Public-facing digital platforms have made it possible for the insurance industry to reach customers with a steady stream of messages and touch points. It’s also been a boon to customers, who value the price advantage, convenience and access that digital channels provide. Accenture Strategy’s cross-industry Global Consumer Pulse Research found that 88 percent of customers use digital channels at some point in their purchase journey. Forty-one percent want even more digital interactions.

Digital cuts distribution costs, but it also supports the human touchBut as I mentioned in my previous blog post, digital isn’t the preferred channel for all customer interactions. Nor for all customers – the survey found only 36 percent of consumers believe digital channels are better than non-digital forms of interaction.

The reason, of course, is that consumers don’t embrace digital in itself, but the benefits it enables. For these they are willing – at least some of the time – to forfeit personalization and the human touch.

This has led some carriers to swing the pendulum too far. They use their digital capability to bombard customers with poorly differentiated messages and offers. In other words digital, which has tremendous potential for personalization, is being used to deliver commoditized experiences at scale.

Surveys repeatedly show that customers value personalization. In Accenture’s Consumer-Driven Innovation Survey, 80 percent of respondents said personalized service would play a major role in their decision to switch insurance providers. Forty-one percent would be willing to pay for personalized advice when buying insurance.

One carrier that has taken advantage of digital to personalize its offerings and interactions is the United Services Automobile Association. USAA gathers data from social media platforms as well as its own interactive digital services and uses sophisticated analytics systems to personalize all aspects of its engagement with customers. Its Auto Circle service advises customers not only when they’re buying automotive insurance but also when they’re looking to purchase, repair or sell a vehicle. Moreover, USAA helps customers plan and manage their finances by providing them with fully digital mobile tools tailored for various stages of life. The carrier further cultivates close ties with its customers by promoting social media community groups. Its “Ask USAA” online advisory service addresses a wide range of professional and personal circumstances.

In taking advantage of the benefits that digital offers, insurers must certainly capitalize on its ability to expand reach and lower distribution costs. But more importantly, to drive loyalty and profitable long-term growth, they need to use it to interact with customers in deeply relevant ways, and to empower their people to engage more meaningfully when customers prefer the human touch.

To learn more, download the report: Digital Disconnect in Customer Engagement

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