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IVR in Insurance: A Tail of Two Customer Experiences

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There’s a great TV advert in the UK for MORE TH>N, part of the Royal Sun Alliance Group. It’s an engaging way of showing its customers the empathetic experience they should expect if they ever need to file a claim.


You can imagine the related ads about other life crises such as involvement in a car accident…

Insurers trade on the brand qualities of permanence, reliability and caring service. They also understand that, often, established customers only call when they’ve got important and urgent information to relay, like reporting a claim. At best, this process is an annoyance; at worst, it can be a deeply emotional, stressful event. Hence, insurers lean heavily on technology like IVRs to get claimants through to the right agent quickly, both for initial reporting and ongoing claims queries.

Enabling a more streamlined and accurate contact process during the claims lifecycle can also save considerable costs for insurance companies. As well as improving your callers’ experience, you can also dramatically reduce what we technically refer to as ‘mis-routing’: that is, callers showing up in the wrong place. Time-consuming menus and other obstacles can frustrate or confuse callers. Some anxious claimants may choose the wrong option; more creative callers will try to escape by intentionally entering unexpected choices or by not “playing” at all – that is, making no selection. No matter which route they chose, telling a sales agent in another part of the organisation about the hole in their fuel tank only wastes your agent’s time and your customer’s. Added to that, they’ll be furious if they need to call back and choose the right option or wait for the agent to figure out how to transfer them to the right place. That’s as good an argument as any for you to take a closer look at how you can harness technology in your company.

Claims processes are also being compelled to innovate because of user-driven mobile technology. In the US, many insurers already offer mobile apps with claims features, enabling claimants to upload pictures of crash damage, communicate directly with their claims adjuster, or schedule the next steps of the claims process. While smartphone apps are the preference for increasingly large customer demographics, many will continue to want to talk about what is an important life event, and be certain that a human being is listening to what they need and doing something about it.

How long before phoning your insurer from the roadside becomes the single call a claimant makes, rather than just the first step in the claims process? Via a few more joined-up processes, insurers can achieve the automatic logging of GPS coordinates, or even voice recording the first hand testimony of witnesses/participants. In any case, insurers must continue to be guided by the significance of servicing claimants in a personalised, consistent and effective manner, and consider how to improve the IVR call experience to meet that goal.

Claims challenges seem to be the same everywhere, but we’ve found that other aspects of the car/auto insurance industry are different between Europe and the US. In the UK, the rising cost of insurance premiums has been a boon for price comparison sites like ComparetheMarket, GoCompare and MoneySupermarket – all of which enjoy high brand visibility and pump the message that drivers stand to save enormous time and many hundreds of pounds simply by transacting via them. The other phenomenon is how drivers here often feel punished for their loyalty when receiving renewal quotes that they know the insurer will reduce when challenged. These scenarios are barely recognisable in the US.

We’ve found that what both of these factors influence are the customer experience processes of insurance companies. The spectre of price comparison engines necessitates a level of multichannel integration designed to give maximum confidence to the consumer as he/she flits between finding competitive quotes online, and potentially phoning up a given insurer to discuss the policy in more detail prior to purchase. As far as renewals go, insurers prioritise callers who’ve exhibited a genuine desire to cancel their policy and take their business elsewhere, even to the extent of highlighting their ‘renewals hotline’ and presenting IVR options to the renewals or retention team.

Stateside, our experience with some of the biggest insurance brands has been focused on creating “personas” in customer-facing systems designed to appeal to target market segments, while maintaining key metrics in the contact centre. Unlike the UK, the US market often prominently features a support model driven by a local sales agent. This local agent has a personal relationship with their customers and serves as an ambassador for their clients as they navigate their insurance products. This local agent relationship introduces another distinct call destination which must be supported, underlying the importance of call routing for major insurance companies as well as conscientious management of brand perception as key issues.

US consumers obviously still consider price and compare products when selecting an insurer, but comparison-shopping and renewals haven’t escalated to the levels that they have in the UK. In the US, it’s not uncommon for a renewal period to pass without a second thought thanks to automated notification and payment collection technologies. That said, customer dissatisfaction is the primary driver of customer attrition in the US, and a perceived poor service experience – especially around the often- stressful claim reporting process – can result in the quiet loss of a customer come renewal time. US insurers are big on brand, and if they are treated to a great customer experience then customers tend to be big on loyalty.