There’s been a seismic shift in how people and companies buy and sell services since the beginning of the pandemic. Salesforce data shows that 80% of business-to-business buyers have higher expectations of companies’ digital capabilities in the wake of pandemic-related disruption. In the same study, 78% of business buyers said they used more than one device to complete a single transaction and 73% said they expect connected experiences across channels and departments when they interact with vendors.
When it comes to individual purchasing habits, a recent Accenture report found that 49% of consumers are ready to switch to brands that offer online product advisory and an “everywhere commerce” experience where transactions take place seamlessly across digital channels. In an Accenture survey of the insurance market, 48% of customers said they prefer opening a new account or product on their computer and 34% said they prefer to use a mobile app. Customers—both business leaders and individuals—are seeking digital experiences that are simpler, friendlier and more convenient.
That’s not to say that the insurance agent channel is going to disappear any time soon. As my colleague Scott Stice says, “agents still own the lion’s share of the market and remain indispensable for insurance.” So, it’s still important to make sure agents have the tools they need. But insurers that don’t embrace digital channels as well are leaving money on the table.
Companies with mature digital sales channels have several things in common. They’re able to interact digitally with customers to a high degree, they can fully apply recommendation engines and a customer-tailored web store, and they use tools that generate true customer insights and plan additional, robust investments in data-driven insights. They also have the most standardized and automated sales processes and plan to invest strongly in this area and already have closely cooperating front office entities.
For insurers wanting to build a more effective digital channel, I recommend developing key capabilities, including:
- Digital end-to-end customer engagement. To engage with individuals and small business owners, you’ll need an interconnected set of digital tools and complementary channels for each stage of the sales process.
- Proactive, customized recommendations. Using a recommendation engine can help you lead customers or agents to the right products and coverages, which makes for a better experience and improved customer satisfaction.
- Predictive, data-driven customer insights. Leaders are already using a 360-degree view of the customer, and customer insights using both first- and third-party data for targeting offerings.
- Automated, standardized sales processes. Automated processes mean cost savings and an improved conversion rate by providing consumers with a simple and fast purchasing experience.
- Collaborative front-office operations. Leading companies foster strong cooperation between sales and marketing, the front office and the back office.
Although digital capabilities are now essential for insurers wanting to connect to an increasingly digital consumer, keep in mind that there are generational differences—millennials and younger consumers are more interested in digital offerings, but those aged 55+ are slowly becoming more comfortable.
Shifting customers to digital channels is an opportunity to drive down costs, extend the distribution reach and boost customer satisfaction and engagement. Insurers that don’t actively pursue digital sales channels risk losing customers to those carriers that have mastered an omnichannel customer experience that encompasses the whole journey from first contact through to purchasing and customer service.
In my next post, I’ll be looking at how you can reimagine customer service to drive growth.