LIMRA estimates there are 102 million people in the US who are under or uninsured. As we look ahead to the year 2050 and aim to bridge that gap, it becomes crucial to understand the reasons behind it.
Lack of awareness about the importance of insurance and how it works, trust issues, and misconceptions about affordability contribute to insufficient insurance coverage. To overcome these barriers, people need education, empathy, and a simplified path to purchasing insurance. In essence, they need an improved life insurance experience.
This is why enhancing customer experience has become the top priority for life insurance companies. By focusing on CX, insurers can effectively engage and retain a larger customer base. This, in turn, enables them to address the coverage gap and fulfill their original mission statement: helping the people in their communities.
This prioritization of delivering great consumer experience has become the key driver of digital transformation in the insurance industry. Insurers recognize that meeting consumers’ rising expectations requires accessing and leveraging the vast amounts of data siloed in their enterprise systems and re-working the traditional processes that underlie their sales, service, and claims efforts.
In an Accelerate webinar titled, Driving Digital Client Engagement Through The Entire Caribbean Insurance Value Chain, Ruben Veersamy, Senior Vice President, Caribbean at Equisoft discusses the importance of CX.
Making a meaningful dent in the $12 trillion coverage deficit and removing financial risk from millions of households will require insurers to become more customer-centric. They need a deep understanding of evolving customer expectations, a clear vision and strategy for how to meet those needs, and the correct processes and technology to create more meaningful engagement.
Insurers will only be able to reduce the frustrations that dissuade too many consumers from applying for coverage or abandoning a purchase mid-journey by working from a “customer-in” rather than a “company-out” approach. Developing a superior, digital-enabled CX that compares favorably with those created by the Amazons and Apples of the world is the most promising way to increase both sales and retention.
Who are the life insurance customers and what are they looking for?
The dramatic shift in customer expectations has been influenced by online experiences in other industries like retail, finance and hospitality. Customers now expect hyper-personalized experiences, tailored to them, instant order fulfillment, and a frictionless experience that is available to them whenever and wherever they want.
What do digital customer expectations look like in the life insurance industry #
Potential life insurance customers bring all of their expectations from other industries with them when they seek to purchase a policy. They already have pre-molded ideas about how sales should happen and what great service feels like.
While the demographics are diverse, there are core groups that share clusters of expectations that are important for insurers to consider:
- Digital Natives: Today’s customers are comfortable with technology, expect seamless digital experiences, and prefer online experiences for product information, purchasing, and the management of their life insurance policies. These customers will expect that they can easily learn about products online and that policy approval, fulfillment, and servicing can be completed online entirely. They expect transparency in the approval process. They favor low-impact underwriting with few medical interventions. These customers want to be able to deal with an advisor as needed‒ preferring direct phone conversations or online meetings to chat-bots and long hold lines. Increased use of APIs to connect digital solutions along the policy life-cycle will enable carriers to accelerate customer-facing processes.
- Personalization seekers: Customers expect more personalized life insurance options as advancements in technology and data analytics continue to reshape the industry. Future customers will require tailored insurance solutions that cater to their specific needs, preferences, and life stages. They will expect their life insurance coverage to evolve with them as they age and circumstances change. For insurers, this means developing new approaches, such as usage-based insurance, personalized underwriting and dynamic pricing.
- Tech-Savvy and Connected: Increasingly, customers will embrace emerging technologies such as augmented reality, artificial intelligence, machine learning, and the Internet of Things (IoT). They will appreciate innovative solutions that leverage these technologies to offer proactive risk management, real-time monitoring, and personalized programs. As the next generation of customers places a larger emphasis on experiences rather than products, life insurers will need to leverage embedded insurance and wearables to create a lifestyle experience surrounding the product. For many insurers, the focus has shifted from facilitating transactions to creating experiences, to developing engagement.
- Longevity and Wellness Focus: As the general population becomes more interested in health and longevity, potential insurance customers place importance on life insurance policies that integrate wellness programs, incentivize healthy lifestyles, and offer additional benefits. With the growth of wearables and the desire for more personalized solutions, life insurers will need to find a way to integrate wellness-focused experiences into their product offering.
Beyond the consumer: the importance of employee, agent and stakeholder experience #
All of these heightened expectations hold true for every type of customer that a carrier interacts with. It’s not just policyholders who expect frictionless, omni-channel, personalized interactions but also distributors, advisors, and internal staff who interact with the product on a daily basis. As customer experience expectations continue to rise, it is crucial to recognize that individuals involved in daily operations are also seeking enhanced experiences.
In an episode of the Life Accelerated podcast, Cissy Williams, Chief Operations Officer at Protective Life explains the importance of the employee experience.
Workers will migrate away from roles that require manual, paper-based, low-value repetitive task completion. They will seek out digitally enabled roles which are low in frustration and high in satisfaction - created by being free to work at the highest level of their capability. To attract top talent to the industry, it is important to ensure that the technology that supports all roles is state-of-the-art, digital and integrated‒ the capability of providing real-time access to data as required.
In an Accelerate webinar titled, Driving Digital Client Engagement Through The Entire Caribbean Insurance Value Chain, Sanjay Kaniyar, Partner at McKinsey & Company talks about the value of improving client engagement.
The legacy technology still relied upon by many insurers creates significant challenges to meeting employee and stakeholder expectations. Outdated technology can lead to slow response times, cumbersome workflows, and limited access to essential tools and resources. Employees find themselves frustrated with manual data entry, redundant administrative tasks, and complex navigation systems.
Additionally, outdated commission accounting systems can result in inaccuracies, delays, and difficulties in calculating and processing commissions for agents and brokers. Is there a more significant frustration than not getting paid on time or not receiving the amount you expected?
The industry is also facing a generational shift. The new generation entering the workforce is accustomed to modern technology and streamlined processes. Potential new employees have little interest in learning workarounds and manual processes to get things done. They don’t want to have to learn dead programming languages or how to keep mainframe core systems running. They have no patience for customer service systems that are siloed, data that is hard or impossible to access, or a mountain of paper that must be dealt with to get through the day.
And the problem becomes a potential crisis as the demographic change intensifies. New job seekers turn away from life insurance because it isn’t perceived as a modern, cutting-edge field you can grow into. And even as the average age of an advisor nears 60 and many enter retirement, companies struggle to attract the next generation. Fewer young people are entering the profession, and fewer than 20% stick it out for more than two years.
The part of the answer to reversing this “graying of the workforce” is to improve engagement by crafting enhanced experiences.
What’s Wrong with Life Insurance CX? #
What customers want in a life insurance sales or service experience is well-understood. So why is the industry still lagging when it comes to delivering on those expectations?
The nature of the product #
Insurers are already at a disadvantage when it comes to customer experience due to the inherent nature of the life insurance product itself. In most cases, life insurance products are complex, difficult for a consumer with no experience to understand, and perceived as expensive.
They are also an abstraction in a way--money spent today to offset a loss for somebody else, hopefully, many decades in the future.
And, consider how the unique buying process for life insurance impacts customers. unlike almost every other purchase they make, life insurance requires individuals to qualify for coverage before they can buy. This qualification process, which often involves invasive procedures such as medical examinations and bloodwork, creates unique challenges for insurers in delivering a positive customer experience. Not only can these procedures be anxiety-inducing for individuals, but they are also laborious and time-consuming, requiring significant effort and patience from applicants. When viewed from a customer's POV and from outside the traditions of the industry these procedures clearly create barriers to entry.
Manual processes #
Some stakeholders continue to rely on ad hoc methods and manual spreadsheet-based workflows for important operations such as commission accounting, policy submission tracking, and sales follow-ups. These repetitive tasks are time-consuming, inefficient, and resource intensive. Customers may experience frustration when their inquiries are not promptly addressed due to resource limitations and the dependency on time-consuming manual tasks.
Siloed Data #
Siloed data inhibits collaboration, slows down processes, and hampers seamless customer experiences. It makes it challenging to create a unified view of customers and provide efficient services. Manual processes required for data movement and storage introduce inefficiencies, delays, and errors for distributors managing policy submissions. Additionally, the absence of centralized client data from multiple carriers creates time-consuming tasks for advisors, as they navigate various portals to gather information.
Lack of customer visibility over the underwriting process #
Poorly integrated legacy technology, as well as the lack of streamlined communication and standardized processes among different systems, can make it challenging to provide customers with real-time updates and a clear view of their application's progress. Without visibility into the underwriting process, customers are unable to track the progress of their application, understand potential delays or requirements, or have a clear timeline for policy approval. This lack of transparency can make customers lose trust in the product and feel disconnected from the process.
Insurers still relying on outdated, 20-year-old legacy systems are having a hard time keeping up with increasing customer expectations. Many policies still reside on Policy Administration Systems (PAS) built in the late 1980s and '90s - making some even older than the millennials these companies are targeting. As other industries continue to innovate, customers have come to expect seamless experiences, real-time visibility, and on-demand servicing‒ which insurers cannot deliver from legacy PAS.
During Equisoft’s Driving Digital Client Engagement Through The Entire Insurance Value Chain webinar, we asked attendees: What is the biggest client engagement challenge you’re facing right now?
Counter Resistance to Change #
One of the biggest roadblocks to modernization is resistance to change. This is true across the board, from the executive team choosing to invest in modern technology to the front-line employees who would be interacting with new systems daily. The fear of change stems from the fear of disrupting existing operations, the cost of replacing or upgrading legacy systems, and the challenges associated with data migration. The fear of making mistakes or introducing vulnerabilities can lead to a preference for maintaining the status quo. Moreover, implementing modern technology requires employees to acquire new skills, which introduces a fear their expertise will become obsolete. This resistance to change is prevalent in organizations all over the world but can be even greater in countries where the tech infrastructure is less reliable.
Overcome Legacy Processes #
Legacy processes often result in poor customer experience due to the numerous hoops consumers need to jump through to apply and qualify for coverage. These processes are complex, invasive, outdated, and time-consuming, creating frustration among potential policyholders. The extensive paperwork, lengthy questionnaires, and manual verification procedures are time-consuming and require applicants to divulge personal information, like extensive medical records & blood tests. This contributes to incomplete applications and high drop-out rates, as many individuals end up abandoning the application process.
4 Life Insurance CX Best Practices #
Successfully implementing strategies that address insurance’s unique challenges can be a complex endeavor for insurers.
Snapshot from Equisoft and Forrester’s Life Insurance Digitalized report where Respondents stated that during the next 12 months, their life insurance companies are planning to invest an average of $257,000 on front-end technologies and $287,000 on back-end technologies.
Often carriers are faced with making decisions about how to prioritize projects, when and how to address fundamental data issues, how to create the right organizational structure and how to achieve buy-in from the right parties. Projects often run in parallel and involve both internal and external resources. Those insurers who are most successfully navigating the journey to great CX followed a number of best practices to set the stage for their CX transformation:
Best practice #1: Clearly Define CX Strategy, Plan and Process #
In order to consistently exceed the rising expectations of insurance customers in every interaction across the enterprise, it is essential to adopt a strategic approach towards digital transformation.
Life insurers often fail to fully consider the complete customer experience throughout all aspects of their digital transformation. Even though a life insurer may have implemented a sleek digital interface that is the consumers first point of contact during a sales or service interaction, customers frequently encounter fragmented and manual processes behind the portal that slow down the process and create frustration. Too often, the entire omnichannel experience is not thought through and optimized. So, what begins as a next gen digital journey, is diverted by the need for a phone call or requirements to submit signed physical documents, ultimately ruining the overall experience.
When considering CX transformation, it’s important to look at the big picture in order to ensure total customer engagement. Creating a digital transformation plan aligned with this vision is crucial to success.
Firstly, adopting a customer-first development process and involving customers in the conception and evaluation of new implementations and programs ensures their needs are considered. Secondly, defining a clear CX vision for the next 3-5 years provides a roadmap for success. Setting priorities within the plan allows for focused efforts in addressing different CX issues. Overall, beginning with a greenfield approach to modernization can lead to faster and more efficient transformation‒ but only if those greenfield projects are aligned with the goals and other elements of the overall CX strategy and plan. It’s when transformation or modernization projects are conceived in isolation that insurers fail to see the value they expected.
Best practice #2: Assess your current technology landscape #
Once the overall strategy is agreed upon, the next step is to review the current technology ecosystem, identify gaps that will hinder progress, and define how those gaps can be closed.
This type of audit enables you to most effectively align your technology capabilities with your client engagement goals. When conducting a comprehensive audit of your technology landscape consider the following aspects of your infrastructure and capabilities:
- Policy Administration Systems: Evaluate whether your systems allow for swift product adaptation to meet evolving client requirements effectively.
- API Connectivity: Determine if your policy administration systems support seamless API connections with sales and service front-end tools, enabling smooth data exchange and integration.
- Illustration, eApplication, and Portal Solutions: Assess whether your current solutions for illustration, electronic application, and portals align with your objective of delivering a superior customer experience (CX).
- Accessibility of Client Data: Evaluate the accessibility and availability of your client data. Ensure that the necessary data is easily accessible for analysis and utilization across various touchpoints.
Best practice #3: Find the right balance between human and digital interactions #
The relationship between digital and human interactions should not be seen as an either-or situation; it is a blend of both‒and this reality should be reflected in your CX strategy and plans.
Clients continue to engage in physical interactions and still appreciate the role of advisors and agents, and this fundamental aspect will remain unchanged. However, what becomes important is being able to make a choice between the two—a hybrid approach.
A study conducted by LIMRA/LOMA in collaboration with BCG, found that it is not just the boomers who lean towards in-person collaboration; there has been a rise in preference for a hybrid approach among Gen X customers. Millennials, on the other hand, still value that face-to-face connection with agents and advisors.
In an Accelerate webinar titled, Tackling Your Digital Customer Experience Challenges - Key Strategies For Life Insurance Carriers, Bruno Leduc, AVP Advisor & Wealth at Equisoft explains the value of technology in strengthening human connections.
In order to achieve the right balance between digital and human interactions, an omnichannel approach is crucial. Companies need to find the balance between a high-touch and high-take strategy. The strategy should reflect different levels of product complexity that may require different depths of assistance, levels of underwriting interaction or required claims investigation.
With interactions that are transactional in nature, customers seek quick and effortless execution. For example, customers may prefer convenience and efficiency when it comes to making simple address changes- they don't want to go through the hassle of calling a center and speaking to someone for such a straightforward task. However, as interactions become more intricate, efficiency becomes less important to customers. Instead, they prioritize receiving explanations, educational resources, and empathetic support. Insurers that can integrate the assistance of advisors to educate, motivate, and alleviate frustrations will earn the trust of consumers and create true long-term engagement.
Best practice #4: Unlock the power of your data #
Having real-time access to data is a crucial element to bridging the gap between customer expectations set by other industries, and the current customer experience delivered by insurers. It’s what enables Netflix and Amazon’s hyper-personalized recommendations. Insurers who can effectively unlock the power of data-driven CX and combine that with the efficiency of technology, and genuine human interaction, will be the ones that create the most attractive experiences for consumers.
Despite having accumulated extensive customer data over many years, carriers often face the challenges associated with storing this data in outdated policy administration systems. These legacy systems are typically built on outdated technologies, programming languages, and architectures that are not compatible with modern data access methods.
They often lack standardized interfaces, making it difficult to extract data in a structured and efficient manner, and often use proprietary data formats or non-relational databases, which are not easily accessible by modern tools and technologies.
Because data is housed in a multitude of systems across the enterprise, in everything from ERPs, CRMs, Finance systems to policy admin systems and more, a coordinated company-wide approach to data management is needed.
For organizations to effectively manage their data, it is essential to establish clear ownership structures throughout the organization. As data becomes increasingly vital for companies, its management responsibility must be elevated to higher levels within the organization. Within this framework, teams that span functional areas can collaborate and figure out how to identify and transform the necessary data to make positive CX changes across the entire policy lifecycle.
Technology that delivers enhanced CX #
Foundational technology needed to create superior digital CX #
Every CX transformation plan will address modernizing foundational technologies to enable real-time data access, straight-through app processing, accelerated underwriting and claims. Modern CRMs and needs analysis tools will enhance advisor and client experiences as they interact. And integrations with internal and external solutions and data sources will help create an entire CX eco-system that surrounds and supports clients and all stakeholders.
Back Office Technology that drives improved CX #
To enhance customer experience, streamline operations and facilitate data sharing, it is crucial to modernize and optimize Policy Administration Systems (PAS). A modern PAS enables the implementation of customer-centric solutions that cater to both advisors and end consumers.
Policy Administration System
How Modern Insurance Policy Administration Systems Improve Customer Experience
eApplications and eSignatures eliminate the need for paper-based processes and electronic signatures. They offer a seamless experience for advisors and applicants, providing a straightforward and efficient way to gather all necessary information required for policy approval.
Advisor solutions #
In addition to these enterprise solutions, there are various tools available to enhance the advisor-consumer experience. These include Customer Relationship Management System and Financial Needs Analysis Software.
These powerful tools ensure advisors complete their due diligence during the needs analysis and ensure records are preserved for compliance purposes. This creates a highly personalized experience for the consumer and provides the advisor with a deep understanding of the client’s needs. Powerful CRMS specifically designed for advisors allow them to segment their customer base and implement service and relationship management systems that provide increased value for their clients.
Cloud, APIs and Low Code/No Code #
First is cloud adoption, which offers scalability, security, and speed to market, leveling the playing field for insurers of all sizes. Cloud adoption allows insurers to quickly launch new products and services, resulting in faster response times. This agility translates into an improved CX as insurers can rapidly adapt to market trends and customer demands.
Second, is the use of APIs to integrate applications and systems, enabling real-time data exchange and enhancing insurance experiences for customers, agents, and brokers. APIs enable the integration of both internal and external systems, applications, and data sources, allowing for a unified view of customer information. This integration enhances CX by eliminating data silos, ensuring accurate and consistent information across different touchpoints, and enabling personalized experiences based on a comprehensive understanding of customer needs.
Third are the low code/no code solutions, which allow non-technical users to create solutions and accelerate business processes, leading to innovation and improved customer experiences. Low code/no code solutions empower business users to modify workflows without extensive coding knowledge. This allows insurers to quickly design and deploy new customer-centric services, such as self-service portals, mobile apps, or automated claims processes. This speed of service delivery improves CX by reducing manual processes and enabling customers to access services conveniently.
New technology-driven approaches to improving CX #
A life insurer’s comprehensive CX transformation plan will go beyond the roadmap for building their CX technology foundation and will incorporate new, more advanced approaches to client engagement.
These approaches re-imagine traditional product design, customer interactions and even the core identity or vision of a life insurer. They may include new methods for engaging with customers directly, such as creating an omni-channel experience, gamification or reimagining the value proposition to place greater emphasis on wellness and wellbeing in the present day versus the traditional focus on mortality and morbidity.
New developments in Digital Agent & Customer Self-Service Portals #
The rise of digital advice and self-service portals has transformed the insurance industry, but it's important to recognize that digital transformation doesn't eliminate the need for human advisors. Instead, it has created a new dynamic in which self-service portals can complement and support advisors, much like how advisors rely on their team members or specialized professionals to handle tasks that benefit their clients but fall outside their expertise.
Rather than signaling the demise of agents, self-service portals have the potential to empower agents to enhance their service offerings to clients across the board. This, in turn, allows agents to allocate more time and focus on providing exceptional service to their most valued clients, operating at the highest level of their capabilities.
Portal as legacy system data aggregator #
A significant advantage of some service portals is their ability to aggregate data from various PAS systems and present it in a unified interface. For instance, if a client holds different types of insurance policies (such as life, disability, and critical illness), but each policy is managed through separate legacy PAS systems, accessing a consolidated view of their insurance coverage becomes cumbersome for both the client and the agent. They would typically need to navigate multiple websites, logging in and out, causing inconvenience. These Multi-PAS portals can retrieve data from each system and seamlessly merge it into a single, comprehensive view.
Carriers and advisors with a forward-looking mindset recognize that the future lies in embracing a hybrid model that combines technological advancements for streamlined processes and faster, personalized customer experiences, along with the indispensable element of high-value human advice.
Health and well-being as a new vision for life insurance going forward #
When insurers shift from a mortality and risk focus to a health and well-being support vision for how they interact with clients the relationship between all stakeholders fundamentally changes. With the aid of the Internet of Things (IoT) and wearable devices, insurers provided wellness programs can monitor and coach clients through health-related journeys like weight loss or illness management, or general health improvement. By leveraging these technologies, life insurers can address the challenge of limited client interactions and foster meaningful relationships between advisors and customers that extend beyond discussions solely focused on mortality. This shift allows for a holistic approach to meeting consumer needs that emphasizes not only protection but also empowering individuals to live their lives to the fullest, promoting a better quality of life.
The Role of AI in Improving Customer Experience #
AI will impact all areas of insurance over the next 10 years. Even before the advent of General AI, current models will improve the scope and accuracy of business intelligence and analysis, providing actionable wisdom which will speed and improve decision-making at every level of the enterprise.
The ability to train AI and generate predictive insights from data empowers insurers to provide better customer service and make more informed risk management decisions. For instance, people who process claims were traditionally restricted to managing a single line of business, which limited their flexibility and narrowed their focus solely on the claim itself, rather than the customer. However, the growth of AI and language models such as ChatGPT empowers claim handlers to support multiple lines of business and become more customer centric.
Since AI has the ability to sift through data more efficiently and more accurately, underwriters and claim handlers can focus their energy on higher value tasks that are of higher value. This automation makes the process more customer-centric, speeds up the underwriting and claims processes, and allows insurers to focus on customer-facing activities, that work to improve the overall experience.
Even today, AI apps are able to analyze selfies and accurately predict age, smoking status and even expected lifespan. They are increasing the speed and accuracy of underwriting decisions to the point where purchasing life insurance can, in some cases, be as fast as or even faster than that ‘One-Click’ buying experience on Amazon.
Will AI create a world where all life insurance can be underwritten in an instant? And if so, and that level of service becomes table stakes, how will insurers differentiate themselves?
The answer is likely, through service. Through hyper-personalization of all interactions, but also of the products themselves.
The Role of Embedded Insurance in Improving Customer Experience #
By leveraging embedded insurance, organizations can make the process of purchasing insurance more streamlined and user-friendly. Embedded insurance offers a valuable opportunity to integrate the life insurance product within a broader offering and incorporate insurance products into the overall purchasing experience.
Emerging use cases for embedded life insurance include offers made automatically when: Purchasing a home, making purchases for a new baby, purchasing certain investments, creating university education funds or even taking out a loan.
These types of offers create good experiences because they are relevant and timely‒ in short, they’re hyper-personalized.
The Role of the Metaverse in Improving Customer Experience #
The future extension of embedded insurance and creating lifestyle experiences will be the adoption of augmented reality and the metaverse - where insurance education, personalization and offers can be tagged to things the user is experiencing.
The metaverse offers several advantages, including immersive experiences that help customers understand the value of life insurance through simulations. Taking part in the metaverse will also enable increased customer engagement and touchpoints, allowing for better upselling opportunities and brand awareness.
It may seem far-out today, but we are only one Apple or Google product launch away from the augmented reality solution that will change everything‒much like insurers before June 2007 (some of whom only just optimized for mobile.)
Are you ready for the future of insurance? #
Today, life insurance firms face a pivotal moment in which they can position themselves for future success, close the 102-million-person gap and meet their original mission of helping people in their communities.
Winning, at this critical moment in the industry, is very dependent on an insurer’s ability to build exceptional customer experiences. And that is the chief driver of digital transformation today. Insurers are prioritizing the modernization of policy administration systems and moving away from outdated legacy technology. Their objective is clear: to meet the increasing demands of customers while driving profitability and growth.
Building strong CX foundations across the enterprise will prepare insurers to thrive as markets, demographics and consumer expectations mutate.