Ask the Experts

The New Customer Service Model in Insurance: Enabled by Unified Insurance Solutions

By TMCnet Special Guest
Mark Breading, Partner, Strategy Meets Action (SMA)
  |  July 01, 2011

Think about the following important objectives in managing an insurance business: increasing sales, controlling expenses, enhancing customer service and reducing loss costs. Each objective is vital to an insurer’s strategy, although a strong case can be made that exemplary customer service is the most pervasive and meaningful. Yet the question remains, “How can we best achieve great customer service?”

Business drivers for a unified organization

Some insurers are able to realize service excellence in one line of business or in a single functional area. The key to “great” customer service, however, is being able to effectively provide it across the the entire business with consistent, timely communications between policyholders and the organization. Do so, and customer retention improves. A unified customer service capability readies the organization to execute quickly when opportunities arise to enter a new market or launch a new product. Insurers must build a unified organization, and the best first step is to take an outside-in view of their organization and assess interaction capabilities from the customer’s perspective.

The realities of customer service today

Insurance customers most frequently interact with insurers via local agents, call centers, claim adjusters, and online. Certain commercial customers might also interact directly with underwriters and loss control specialists. Unfortunately many insurance companies don’t have the proper business and technology capabilities in place to connect various channels for customer service, especially across the enterprise. And with channels not fully synchronized, it’s difficult to ensure that information from one channel is readily available to another channel or area of the business. Most insurers today are unable to support seamless communications and interaction channels for customer sales and service.

The unified solutions imperative… enabling integration and workflow

In pursuing the ability to offer superior customer service, proactive insurers are leading the way with multichannel sales and service, up-to-the-second information and warm transfers. The unified solutions that enable these capabilities are becoming an imperative, and require two main technology attributes: the full integration of technology across the enterprise and advanced workflow.

Integration challenges and solutions. The systems an insurer utilizes for sales, underwriting, policy servicing, billing and claims should all be linked together to speed the flow of information and service. The problem is, many insurers still maintain a hodgepodge of systems and applications that make it difficult to ever fully achieve effective integration and information flow between systems.

To improve systems integration, some insurance companies have turned to open architectures and integrated software suites, and others have adopted a disciplined development approach based on a service oriented architecture (SOA). But the best way to manage connectivity and integration issues is to deploy a “connection-savvy” infrastructure that can reach a variety of policy, billing and claims systems. A connection-savvy infrastructure treats each connection in small, easy to maintain, and discrete components, allowing an insurer to easily accommodate old as well as new systems, and adding new lines of business when appropriate. Whether the insurer is working with existing systems or installing a new suite of core systems, the imperative is to implement an agile infrastructure.

Advanced workflow solutions. Characterized by a stream of interactions with customers over time, insurance is different from many other industries. During the processing of a transaction, information is passed to different automated systems and used by multiple representatives. In this environment, advanced workflow management systems are mandatory to ensure that information flows to the right person, at the right time, in the right format.

Policyholders don’t think about integration, but they do expect the interactions and information exchanges with their insurer to be timely and accurate. If they’ve made a payment online or via an SMS/ text message, they expect the information about that payment to be immediately available to the agent and the CSR (News - Alert). All current policy, payment, and claims information should be immediately available to employees and customers alike, via any channel.

A few recommendations

Insurers have a tremendous opportunity to win with customer service and capitalize on customer loyalty. While some insurance companies have already made strides in this direction, few have actually arrived at the level of great customer service they desire. Taking a critical look at current customer service technologies and strategies, and asking a few key questions, can ultimately lead to an enhanced new customer service model.

·         Assess current communications and IT platforms. Are communications managed separately? Are voice and data integrated beyond the contact center? How many different vendors are involved in your systems?

·         Identify key customer service transactions. What transactions cross departmental boundaries? Are multiple individuals involved in servicing the request, and must they access multiple systems and databases to provide a response? Do workflow systems facilitate the timely and accurate servicing of transactions?

·         Evaluate solution providers that offer integrated solutions. Do your current providers offer integration of communications and IT solutions? What solution provides the best opportunity to integrate workflows across the enterprise? Do your solution providers and those you might consider offer flexible delivery models — on-premise and hosted?

·         Build a roadmap to world-class customer service. Do you have a future state defined for your customer service environment, complete with specific objectives and goals? Do you have an achievable, affordable plan to move toward that future state? Have you identified the strategic partner(s) that will enable you to make a successful journey to the desired future state?

Download the complete whitepaper to learn more:

The New Customer Service Model in Insurance:

Enabled by Unified Insurance Solutions

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Edited by Stefania Viscusi