Successful multi-channel distribution strategies will combine the speed and efficiency of digital services with the credibility and experience of human advisors.

Insurance customers are responding enthusiastically to the multi-channel distribution networks introduced by Manulife, Ping An and other innovative carriers. They enjoy the convenience of being able to access their provider, quickly and easily, using a variety of digital and physical channels.

However, successful multi-channel networks require more than just easy access. What’s also essential is the right mix of automated and human contact with customers. Consumers tend to like the speed and convenience of digital services, especially when performing administrative tasks, but hanker after human attention when looking for advice. Its vital that insurers get the balance right. If not, many customers are likely to shift their allegiance to providers that better meet their needs.

Two thirds of the 47 000 consumers we polled for our Global Financial Services Consumer Study said they didn’t mind which digital or physical channel they used to communicate with their insurer or bank. Their main concern was to be able to get what they want promptly and with little inconvenience.

More than half the insurance customers we surveyed preferred using digital channels when they were looking for product information or updating personal data with their provider. Well over half of these customers, however, wanted to speak to a consultant, either by phone or face-to-face, when changing the terms of a policy or making a claim.

“For complex financial decisions trust usually trumps convenience.”

The popularity of face-to-face contact among insurance customers varied across different markets and was often influenced by the maturity and reliability of the digital services in those areas. Nonetheless, the more complex the requirement the greater the likelihood that a consumer would seek human assistance rather than opt for an automated digital service.

For complex financial decisions trust usually trumps convenience. Fifty-eight percent of consumers said they trusted a human advisor in a branch to help them make an insurance claim and 54 percent agreed that they would trust such a person to give them advice about products and services. By contrast, a mere 12 percent said they’d trust an automated service to help them with these tasks. Chat bots, or robotics services, in branches were perceived to be even less trustworthy.

Good news for insurers and their distributors is that many consumers are willing to pay for human attention and advice when they need to make critical decisions. Thirty-nine percent of consumers reported that they would be very likely to pay for a human advisor in a branch to help them submit an insurance claim. Similarly, 35 percent indicated that they would be very likely to pay for advice in a branch to discuss suitable products and services. Just under a further 30 percent of consumers reported that they would be “somewhat likely” be willing to pay for in-branch advice to perform these two important tasks.

Far fewer consumers indicated that they were very willing to pay for human assistance over the telephone. Just 22 percent were very likely to be willing to pay for such help for product advice while 25 percent held a similar attitude to making insurance claims. Consumers were even less keen to pay for help from intelligent robotics services. Only 14 percent said they were likely to be willing to pay for robotic assistance in a branch when looking for appropriate insurance products or services and 12 percent had a similar attitude to making a claim.

For multi-channel insurance distribution to thrive, carriers need to combine fast and efficient digital facilities for basic transactions with human expertise and experience for advice and high-value claims services. The right balance between these offerings, as well as the correct blend of on-site and call-center human advisors, will vary between different markets and different customer segments. The need for accurate and timeous insight into shifting market trends and changing customer behavior has never been more important. In my next blog post, I’ll discuss how insurers can gain better understanding of their customers in the digital marketplace. In the meantime, have a look at these links. I’m sure you’ll find them useful.

2019 Global Financial Services Consumer Study

The Trust Imperative

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