StoneRiver Product Marketing
Carriers are still looking for ways to improve customer service through a variety of channels like web portals and mobile apps. There was great interest during the dawn of the Internet to find ways to extend information securely to customers and allow self service. Banks immediately jumped at the opportunity and insurance carriers lagged behind for a variety of reasons including security, legal constraints, complexity of information, and platform limitations. Carriers today are taking the lead and allowing more and more access to information and the ability to enter information about their policy or claim. Our industry has made good progress to go beyond policy quoting. The goal in the end is to enhance customer experience by serving each customer in the manner in which they want to be served.
In the past few weeks we have learned an important lesson in how to use a customer service solution as a means to harm your customers. Two large companies decided to use their services to run up fees and go against the very intent of electronic service. A very large bank announced that it would start to charge a $5 per month convenience fee for using debit cards they issued. Processing debit cards for the bank is much cheaper than handing thousands of checks by an army of people. A similar event happened very recently by a large wireless telephone provider. Paying bills over the Internet or even over the smart phones they sell and service is very, very convenient. So convenient, the wireless company deemed, they decided they should charge a $2 per month fee to cover their service. Odd that a company would want to charge people to pay bills for the service they are providing. And, paying online is far cheaper to the carrier than handling a check.
What the insurance industry can learn from this is that we need to carefully consider what we do for customers. Delivering more and more customer-friendly solutions for information viewing, changing, and payment processing is a great thing for certain customers. Implementing paperless communications is also usually seen as a positive change. And, there are customers who still prefer to talk to a person and receive mail. It all comes down to the sophistication of your backend solutions and how they manage preferences. Too often carriers face the choice of making an all or nothing decision regarding customer service options because their customer management solutions cannot handle preferences. The first choice is to review your business goals and upgrade the systems that manage your customers and your relationship with them. That opens the door to new options to service your customers in the manner they desire.
Of course we can also learn that charging customers a fee for service is not always a good thing. It may be tempting to charge nominal fees for access to information or the ability to pay bills, but your competitors will offer the same services for free. Besides, adding easier ways to service your customers creates goodwill and makes our industry look better than banks, wireless providers, and other industries that people interact with. In the end you are really letting them service themselves through lower-cost channels, thereby lowering your expenses. Carriers need to ask themselves if they are prepared to differentiate themselves through their customer service. Are you?