Brian Coulton is head of sales at Source Insurance
It doesn’t matter whether your customer base is made up of tech savvy first-time buyers and homeowners or technophobes looking to remortgage. It doesn’t matter if you’re looking to target the digital natives that make up Gen Y or the growing number of silver surfers looking to downsize. The common thing that drives them all is that they want their experience with you and the suppliers you work with to be easy and quick and easy.
Technology has transformed the way all customers think and act regardless of whether they’re comfortable with actually buying a product or service online. They want it to be immediate.
Those who are comfortable using technology are far more likely to use their smartphone or tablet to make a purchase. They don’t want to get half way through the process and then realise they can’t finish it or that it’s going to take an age clicking through various pages and ticking boxes. Those who aren’t still want it to be as quick and straightforward as possible even if they’re going into a shop to make a purchase as if they haven’t used the likes of Amazon (unlikely as this may be!), they’ve read about it and want the same experience in-store.
And this same demand for speed and simplicity extends into financial services whether it be getting a mortgage or remortgage or buying insurance cover.
Arguably it’s been easier for customers to buy home insurance online for some time now as opposed to arranging a mortgage, but that’s changing. Automated mortgage advice is now available to UK homeowners through the likes of Trussle, which launched its combination of online advice backed up by real advisers last December, and more recently Habito. Both represent significant steps in the digital evolution of financial advice being far more advanced than simply going online to a comparison site to find the best rate. Both use artificial intelligence so their systems learn from these customer interactions to help improve the speed of service and enable greater automation going forward to further speed up the process.
While using AI-enabled systems may sound like something from The Terminator as well as being complicated and expensive, using technology to smooth the customer journey can be simple and cost effective. Intermediaries such as Horizon Financial Solutions are getting on board using apps to help customers understand the process and giving them tips to help them present a good picture of themselves to prospective lenders. This type of digital triage can help cut out the mundane and isolate the essential issues up front and make face-to-face meetings far more productive, delivering the element of immediacy that today’s customers are demanding.
It may surprise you to learn that the insurance industry – renowned for its lack of innovation and its slow approach to adopt change – is actively exploring the growing need for apps and software to transform the way in which it does business with its customers. There have been a spate of deals and new propositions launched over recent months all designed to attract a new, younger audience as well as offering its more traditional customers news ways of protecting their homes and preventing accidents. Hiscox has partnered with a company called Neos to provide its customers with a 24/7 monitoring service with motion sensors, smoke detectors and HD cameras controlled via an app from next year. Aviva has partnered with HomeServe to offer its customers a smart connected device designed to detect leaks anywhere on the mains water supply in the home to help protect against escape of water damage.
Insurers are also looking at how artificial intelligence could be used. It’s still early days and one insurer has already had Facebook put the brakes put on its app concept to analyse users’ posts and like to determine their risk profile as a driver. However there’s no doubt that the use of artificial intelligence could help insurers assess risk more accurately as they have increasing amounts of data available and more sophisticated learning algorithms to analyse it.
Artificial intelligence could also make the claims process more efficient with robots processing payments, validating information and updating support systems as they’re 100% accurate and can improve cycle times. The thinking is that if robots can carry out the routine systematic jobs more quickly and efficient, human staff have more time to deal with the real nuts and bolts of claims handling and deliver a more personalised service to customers – particularly important on the more distressing claims such as fire and flood.
The use of technology in the financial services sector is gathering pace and like it or not, automated advice and artificial intelligence are both going to become part and parcel of the customer proposition developed by lenders and insurers. I don’t believe that your customers will ever rely 100% on robots to help them make their financial decisions but they are going to increasingly demand a faster, more efficient service. So don’t get left behind – look at how you can tap into the investment the bigger players are making and develop your own ‘add on’ solutions that can help you deliver an even better service to your customers.