The generational divide. Despite advances in technology, consumers still expect companies they do business with to offer easy, digital access while also providing a personal touch. (Photo: Shutterstock)

Auto insurance carriers are increasingly using automation to be more efficient, reduce costs and improve their competitive edge through better customer service. How does this push toward automation align with customers’ needs?

As AI and voice assistants increasingly become part of everyone’s daily lives, it’s understandable that insurers might anticipate that all of their customers will embrace automation and self-service at some point. However, consumers still expect the companies they do business with to offer easy digital access to products while also providing a personal touch.

According to the latest LexisNexis Future of Claims, carriers have been steadily moving toward a more automated claims process, but have not completely abandoned traditional claims handling methods. The study found that generational differences skew preferences significantly when it comes to the claims process. While millennials and Gen-X prefer more self-service options, baby boomers and older generations are less open to utilizing technology.

As a result, demand from consumers for self-service options is still low overall. While a sizeable portion of consumers say they are fairly comfortable with the idea of automated claims processing, only 17% are very comfortable with automated processing. Not surprisingly, tech-savvy millennials have higher comfort levels (24%) than other groups.

They also have complaints. A sizeable group of millennials who’ve submitted a claim through a carrier’s app in the past four years felt they were asked too many questions, signaling the need for automation that streamlines the information gathering process, such as prefill solutions. If carriers can simplify their self-service app to a three- or four-click process for simple claims, then adoption and customer satisfaction is expected to improve significantly.

Overcoming fears

Older generations may not be demanding automation because they value human interaction, and they may not understand how automation processes can benefit them. They tend to be complacent about insurance and aren’t necessarily looking for innovation.

The study also found that many customers fear automation and potential system “glitches” that could negatively affect their claim. They also fear losing a human to guide them through the process, and the absence of human oversight to check for accuracy.

To overcome these fears, carriers should offer consumers the option to access a live representative — at least for the pre-claim and FNOL stages — that consumers identify as the stages where they most want to talk with a real person. Live chat or video chat options can accomplish this. Because empathy has a strong impact on customer satisfaction levels, representatives who interact with customers should receive proper training and their interactions monitored and measured for effectiveness. Carriers should also tailor their messaging toward easing the fears of older consumers and promoting the customer benefits of automated processing.

Despite resistance from some customers, the current demographic shift will continue to move automation forward. Younger groups value technology-related attributes and the availability of multiple contact methods like mobile apps and website interactions. Given these preferences and younger generations growing up with technology, it’s reasonable to assume consumers will seek self-service options even more in the future.

As this occurs, cost reductions will remain a key automation driver, and customer experience and retention will rise in importance ― particularly with younger customers who tend to exhibit less brand loyalty than previous generations.

The balancing act

Automation and self-service in claims will require a balancing act in the short-term. Research shows a strong alignment between carrier practices and consumer desires, with room to extend automation for greater mutual benefit ― as long as carriers can maintain an empathic, personal touch with their customers.

Bill Brower (william.brower@lexisnexisrisk.com) is vice president, product management, claims for LexisNexis Risk Solutions.

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