The insurance industry sells promises–promises that are made and fulfilled by people. Unlike other industries that manufacture and deliver physical products, the value that an insurance customer experiences is a result of the interaction they have with the insurer and the perception of how well the insurer has delivered on the promise of the insurance contract.
For insurance companies, customer communications play a key role in shaping value; therefore, the quality of communications can make or break relationships. Communications that are consistent, repeatable, informative, accurate and effective across multiple channels are the linchpins of exemplary customer service. And to that end, it is essential that insurers integrate customer interactions that involve many different parts of the insurance company, its agents and its partners.
Customer Communications at the Center of Service
Critical components of the interactions that create customer-service value are communications and related documents and correspondence. Forms, documents, letters and associated correspondence that relate to contract provisions, insurance advice or new offers trigger a large share of the interactions that an insurer has with its customers, agents and partners, and can set the tone for a positive interaction. Insurers understand how important it is that these communications not be the cause of unnecessary questions, complaints or negative reactions simply because they are unappealing or hard to understand.
Information Flows across the Insurance Value Chain
Across the insurance value chain, interactions and information flows are occurring between insurers and their prospects, agents, partners and customers. Communications involve correspondence in the form of documents and forms that come into the company from prospects, customers, agents, other distribution channels and third-party partners.
Common types of inbound communications include applications for insurance coverage, letters that relate to the servicing of the contract, payments and accompanying correspondence regarding billing, and a wide variety of correspondence that deals with fulfilling the provisions of the insurance contract should a loss occur.
The bulk of the documents and correspondence that relates to the processing and settlement of claims consists of communications from parties involved in the notification and settlement process—appraisers, adjusters, law-enforcement personnel, witnesses, healthcare providers, lawyers and others. In many cases, the correspondence coming into the company is highly unstructured and varies from interaction to interaction.
Outbound communications are equally numerous and complicated. However, for most insurance products, there is an opportunity to standardize a large share of the components that make up the documents and correspondence. Common types of outbound communications generated during the underwriting and new-business processing cycle include ID cards, welcome kits and insure-to-value letters.
Policy-servicing applications generate documents such as policies, insurance certificates, renewal letters and termination notices. In the billing and collections area, most of the outbound documents involve statements and bills, and many insurers use these communication interactions as an opportunity to incorporate information and promotions. Outbound communications in the claims area for things like damage estimates and coverage denials can usually be developed using a standardized template.
Impacting the Perception of Value
All documents and correspondence, regardless of whether they are delivered electronically or physically, impact the insurance customer’s perception of value and image of the insurance company itself. One instance within a single communication can damage a strong customer relationship. On the other hand, consistent high-quality documents and correspondence can cement existing relationships and nurture new ones.