The pandemic has driven the insurance industry to undergo digital transformation at an unprecedented rate as customers adapt to a fully digital experience. However, consumer research shows that customer satisfaction has remained the same, if not decreased. While companies are now more equipped than ever to serve customers, service continues to fall short, and the gap between the leaders and the laggards in customer experience is becoming even more apparent.
The health of a business depends on its customers. In an economic downturn, customer experience becomes even more important. Customers will still demand quality customer service, even if a company is struggling with declining revenues, budget cuts and limited resources behind the scenes.
The key to success is fusing operations with customer experience strategies—and approaching them as a long-term strategy versus a short-term goal. Following this, I share some key lessons that I believe are critical for businesses to apply to improve customer experiences in a digital world.
Meet customers where they are
First of all, it is important to understand customer preferences. In an increasingly digital world, the channels through which customers communicate vary from person to person. According to a recent survey on the science behind strong customer relationships, different demographic groups have different preferences for communication—especially among different generations. For example, Gen Z is three times more likely to communicate with salespeople via text than other generations.
These preferences matter when it comes to the technologies a company chooses to go digital. When we evaluated our technology stack at Branch, we knew we needed a way for us to connect with customers via SMS – reaching an important demographic for our company. SMS used to be a huge, untapped channel for us, and it raised important questions like, “Where else are customers trying to reach us that we’re not aware of? How can we manage these channels in a way that doesn’t overload our staff?”
We had to revamp our workflow to connect phone, SMS, email and in-app chat so we could meet our customers where they were. To provide exceptional customer experience, we needed to view incoming messages, easily retrieve any query on any channel, and empower our teams to jump into any conversation – all while having the most up-to-date customer context to streamline our responses.
We saw a boost in engagement and customer happiness when we personalized the customer experience in this way. The key was to provide more options for customers to choose from at their convenience — while making it easier to connect with a human agent when needed.
A seamless customer experience depends on streamlined operations and frictionless cross-collaboration between team members. If there are data silos or if platforms cannot integrate, there can be massive inefficiencies due to a disjointed network of systems. This friction can cause delays and frustrate staff, ultimately leading to unhappy customers.
Businesses can achieve productivity by driving operational efficiency, and every employee should feel empowered to serve customers with minimal roadblocks. In the digital age, exchanging messages is very different from chatting on the phone or meeting in person. A business must have the right platform to meet its needs to account for this evolution in messaging. For example, our team uses Front to ensure our customer communications are fast and efficient. This has led to improved customer satisfaction across the board. By building this foundation, we saw a 40% increase in our support team’s productivity, which matched our CSAT scores improving from 85% to over 90%.
There is an expectation that good service is fast service, which can be achieved when the whole team feels supported with the right resources. Proper resources can help a team quickly route messages to the right support members, ultimately leading to more efficient customer service.
Automate for profit
We created our business model to deliver exceptional customer experiences with high-quality engagement in what we coined “high-touch one-to-one communications.” Emails, in-app notifications, and SMS are set up to send automated messages via programmatic communications. Having this initial self-service option helps streamline and organize messages more efficiently. Once an inquiry becomes more complex, we ensure that the customer can switch to a human agent and have a high-touch conversation quickly and easily.
While autoresponders can help users understand their options, customers who pay policy premiums have the expectation that they can get one-on-one, personal help with their insurance policy when needed.
One recent example is when a customer spoke to one of our Member Support Specialists about their new policy. The client had several questions and had to ask them all at once – and they needed three different specialists to assist them. The team was able to answer all their questions about coverage and discounts using the right combination of automation and human interaction. This produced a customer experience that not only moved at the customer’s pace, but also stuck to his preferred method of communication through chat services.
Being in a customer-centric industry, we need to meet and exceed customer expectations like these. Automation as the initial touch point sets a business up for success.
In a world where customers and businesses have more digital interactions than face-to-face interactions, it is critical to meet new forms of nuanced communication. These three principles of good customer experience keep customers satisfied by gaining and keeping their trust and loyalty. A great customer experience is not only memorable, but a strong reason for customers to come back – and of course refer their network, which leads to more business.
Meeting customers where they are, understanding their goals and using the right tools to keep interactions efficient are essential must-haves for a successful customer interaction and consequently support customer retention efforts. In today’s economic headwinds, the pursuit of exceptional customer experiences is crucial, and these three lessons can ensure customer success.