Shaheen Haque, Territory Manager, Middle East & Turkey at unified communications solutions vendor Interactive Intelligence
In recent years, businesses in the Middle East have been dealing with a struggling economy, flat or negative growth, high unemployment, low interest rates, and reluctance by consumers to make major purchases and investments. Insurance companies have had to add industry regulation and product standardization to this list of obstacles. Superior service is therefore vital to company growth and customer retention but few companies have recognized the link between service and growth. So how can insurance companies leverage customer service for growth?
Shaheen Haque, Territory Manager, Middle East & Turkey at unified communications solutions vendor Interactive Intelligence says that the most broadly adopted customer service strategy for growth is differentiation. However, insurance companies tend to focus excessively on differentiation and fail to capitalize on other equally effective service approaches, namely cross-selling and customer retention.
The Drawback of Dissociation
Why have cross-selling and customer retention been so grossly overlooked? A possible explanation for this is that most insurance companies simply don’t have the technologies in place to give them a holistic view of their customers. Customer data is often segregated and maintained according to the type of policy they own, with no cross-referencing between the various products. This dissociation of information makes it virtually impossible for customer service representatives (CSRs) to relate different pieces of information about their customers.
Consider for example the following scenario. A customer with a renter’s policy (insurance policy for persons staying in a rented property) calls to change her address on her auto insurance policy because she has bought a home. If the customer service representative had a holistic view of her information, he would see that this is the perfect time to offer her a homeowner’s policy, which could save the company from losing her renter’s policy. Or perhaps the CSR would see that the reason she had a renter’s policy is because she recently had a total loss fire claim on her homeowner’s policy, thus he could extend sympathies and comments that would personalize the interaction and build customer loyalty.
Monitoring Communication Channels for Better Insights
In addition to a holistic view of customer data, it is vital to have a consolidated view of all the various communications a customer has had with the company – from phone calls, letters, and faxes, to emails and Web chats. So taking a similar scenario as the one above, let’s say the insurance company’s billing department has mailed the policy holder a past due notice on her rental policy. She has emailed the company notifying them that she wants to cancel her rental policy because she has bought a house. Again, the ability for the CSR to access all these communications from a single view enables him to proactively offer her a homeowner’s policy.
Having a complete view of customer communications can help insurance companies identify and mitigate potential service issues. For instance, what if a customer had noted that his preferred method of communication with the company was via email and Web chat? However, following one Web chat, this customer calls five times within three days to get his issue resolved. Why did this customer resort to a non-preferred method of communication, and why so many calls in such a short time frame? Was there a breakdown in customer service during the initial Web chat, and/or in the first call, or perhaps a breakdown in the business process itself? By having a birds-eye view of all customer communications, a CSR can more quickly identify the root of the problem.
In addition, a consolidated view across communications channels enables insurance companies to generate customer contact statistics and conduct analysis and trending on them. Interestingly, the most common statistics used to evaluate customer service are abandonment rates, average speed to answer, and average handle times. If this is what the rest of the industry is measuring, imagine how an insurance company could differentiate itself by having its finger on the pulse of customer pain points instead?
Having a holistic view of customer data, along with a consolidated view of customer communications regardless the type, enables insurance companies to more effectively monitor and analyze customer behavior and feedback for improved cross-selling and retention, which can result in a significant growth advantage. Without these capabilities, well, just remember: what you don’t know can hurt you!