Many Insurers Struggle with Mobile Mindset

Four leading consultants take on the question of improving the customer experience for mobile users.

The insurance world was waiting forever for the “killer app” that would make mobile technology worthwhile for their business when what they were really waiting for was the right piece of hardware—whether it be a smartphone or a tablet—that made mobile what it has now become.

We asked four leading insurance industry analysts and consultants to respond to a single question:

What steps do carriers need to improve customer experience via mobile technology?

Taking part in this discussion are Mark Breading, partner with Strategy Meets Action; Rod Travers, executive vice president of Robert E. Nolan Co.; Frank Petersmark, CIO advocate for X by 2; and Chad Hersh, partner with Novarica.

Click below to see what each of them have to say about the challenges insurers face in devising a mobile strategy that will entice new customers and help retain existing customers. 

Mark Breading, partner, Strategy Meets Action

Insurers should consider three factors in creating a great mobile customer experience.

First, insurers should think interaction instead of transaction. Insurers are used to designing transactions to capture the information they need to support transactions. With mobile, insurers should design from the customer perspective to make the interaction easy and fun.

Second, insurers should design based on a mobile mindset—not a PC mindset. The unique touch-based and voice-based interaction options of mobile devices should be optimized.

Finally, advanced technologies such as mobile imaging, social media, and speech recognition and synthesis should be incorporated into mobile apps.

Mobile technologies are already having an impact on the customer experience in insurance, but insurers that embrace these three dimensions of mobile app design have the opportunity to revolutionize the way insurers interact with their customers.

Rod Travers, executive vice president, Robert E. Nolan Company

Companies of all kinds are pushing mobile functionality to customers. Retail, banking, healthcare, and travel are among the most popular. Customers are dealing with a lot coming at them all at once.  Here are a few ideas for improving your customers’ mobile experiences:

Integrate: Customers deal with your Website, your call center, maybe an agent, and now mobile technology. Make sure your service delivery model and your mobile technology management framework define how these resources work together and are consistent.

Simplify: Provide essential functionality, but not the kitchen sink. For example, provide quick access to account information, premium payment, first notice of loss, claim status, etc. Tailor functionality according to the platform (e.g., smartphone vs. tablet) and provide one-touch access to voice resources that allow the customer to effortlessly transition from mobile to voice support.

Instill Confidence: Make information security and privacy a top priority, and make that commitment clear to your customers. They should not perceive risk in using your mobile functionality.

Ask the Customer What They Want: Some of the best ideas come from customers.

Frank Petersmark, CIO advocate, X by 2

Many carriers have succumbed to the mobile tsunami by providing their customers and potential customers with access to information via mobile technologies and devices.  While this is a welcome move toward the millennial generation, once these customers experience the provided solutions, they are generally left a bit underwhelmed. 

The reason for this is that many carriers make the mistake of simply transferring their current customer service practices to a mobile platform. Rather than doing this, carriers need to fundamentally rethink their customer service delivery models for the mobile platform. 

Thinking through the following steps would be a good start:   

  • Focus on customer experience by understanding how customers want to consume information—anywhere, anytime, anyway.
  • Actively solicit customer feedback on how to improve the experience and act upon that feedback. 
  • Consistently introduce incremental and value-additive apps and features to your mobile channel—that helps to create the experience that customers seek.
  • Be prepared and proactive in dealing with negative comments some customers will inevitably have about their experience—actively monitor social media   platforms for those comments as a way to stay in front of any negative trends about you.
  •    Have employees or consultants whose job is to focus solely on customer experience, and who have the socio-cultural background to understand and communicate the customer’s point of view.  

Of course all of this assumes that a carrier has their data and development houses in order, and has taken the necessary steps to implement or otherwise obtain the required infrastructure and platforms needed to facilitate mobile technologies.

Chad Hersh, partner, Novarica

A handful of carriers have developed innovative mobile solutions that drive customer convenience and have even influenced legislation.  However, many others still lag far behind.

The obvious leaders in mobile technology have been direct writers, some service-focused carriers with their claims solutions, and some niches where mobility is key (such as truckers).

Standouts like Geico, Progressive, and USAA for auto, Great American for over-the-road truck insurance, and a number of carriers whose claims solutions go well beyond a simple first notice of loss form have little to worry about. However, most agency writers have tried to go “pseudo-direct,” in which they try to behave like a direct writer without alienating agents, have struggled to find that balance, and the results have been less than ideal. 

A number of large carriers have attempted to simply drop a mobile-friendly version of their Websites into the part of their app that involves anything transactional, solving security and cross-platform issues all at once.  However, rather than achieve this, the apps end up feeling thrown together and incomplete as they have not been optimized to different devices and platforms (something which is entirely possible, but requires deeper skill sets, more time, and greater costs).

The difference between the mobile experience for different divisions of carriers varies widely. And if you have, say, an iPad and an Android phone,don’t count on having similar capabilities across platforms; many carriers are focusing on iOS first, then Android and other platforms as the resources allow—the right strategy if you face limited resources.

Carriers should keep in mind that consumers frequently research who allows you to take and upload pictures right from an accident scene, who allows you to create and email an inventory of your home and possessions, who sends mobile weather alerts to warn of things like ice or hail, and who is really just redirecting you to a half-baked mobile website. 

Carriers need to catch up to the leaders in mobility, and leaders need to focus on cross-channel (both distribution channel and mobile channel) consistency in order to even begin to play catch up with other industries.


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