The new way of servicing clients through digitisation

With the evolution of digital technologies, insurance brokers are finding new ways to optimise processes, reduce costs and most importantly connect with their customers without detracting from their role of providing risk and insurance related solutions.

Face-to-face interaction has been the de-facto way for insurance brokers to communicate with their clients, consult on risk issues, keeping the status of policies relevant and informing clients of market developments, but it has slowly been changing. 

This way of doing business has, with the spread of the Covid-19 virus and subsequent lockdowns instituted by governments, however spurred the change across the world. 

Social distancing regulations necessitated companies that deal with customers on a one-on-one basis, to quickly adapt and find new ways of effectively handling customer interactions and increase customer experience.

“Insurance Brokers are trying to adapt as quickly as possible by implementing new ways of doing business using technologies available today,” says Richard Hood, Director and Co-Founder of Apio Risk Services.

According to Insight Survey’s latest SA Short-Term Insurance Industry Landscape Report 2019, the South African insurance industry has been relatively slow in terms of digital transformation, but over the last few years some short-term insurance brokers have started to embrace technology to improve internal operations (digitalisation) as well as customer experience. 

With consumers already using internet-based communication tools, such as video calls and instant messaging apps, like Skype and WhatsApp, in their everyday lives to stay in touch with family and friends, insurance brokers have been slow to incorporate these into their communication endeavours.

 “We immediately saw the need to change our communications strategy with clients and quickly incorporated digital channels to service them. We now speak to all our clients through various digital channels, which include all the major instant messaging apps, such as WhatsApp and Voice over Internet Protocol tools (VoIP) tools, like Skype and Zoom, for video interfaces. Our social media platforms are regularly updated to push more important technical content to our clients so they are constantly informed.  It’s not new to our clients as they have been using these communication tools for a while, but it is new to our industry as a communications option to do business,” adds Head of Marketing and Distribution at Apio Risk Services, Caron Whitfield.    

The Internet of Things (IoT) is fast becoming the norm in doing business. Consumers are knowledgeable and living the digital life. Everyone has a mobile phone with a camera and internet access and they are making video calls or communicating through instant messaging applications. A majority prefer it and don’t want to make traditional calls anymore. It is the order of the day and you have to accommodate the needs of your clients or bid them farewell.

A survey conducted amongst 1200 Old Mutual Insure (OMI) and Elite brokers found that 33 percent of brokers surveyed reported that the ‘speed of doing business’ was a challenge in lockdown, while 32 percent reported that ‘staying connected with clients or staff’ presented difficulties. Twenty-two percent of brokers reported that they were struggling with ‘claims response times.’

Says Hood: “We were forced to move from simple digitisation and to harness the full potential of the combined technologies available, as a result of the digital transformation of the industry.” 

With the Covid-19 pandemic and subsequent lockdown regulations the risk landscape has changed.   “As our clients’ business processes and risk profiles changed so quickly, we equally needed to adapt our insurance products and services” adds Hood. 

For example, businesses had fewer employees on duty, less/more stock in storage and In terms of car insurance, individuals worked from home, not having to drive to and from the office, which affected their risk profile – the risk of theft and road accidents decreased. This warranted a ‘usage-based’ insurance model. Insurance policies should therefore be quickly and seamlessly adjusted to reflect the changes. Digitalisation allows for all of this to happen rapidly and effortlessly.

The insurance sector has a way to go to achieve the level of digitisation and optimisation that banks have, but strides are being made. “We are eliminating ordinary paper-driven and time-consuming processes through digitisation. We have developed and improved our Apio Assist app to help our clients to speed up the claims process, quicken emergency assistance and getting in touch with us.” 

The next steps

One of the next steps in Apio’s digitalisation effort is to automate processing to ensure speedy handling and resolution of claims for clients.

“The benefits of what technology offers our business will have a great impact on how clients choose their insurance suppliers going forward, including how advice is given and customer engagement are delivered” Hood concludes.