Customer Service as a Source for Growth – What you don’t know can hurt you!!

In the insurance industry, customer service is one of the key areas that can be used as a source of growth. Due to industry regulation and product standardization, superior service is vital to customer retention and company growth. But how, specifically, can insurance companies use customer service to grow?

Among the multiple customer service strategies for growth are differentiation, cross-selling, retention/customer loyalty, and relationship-building via external channels such as banks.

My more than 20 years of experience working for a Fortune 500 insurance company has revealed that most firms focus on differentiation, while failing to capitalize on cross-selling and retention opportunities.

Why is this? Most times it’s because insurance companies simply don’t have the technologies in place to give them a holistic view of their customers. Their customer data is kept in silos that are specific to each type of policy they own, with no cross-referencing between the various products. Imagine if this weren’t the case. For example, a customer with a renter’s policy calls to change her address on her auto insurance policy because she has bought a home. If the customer service representative had a holistic view of her information, he would see that this is the perfect time to offer her a homeowner’s policy, which could save the company from losing her renter’s policy. Or perhaps the CSR would see that the reason she had a renter’s policy is because she recently had a total loss fire claim on her homeowner’s policy, thus he could extend sympathies and comments that would personalize the interaction and build customer loyalty.

Equally vital to a holistic view of customer data, is having a consolidated view of all the various communications a customer has had with the company – from phone calls, letters, and faxes, to emails and Web chats. So taking a similar scenario as the one above, let’s say the insurance company’s billing department has mailed the policy holder a past due notice on her rental policy. She has emailed the company notifying them that she wants to cancel her rental policy because she has bought a house. Again, the ability for the CSR to access all these communications from a single view enables him to proactively offer her a homeowner’s policy.

Having a complete view of customer communications also gives insurance companies insight into potential service issues. For instance, what if a customer had noted that his preferred method of communication with the company was via email and Web chat? However, following one Web chat, this customer calls five times within three days to get his issue resolved. Why did this customer resort to a non-preferred method of communication, and why so many calls in such a short timeframe? Was there a breakdown in customer service during the initial Web chat, and/or in the first call, or perhaps a breakdown in the business process itself? By having a single view of all customer communications, a CSR can more quickly identify the root of the problem.

In addition, a consolidated view across communications channels enables insurance companies to generate customer contact statistics and conduct analysis and trending on them. Interestingly, most common statistics used to evaluate customer service are abandonment rates, average speed to answer, and average handle times. If this is what the rest of the industry is measuring, imagine how an insurance company could differentiate itself by having its finger on the pulse of customer pain points instead?

Having a holistic view of customer data, along with a consolidated view of customer communications regardless the type, enables insurance companies to more effectively monitor and analyze customer behavior and feedback for improved cross-selling and retention, which can result in a significant growth advantage. Without these capabilities, well, just remember: what you don’t know can hurt you!

To learn more about incorporating a holistic communications strategy for improved customer service check out our practical guide, “Holistic Customer Communications Management: Building Profitable Relationships in Insurance.” You can also listen to the associated webcast.

–          Janet Thalacker, Internal Consultant, Insurance Practice

Janet Thalacker

Janet Thalacker

I am currently a strategic business consultant for Interactive Intelligence. My role is to review an organization’s business practices and tools, to promote the awareness of new technologies, and demonstrate how new functionality, processes, and applications could increase customer satisfaction and employee productivity. My career path includes over 20 years of experience working for a Fortune 500 insurance company. My experience includes work with automatic call distribution (ACD), self-service applications, quality monitoring, workforce management, multi-channel communications platforms, knowledge management, and contact management. I am a very passionate person, enjoy what I do, and am motivated to help others and make a difference in my work and in my personal life. I enjoy music, reading, good friends and laughter. I value my family and friends, and cherish time with them.