Disruptive evolution in the life insurance industry has changed corporate priorities for many insurers. A generation ago most companies focused on finding efficiencies to improve profitability and on increasing speed-to-market to develop new products faster and respond to regulatory and market changes. While those two priorities are still important, companies now clearly place the onus on delivering superior digital client experiences to set themselves apart from their competitors.
A recent study revealed that “insurance companies that digitally transformed key processes reduced service costs by more than 30% while delivering better customer experience.”
The top 25% of participants grew revenue twice as fast as their competitors
For insurance companies this means providing a suite of digital solutions that streamline the illustration and application process as well as offering agent and customer self-service options. These digital agent tools generate quotes and full illustrations, conduct comparisons, highlight insurance benefits, and enable upselling. They deliver straight-through-processing of the application leading to quicker decisions and faster issue. And, agent and customer portals permit real-time policy changes and access to commission reports. Most importantly all of these tools should seamlessly integrate with, not only each other, but with the modern policy administration system and the carrier’s internal tools—creating a platform-driven ecosystem.
Those companies who fail to provide these elements critical to delivering world-class customer experiences will fall behind their competitors—for three important reasons:
Reason #1: Increasing agent and customer expectations
Competition in the insurance industry is fiercer than ever before. Traditional firms find themselves competing not just with each other, but with the digital-born upstarts who threaten to take market-share. These fully digital companies have the advantage of being agile, quick to respond to market changes and highly responsive to customer demands. They are not saddled with 20-30-year-old legacy systems that make it hard, if not impossible, for traditional insurers to quickly make product changes, develop new products and offer multi-channel digital service to their customers.
One of the biggest changes insurance companies must address comes from outside the industry entirely. Today’s customers’ expectations are conditioned by the online interactions they have with companies from many different industries. Consumers have come to uniformly expect the same great experience they have when they are able to order a book with just one-click, watch their pizza traveling from the restaurant to their front door on their phone, or enjoy a movie they hadn’t considered watching until their streaming service recommended it.
They bring all of those expectations with them to the insurance transaction. And unfortunately, they are often let down. Today’s customers aren’t willing to wait for monthly or even annual printed statements to review their coverage. They don’t want to have to call a center and talk to someone just to make a simple address change. And they don’t always want to have to schedule a meeting with an advisor when they want to change a policy or even buy a new product.
“About two-thirds of consumers across age and income brackets say they are open to receiving virtual advice, and more than one-third would prefer to conduct the entire quote-to-buy process online.”
Today’s consumer wants fully digital, real-time service on whatever device they choose, whenever they desire. They want the service to be personalized. They want instant answers and instant approvals.
And the end consumer is not the only stakeholder whose digital expectations challenge carriers. Competition to attract the best advisors is high. And one of the battlegrounds is around the tools and processes an insurer can provide an agent to enable them to work efficiently and effectively and meet more client needs. It will become harder and harder to attract 30-40-year-old advisors if a company can’t offer omni-channel tools that allow them to work whenever, wherever and on whatever device they choose.
Reason 2: Increase speed-to-market
The pace of regulatory change is accelerating. Market demands are in constant flux. The traditional path to making product changes or developing new products on legacy systems is no longer a competitive option. For companies still relying on legacy core systems and front-end tools that are not easily configurable developing new products could involve writing new code or even implementing new systems and may take as long as year. Even relatively small tasks like rate changes can take hours because of the manual processes involved in making alterations within a legacy system.
Digital-born companies can respond as much as 5x faster because they are not burdened with outdated systems. They are able to aggregate and analyze client and market data faster and more effectively. They can identify trends and make adjustments to their offerings with greater speed than traditional firms.
And, as traditional firms undergo their own digital transformation—modernizing their back-office and integrating digital agent and client tools—it becomes hard for those who haven’t evolved to remain competitive.
Working with multiple systems and tools that aren’t integrated is inefficient, frustrating, costly and slow. The best digital agent and client tools can reduce complexity because a single application works for life, health and annuity product lines—and is fully integrated with the modern policy administration system. They increase productivity, improve time to market and reduce cost of releasing new products. As part of a comprehensive digitization of a company’s infrastructure front-end tools will streamline digital experience across the full life cycle of a policy, from sales to claims—accelerating underwriting, customer on-boarding and product development.
Reason 3: Drive Sales
Traditionally, advisors may have spent hours working up positioning information in a spreadsheet with numerous sheets, and then have to pass that to an assistant who would spend a day or two crafting a PowerPoint presentation from the data. The process was manual, frustrating and ate up time that would be better spent in front of clients.
Today, the best integrated digital agent tools enhance advisors’ sales capability by offering purpose-built features like side-by-side comparisons of products, sales concepts and strategies that help them easily position insurance products in minutes. They make presentations and recommendations more effective and enable advisors to do more of them—increasing sales.
Integrated illustration, electronic application and servicing portals enable agents to quickly generate quotes and submit applications without spreading the paper-based process over several client meetings. Not only is the client experience better and the agent freed to work with more clients—but digital processing, built-in validation features and the ability to monitor pending business increases the likelihood of applications being approved and policies issued in a timely manner.
Life insurance companies that implement digital agent and client tools as part of their modernization journey will increase speed-to-market, drive sales and deliver superior customer experiences. A comprehensive suite of tools that feature straight-through processing and APIs that interact with the insurers back office lay the foundation for what will be possible for forward-thinking organizations as they navigate their digital transformation in the coming years. Those who are slow to adopt these solutions risk being left behind.
If you’d like to continue the conversation about digital front-end tools feel free to contact me.
Senior Director, Digital Insurance Solutions
+1 514 989-3141 ext. 189