We have been discussing a study that I believe should be instructive to insurers in North America that feel no urgency in going digital to thwart digital disrupters attempting to win away their business. The study, the 2016 Youbiquity 3 Finance report, found that European consumers—who shop online far less than Americans do—want a better online and overall technology experience with their insurers. Study participants want insurers to improve their self-service capabilities so customers by themselves can complete various tasks more complex than obtaining a quote or making a payment.

The study’s findings, however, also remind insurers not to swing the pendulum too far and neglect the personal relationship side of the business. While the study’s 3,000 participants in the United Kingdom, Germany and Spain want a better self-service experience online and through other technologies, they did not want to be left totally on their own.

The study found that the vast majority of insurance consumers want supported digital self-service capabilities:

  • 85 percent still would like to have support via e-mail and phone.
  • 83 percent would like to have the option of visiting a branch office.
  • 62 percent want a web-chat option.
  • 47 percent want a video-chat option.

The study found the popularity of a video-chat option is increasing very quickly. Depending on the country where the study participants reside, between only nine and 15 percent wanted a video-chat option in 2012. Among the benefits study participants expect from video chatting:

  • Immediate service—67 percent.
  • Better relationships with insurers—63 percent.
  • Improved trust in their carriers—57 percent.
  • Improved understanding of advice that insurers dispense—55 percent.

Moreover, the study’s authors astutely observe that video chat would help carriers re-connect with customers who increasingly are turning to aggregators online, as well as help claims management reduce its expenses when images of damaged property are vital.

Study participants offered other ideas on how insurers should support their online self-service capabilities to improve customers’ experience. Depending on the country where the study participants reside:

  • 40-48 percent want their insurers to provide a named individual whom customers can email or phone.
  • 30-51 percent want to speak with friendlier insurance company staff.
  • 24-53 percent want fast email response times from their insurers.

The study also found that about 10 percent of participants attempted to use social media for service or to resolve complaints. However, the experience was not satisfying for many. For example, only:

  • 43 percent found it convenient.
  • 32 percent rated the resulting response better than other ways of making contact.
  • 24 percent were satisfied with the response.

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