Insurers know better than most that digital channels have grown enormously in popularity, diversity and impact. This is the third of the four trends that are having a disruptive effect on insurance customer service, and which I’m exploring in this series of posts.

Messaging services are just one example. WeChat, which has particular uptake in China, claims 650 million users each month. Facebook’s Messenger service is used by 800 million people a month. WhatsApp boasts a staggering one billion. With this kind of reach, insurers need to meet their customers there if they want to stay relevant.

But digital channels in the future will offer much more than a way to chat. WeChat lets companies run their own apps within the WeChat platform. Last year, Taikang Life Insurance made a splash when it allowed customers to buy cancer health insurance through the platform. As recent Accenture Interactive research highlights, it’s not difficult to imagine a world where insurers will run customer service within a messaging platform. This could let customers choose policies, make payments, resolve issues, or process claims from within their app of choice.

Digital channels will also embrace emerging media. Artificial intelligence and voice recognition software will eliminate the familiar “press 1 for billing” approach used by many. Callers will simply tell the system what they want and be appropriately directed. Or carriers can send a visual menu of options to customers’ mobile devices, dynamically personalized to reflect each individual’s situation, preferences and service history.

Insurers like AXA and Allianz have used augmented reality as a marketing tool. As video streaming quality and processing power continue to grow, augmented reality will become a customer service tool. Insurers will be able to offer customers expedited underwriting and claims processing with the help of accurate, automated assessment tools wielded by the customers themselves.

It’s likely that digital channels will continue to create opportunities for insurers that are impossible to foresee. This is helping drive the fourth trend: a new role for customer service. Don’t miss my next post, when I’ll share what that’s all about. In the meantime, read more about this in Accenture Interactive’s Digital Customer Service report.

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