3 Simple Steps All Insurers Can Take Right Now to Start Going Digital
Today’s consumer demands digital, and insurance is answering the call. For most insurers, the question of the day is no longer “Should we,” but rather, “How do we get started making the shift to digital?”
What does it mean to go digital?
While a few fully digital insurance companies have cropped up in recent years, you don’t have to go all-out-robot to maintain a competitive foothold in the market. Today, going digital simply refers to the adoption of technologies to improve business operations and provide a more engaging, modern experience for your policyholders.
Why is digitalization so hard for insurance companies?
As one of the last industries to face the digital fork in the road, the need to modernize has become as imperative as it is difficult. Many insurers want to change but they are still dependent upon legacy systems with limited ability to integrate with modern technology platforms.
So, what can insurers do? Does going digital require starting with a full rip-and-replace of legacy systems? If so, it could take years to start reaping the benefits, which means years before customers start getting the digital experience they demand. That’s not going to work, so how can you start going digital today?
Taking the First Steps
There are a few relatively easy digital steps any insurer can take that will impact your operations and increase the quality of customer experience you provide. And best of all, you don’t have to replace your core systems to get started.
1. Cultivate a tech savvy workforce.
When laying the groundwork for your digital strategy, you must first evaluate your company’s current technical acumen. Take strides to fill in any gaps you find, whether by creating new positions or redefining current roles.
a. New Grads
College students and new-graduates often associate traditional insurance jobs with the industry: agent, underwriter, adjuster. Rarely do engineering and IT positions come to mind. Unfortunately, this disconnect between tech and insurance has contributed to what is often called the “talent gap,” as new job-seekers have become less interested in what they (mistakenly) regard as an antiquated industry.
Aim to remedy this misconception by expanding your recruitment efforts. Take advantage of career fairs, popular online job boards, and your own website to emphasize your digital plans. Also, consider updating your HR policies to incorporate new working arrangements that appeal to the next generation of employees, such as flexible hours and remote work options.
b. In-House Talent
Bringing in new skills doesn’t necessarily require new people. Your current staff can be the perfect launch pad to update those traditional roles. The training opportunities in digital insurance are practically boundless. For example, you could:
- Send your staff to industry conferences such as InsureTech Connect.
- Encourage participation in college courses and professional certifications (a tuition reimbursement program is helpful).
- Set up online classes with industry educational leaders, such as The Institutes.
- Give your IT staff plentiful opportunities to keep their skills up-to-date, and provide company-wide trainings on network security.
- Contact software and hardware companies to arrange product-specific training programs.
c. Job Requirements
Most job requisitions prioritize specific industry experience over other qualifications, including technical skills. But if you flip the order, emphasizing tech skills as the primary requirement, you’ll be more likely to get type of candidates you need.
For example, a job-seeker with an information technology background will likely skip right over the “Insurance Professional with IT Experience Needed” job post, dismissing it as irrelevant. However, if your job listing begins with “IT Professional Needed for Insurance Company,” you’ll get more candidates with the digital proficiency your company needs.
Between your seasoned workers who already have a deep understanding of insurance, and new employees with technical expertise, you can strategically work toward your company’s digital directive.
2. Upgrade your online user experience.
Don’t underestimate the power of details. Some simple online tools can make a substantial difference in the user experience for your policyholders, prospects, and staff.
a. Live Chat
The majority of Americans – particularly in generations Z, Millennials, and X – prefer online communication over phone calls. Even Baby Boomers are split between traditional and digital communication channels. If you’re not making yourself available to take questions online, you’re missing a huge opportunity.
Assuming you already have a website (if not, getting a website would be an urgent first step), you can easily add live chat. You will find a variety of options online, each with its own set of features. The most basic live chat solutions plug right into your website, allowing you to reply in real-time to online inquiries, just as you would with a phone call or instant message. For a full-service solution, you can contract with a company that monitors and responds to chat requests 24/7. Added features range from pre-programmed answers to common questions, all the way to complex AI chat bots with the ability to pass the Turing test.
b. Online Forms
All the reasons for live chat also apply to online forms. Even if you’re not ready to convert to an entirely paperless environment, by selecting a few key forms — contact forms, quote requests, applications, payment input forms, First Notice of Loss (FNOL), and Proof of Loss statements, for example — you increase the likelihood of engaging prospects and policyholders who might otherwise hesitate to contact you.
Several different form-builders are available online. You could choose the DIY installation route, or hire a developer to build and embed the forms on your website. In addition to the increased accessibility, with online forms, you’ll also reap several other benefits of reducing paper, such as curtailing clutter, saving energy, and cutting the costs of paper, ink, and postage.
c. Electronic Signatures
Electronic signatures (eSignatures) offer an added level of convenience to those who fill out your forms. While this may seem like an obvious step, you’d be surprised how many online forms still require the user to print it out, sign, and scan it back into the computer before submitting. Implementing a secure eSignature service provides a more complete, positive user experience along with your online forms.
3. Maximize your impact through digital payments.
The payments experience provides a unique opportunity to make a significant impact on your customer experience. And with the right payments provider, you can also avoid the upheaval and enormous cost of replacing your core systems.
a. Why Start With Payments
Premiums payments are the most frequent interaction you have with your policyholders, and claims payments are the “moment-of-truth” in the insurer-insured relationship. By digitizing inbound and outbound payments, policyholders get the same level of convenience and sophistication at nearly every point of contact — including the most critical touch-point (claims) — as they would with a fully digital company.
Additionally, the operational benefits of a digital payments platform built for insurance reduce the laborious, time-consuming tasks (e.g., system integration, reconciliation) associated with industry-agnostic and legacy payments providers, freeing up resources to dedicate to further innovation.
b. Digital Payments Benefits
- Improve customer retention and persistency. Through digital payments, you can offer your customers the kind of engaging experience they’ve become accustomed to in the transactions they make every day. They get to choose their preferred payment method and channels, and you can engage with them in the manner that is both effective and welcomed.
- Reduce admin expenses. Between automated billing, communications, and reporting, you’ll save the time and resources, and ultimately lower your expenses. Also, depending upon your provider and contract, you can save money on processing fees as well, increasing your margins.
- Reduce risk and increase security. If your provider tokenizes the payment data, it comes off your network, thereby reducing the risk of a data breach and protecting your customers from theft. Additionally, a fully compliant payments provider will simplify your own PCI compliance requirements, reducing the burden on your internal processes.
As the first step in your digital journey, digitizing payments will provide the kind of flexibility you need to seamlessly improve your user experience. An insurance-specific digital payments platform should be able to seamlessly integrate into your current core systems, whether old or new, and still be adaptable enough to allow for future expansion as you continue to move forward.
How to Go Digital
As you prepare to go digital, first establish your primary objectives. Are you looking to improve the customer experience? Become more efficient? Grow your company? Next, assess your current resources to determine the logical first steps for your company, identifying which options will provide:
- The biggest potential impact,
- The simplest implementation, and
- The most immediate results.
The vast array of available digital insurance solutions can be overwhelming, and building a strategy is a heavy lift for many insurers who are still trying to sort through the noise. The three steps outlined here — creating a tech-savvy environment, upgrading your online user experience, and implementing digital payments — are all actions you can easily begin today that will take your company to the next level of digital.
Want to learn more about how insurers are using digital technology today? Check out the eBook, The Insurer's Guide to Going Digital.
If you would like to learn more about how digital payments can help your company go digital, contact the insurance payments experts at One Inc today.
As the lead writer at One Inc, Patricia is passionate about helping insurance companies successfully overcome modern industry challenges. She offers news, stories, and tips to help insurance professionals improve sales and retention, enjoy greater operations efficiency, and provide the most value to your policyholders.