they deal with in 2022.
For those of us who work with customers every day, we understand that their needs continually evolve and successful businesses are the ones who adapt and change with their customers. However, the pandemic accelerated those changes faster than any business thought possible and now we are all operating in an environment that is very different to what is was just two years ago. I think it’s fair to say there have not been many points in my career where I have witnessed such a significant period of change. The pandemic has taught businesses across the globe many lessons about agility and resilience, but one of the most important learnings has been around responding to changing customer demands.
Throughout the pandemic, we witnessed a multitude of consumer behavioural shifts and with this, a newfound confidence from customers across all demographics to manage their finances and household bills digitally. Astonishingly, I saw some insight from our digital teams recently that highlighted a 20 per cent surge between January 2019 and August 2021 in customers now choosing to use their devices to manage insurance products – whether buying policies or making simple changes, a trend that will continue to grow.
While the insurance industry has been slower on digital adoption than some, this can no longer be our collective excuse – our customers and our brand partners will simply not accept it. So, thinking ahead, what will the customer of 2022 and indeed 2025 and beyond want from their providers, and does a silver bullet for customer service success exist?
1.Data to drive confidence, trust and a frictionless experience
Insurance providers are privy to large amounts of customer insight, but how they choose to use it could mean the difference between an average experience and a great one. While price will always be a key consideration, the FCA Market Study changes, which aim to eradicate loyalty penalties, will give our industry a better opportunity to nurture and build long lasting relationships with customers. This is where using insight to truly understand customers’ individual needs could unlock increased consumer confidence and importantly, loyalty.
Also, crucially, when a customer trusts their provider with personal data, it must result in an improvement to the overall experience. Pre-populating a journey or targeting offers, again sounds simple, but will continue to distinguish those providers who are truly ahead of the game.
2. Channel choice and a first-class ecosystem
Phrases like a multichannel and omnichannel experience are often banded around, but what do they actually mean? Put simply, a provider should give their customers choice in how they transact and interact with their brands and products, presenting a consistent experience, regardless of the channel. Sounds easy! But, for an insurance business, a complicated web of processes and stakeholders exists – from price comparison sites through to insurers – and this could mean an experience might not be as seamless as the customer expects. The investments we have made around AI and Digital Voice will be crucial, but it’s also important to forge partnerships and links at the outset with only those brands that have the same commitment to delivering the very best customer outcomes across all channels.
Similarly, close collaboration across your entire ecosystem is key, with all players in agreement on how you should work together.
3. Transparency and empathy
Solid and seamless processes alone, while of course vital, will not provide the key to excellent customer service. There must be a balance, and if I was to pick a secret ingredient that could differentiate a brand, it would be outstanding human interaction. Clearly, while many customers choose to manage their insurance online, for some, such as those who have a more complex query or need support at what can often be a worrying time – empathy and understanding are vital.
Furthermore, the FCA estimates that 50 per cent of UK adults could potentially be vulnerable at any given time, highlighting that any one of us will more than likely, at some point in our lives, find that a ‘one size fits all’ approach is not sufficient to meet our needs. Meeting customers in their preferred channel is key, and dedicated customer services teams remain an important touchpoint for many.
So, while our industry, and in fact the entire world, has experienced such significant change, the ingredients that make up a great customer experience are not entirely different to what they always have been. A balance of speed and empathy might sound like an oxymoron, but creating a customer experience – consisting of intuitive, market-leading tech, coupled with a customer services team who understands the products inside out but above all, have the listening and empathy skills which can put anyone at ease, remain the perfect blen