Too many insurers focusing on process, not experience

There’s a bit of an issue with in the claims industry if this is the case, according to KPMG’s 2013 General Insurance Industry Survey, only 33% of insurers feel their distribution network generates a consistent positive customer experience across all channels. Perhaps even more worryingly, results show 72% of insurers still do not feel their firm’s digital strategy adequately supports building trust with suppliers.

The claims experience is pretty unique; perhaps one of the most emotional many people will go through. When you make a claim, many customers are experiencing a time of trauma. It can be quite difficult to match service levels, procedures and experience. One way to adapt to this is by building trust and rapport between claims representatives and the customer. There are a few different areas that need to be addressed. I recently turned to one of Australia’s leading insurance providers, Allianz, to get some insight.

Engagement and culture

Allianz is continuing to drive employee engagement as a key focus. Allianz was named as the Large General Insurance Company of the Year for the last three years running. Commenting on the most recent award, Niran Peiris, Managing Director said “Allianz’s focus is on delivering a tailored, flexible and competitive service. When it comes to our customers, our philosophy is to deliver a service that builds loyalty, particularly when it comes to delivering on our promise to help them in the event of a claim.”

In addition, the Life Claims area of the business also recently won the 2013 ‘Product of the Year’ at the Australian Banking and Finance’s 2013 Insurance Awards. Praise included ‘The Allianz Life claims experience, which offers customers dedicated specialist Life claims officers ensuring exceptional service.’

Linda Broady, Head of Customer Focus explains the on-going journey across the organisation:

“Developing a strong customer culture and high levels of employee engagement requires sustained focus and attention over the long haul. You can never take your eye off the ball. Creating a truly customer focussed culture is something that only comes from relentless and long term effort and attention, from the top down, and across every part of the organisation. We approach this in a very deliberate way through an ongoing cycle of measurement, action planning, communication, execution and line management accountability.

“Aligned with our focus on building a service culture, creating an engaged workforce is equally important if we are to maintain consistent and exceptional service levels. In addition to driving this via line management accountability, we have Regional Leadership Teams in every geographical location responsible for developing and executing engagement action plans aimed at addressing local opportunities. As a result, our engagement levels continually improve and are well above the Australian norm.”

Recognition is another important lever in creating an engaged workforce and driving service culture. We have local and enterprise recognition programs that recognise and reward customer focussed behaviour, by both internally and externally focussed employees.

“One of our key leadership values is ‘Building mutual trust and feedback’. As part of this we conduct an annual Internal NPS program aimed at generating constructive dialogue and measuring internal service levels. A healthy customer focussed organisation must have a strong service ethic at all levels and across all functions. Employees and managers delivering service to external customers rely on receiving excellent service themselves to be effective.

“In insurance, you get limited opportunities to get it right with the customer, as interactions are typically irregular. Therefore, it’s vitally important we leverage those opportunities when we get them. Having employees who are able to genuinely engage with customers is an essential ingredient in the creation of loyalty and trust. The link between engaged employees, willingness to apply more discretionary effort, and improved service levels is well established, and is central to our beliefs at Allianz.

“It’s widely understood that a claim experience can be a moment of truth for a customer. The circumstances surrounding a claim can often be stressful and associated with heightened emotions. As such, the customer’s experience has the potential to be one of delight or dissatisfaction.

“Employees managing claims need a combination of technical skill and emotional intelligence. Targeting people with a strong service ethic has been a key ingredient in our hiring practices for a number of years, not only within Claims but across the whole organisation. The ability to engage with and have genuine conversations with our customers at every touchpoint and interaction is essential in creating strong relationships.

“The most important time of all is during a claim. Claims specialists need to have a finely tuned antenna to respond with the appropriate amount of empathy and apply good judgement and common sense. For example, a customer calling from a motor accident scene may not be in the right frame of mind to respond to questions that enable us to complete claim lodgement. There are more important issues at stake – for example, is the customer and their passengers OK? Would they simply like reassurance that they can get their car towed away without getting our approval? And, yes, that it’s fine to call back or lodge the claim online or via our Claims app later.”

Nowhere was the importance of having the right people to manage claims more clearly demonstrated than in the case of last year’s NSW Bushfires, where over 200 properties were devastated, and the lives of those impacted were irrevocably changed.

Allianz has an experienced, specially trained team and a robust Event Response Plan that is mobilised into action when these type of catastrophic events occur, including a Mobile Office to ensure we can base our operations wherever they are needed.

However it’s the people that make the difference in times like these. One of our employees involved in working with customers who had been impacted by the NSW Bushfires said, “I noticed [I could] speak with a customer one day and they [hadn’t] retained much of the conversation a few days later. They [were] dealing with the fact that they will need to rebuild their homes and lives and for those doing repairs, they feel guilty for still having a house when others have nothing left. … Some had lost their home, special trinkets, family heirlooms and even pets. All they were left with were memories of their lives. I realised I would have a direct impact on their lives and this was a very powerful and emotional thought for me personally – I formed a connection with all the customers I spoke with”

Build supportive systems

Allianz operates a complex business model, servicing B2B (brokers, motor dealers, mortgage brokers and financial institutions), B2C (direct business) and B2B2C (end customer of intermediaries).

This presents challenges in managing claims, acting on behalf of our partners as well as ourselves.

When a claim is lodged, it is allocated to a Claims Specialist, who is responsible for the smooth and efficient management of the claim. Allianz ensures that other members of the team can assist with enquiries should the customer or a third party (such as repairer or assessor) call when they are unavailable. Linda explains how consistency is ensured:

“We have clear service delivery and behavioural standards and metrics to ensure quality and consistency in execution.

“At the end of the day, the most efficient process is one that suits the customer. If your people practices, systems and processes don’t align with delivering an experience that works for the customer then, not only does it drive a poor experience, it creates inefficiencies and reduces productivity.

One of the areas we’re focusing on right now is end-to-end experience design to ensure we are delivering experiences that fit customer needs and expectations. This starts with understanding the service attributes that define satisfaction at specific touchpoints. Along with redesign, building metrics and methodologies to measure experience from the customer’s perspective and link them to employee accountabilities, is essential to a healthy customer experience ecosystem.

Join Linda Broady during Claims Experience Management 2014 where she will be delivering the Case Study: Embedding a Culture of High Performance: Using Voice of Customer to Reduce Customer Effort and Optimise Service Quality and Consistency.

4 key steps to transform from claims process to claims experience

As the phrase ‘Customer-centricity’ shows no signs of slowing down, I recently caught up with Richard Poole, Head of AustralianSuper account at TAL Life to see what this means for the Claims industry. He explained:

“We’ve taken on a very customer-centric view across our entire business. The customer is at the forefront of everything we do; our processes, our policies and our products and most importantly in all of the personal interactions with our customers, or our service.”

The 4 key streams to focus on:

  1. Build relationships with your customers

Knowing our clients well means we can understand what products they actually want and need. We then also have a better understanding of how can we satisfy that need while still being efficient and cost effective. It’s about looking for the win-win.

  • Building a relationship is relatively straightforward when dealing with our direct customers, because we have a connection with them from day one. From the first contact we establish that relationship directly, and it stays all the way through the life of that customer. Hopefully, for their sake it won’t result in a claim, but if it does, they’ve got a consistent experience with us all the way through.
  • With Retail customers (adviser-driven), the relationship is generally owned by a financial adviser. So we may not get involved with these customers until the time when a claim needs to be made. Our role here is to manage the process as quickly and simply as possible, supporting the client’s relationship with the advisor.
  • It can be harder to build a relationship with our Group customers, because their insurance comes packaged with their superannuation. Similarly to Retail customers, our role generally comes into play when they need to make a claim on their policy. This is when we have the opportunity to build a relationship, by providing support through a difficult time.

Over the last 12 months, we’ve been working on those relationships to identify how we streamline that process and establish strong direct links to the customer.

Ideally, the customer will be able to make one phone call, or submit a claim through one channel, preferably with us, while we can keep all other interested parties informed in real-time.

  1. Clearer communications

The key issue around product is always going to come from the terms and conditions, and the wording of those products.

We’ve come a long way in the last few years to have more plain English in our products, with the days of fine print and ambiguous wording well gone. The key is to make it as easy as possible for the customer to understand exactly what they’re buying, and to help them understand under what circumstances they can make a claim on that policy. It’s also our responsibility to make sure the policy has very clear entry and eligibility rules, to ensure the validity of a claim is unambiguous for claims assessors.

Plain language cuts down on confusion and miscommunication between the customer and ourselves. Everybody knows exactly what’s expected of them, and there shouldn’t be any surprises.

  1. Provide a seamless experience

Wherever possible, our processes are agnostic to the channel. We try to build in as much automation into those processes as we can while retaining the flexibility to ensure we’re managing exceptions and preserving the customer experience.

Standardise as much as you can, keep your claims process system updated and keep refining it. We’re currently on Year One of a three-year project to build our new claims system into the business. It’s bringing in another level of automation, including being able to segment claims into the appropriate areas of complexity.

  1. Add value

The next step in modern claims processing is to begin to add value to the customer to assist their return to wellness. The way we’re doing that now is by really focusing on the customer and their needs very early on. It’s that move from reactive to proactive, and being there right from the start of the journey.