Tom Super of J.D. Power talks about the company's surprising findings about the insurance industry

Tom Super is vice-president of property and casualty insurance intelligence at J.D. Power.

Tom Super
Tom Super

Are insurance companies meeting customer expectations for digital self-service tools, customer service channels and omni-channel integration?

Super: Insurance companies are fairly strong when it comes to customer service channels. Insurance has always been a very service heavy business and the lessons learned from that have translated into fairly strong digital channel communication, particularly in social, web and mobile, when compared to many other industries.

However, self-service and omnichannel integration have not made the same leap. Processing claims and receiving quotes is still a weakness for all but the very top insurance companies. On top of that, many insurers still haven’t cracked how to integrate agents effectively into their digital channels and they are often managed and viewed as a separate analogue channel.

What are some of the key findings of the J.D. Power 2019 Canada Insurance Digital Experience Report?

Super: We had a couple of major findings, from both a data standpoint and a customer experience standpoint.

The data shows a wide range in competence for insurance companies, the top companies are pushing to compete with the top U.S. insurers, but the bottom handful are way behind.

When talking from a customer experience and digital proficiency perspective, the data supports some of the topics we already talked about: self-service systems are not meeting customer expectations and the service channels, although well managed, aren’t linking up with each other in a way that can produce the best results for the customer and the company.

In our report, we also dive a little into the weeds on some recurring issues we see in user interface design and usability for insurance websites.

Why has the industry fallen behind in this area?

Super: There are a lot of factors that are affecting all of this and many are related to the way insurers interact with customers and potential customers. Retail and big banks have really been the pioneers of digital innovation, that isn’t news to anyone, but those industries interact with each customer frequently.

The primary goal of a retail company is to interact with a customer as much as possible – get their name out there, sell as many products as they can and have their customers convince their friends to buy stuff.

Ironically, the historical goal of both insurance companies and customers has been the opposite of this, with both parties saying: the less I interact the better. Historically, this was so severe that independent agents act as an intermediary, in theory you may have never interacted with your insurer.

In the digital age, that’s not the case. Customers expect to understand and be familiar with the digital footprint of any company they interact with. Many insurers are struggling to completely change their attitude around customer interaction and this makes it hard to innovate. The insurers that are leading are the ones who fully embrace the customer centric view of the future.

What can the industry do to rectify this?

Super: I hit on that in relation to the last question, but primarily, put the customer first. See digital as a means to an end, not just an end. Don’t integrate a chatbot or a Twitter account because everyone else has one, but do it because you understand how it will help your company service your customers and future customers.

What trends do consumers want in the future?

Super: Across all our verticals, J.D. Power is seeing a move towards a need for convenience. In the past, digital has often tried to offer as many options as possible, with customization features and a big slew of choices.

It’s important to meet customers where they want to be met, but we’re finding that the companies that use data to anticipate customer needs are the most successful. Most modern Insur-techs are doing this – they aren’t changing the model for how insurance works, or how it is sold, in reality, most of them aren’t even promising lower prices!

New startups are promising a more convenient and understandable insurance experience.

Tom Super was interviewed by Troy Media business reporter Mario Toneguzzi. He is based in Calgary.

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