Information Age Roundtable: Protecting the Digitally Vulnerable in Insurance

A recent Information Age and Callminer roundtable discussed how the insurance sector can protect digitally vulnerable customers.

Companies working within the insurance sector have needed to adapt to evolving client needs during the Covid-19 pandemic. Changes in customer demands have emerged in many different forms, but one in particular is the rise of digitally vulnerable customers. With widespread shutdowns and a move to digital services, the individuals who aren’t capable of, have chosen not to or don’t have the tools to engage with the digital world are being left behind.

The latest roundtable from Information Age, in collaboration with CallMiner, explored how the pandemic has affected digitisation, how insurance providers have driven value from data, and how insurers have aided their employees using tech.

In an increasingly digital world, insurance companies have looked to use data and digital technologies to enhance the customer journey, by implementing omnichannel approaches. However, they also have had to be mindful about transformation moving too fast for more vulnerable members of their customer base.

Impacts of Covid-19

Firstly, the conversation addressed how the Covid-19 outbreak has impacted the sector and forced insurers to innovate and adapt. As insurers and their clients started operating remotely, services within the sector have had to evolve accordingly, prioritising methods that bring digital to the fore.

While the increased speed and efficiency that comes with this has led to improved service that’s suitable for current circumstances, Benedict Ireland, head of experience at Splendid Unlimited, cited the need to clarify how technological advancement can help.

“There’s been a feeling of insecurity in insurance and other sectors,” said Ireland. “The solutions we’re often seeing that can help are very rapid and take a tactical approach to responding to customers’ needs, rather than strategic transformation.

“We’re working with insurers to realise what services can help and making them aware about what changes can be made.”

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For Mark Evans, managing director at Direct Line Group, and his ExCo colleagues, four priorities had to be set out: “Look after our people; look after our customers; keep thinking long-term; and act in the nation’s interest.”

The Direct Line executive went on to explain how the digitisation process was carried out at the company: “We’ve just switched to an agile model across head office, but back in March as we went into lockdown we weren’t quite there, and so it was somewhat more chaotic than a purist version of agile. Nonetheless, it was this pseudo-agile model that helped us through.

“Many people have been forced to use digital for the first time by necessity rather than choice. Hence, we have worked even harder to make it easy for our customers, including launching 116 web releases in the first two months of lockdown,” said Evans.

Phil Scone, director of digital strategy and solutions at Information Services Group (ISG), believes that “agility is about focus” when it comes to innovating within the sector.

“It’s about choosing the most impactful things to do, and within insurance, clients have been surprised about what they are able to do in the space of a month,” said Scone.

“It was a question of ‘what else could you achieve in the following months if you have the right focus, and you cleared the decks’?

“The term ‘operational resilience’ has come up a lot, and this has led to looking at digitising workflows, and helping themselves stand up against future risks such as a Covid 2021 or 2022.”

Meanwhile, Gavin Lillywhite, global account director at Allianz, explained how the pandemic has affected the corporate world: “The pandemic has created a new trust in employees, and executives who I have spoken to have said they couldn’t picture working remotely beforehand.

“The corporate world is a little bit less digital, not all of our staff are happy to jump onto video conferences and present themselves from their homes.”

Lillywhite continued: “What we’ve also found is productivity has improved. For example, I wouldn’t fly out to the US for a meeting, but I can jump on a video call, and you get better productivity that way, as well as getting a better sense of community.”

“Having technology at our disposal has been invaluable, and we can’t really operate effectively without it,” added Samuel Libberton, senior partnership manager at RSA. “We’ve been able to communicate, share information and make decisions from multiple locations, and while video won’t replace face-to-face conversations, it’s meant we can continue working with our partners remotely.”

“Availability and communication are both as important as ever.

Addressing vulnerability

With impacts of the pandemic being discussed, the roundtable then moved on to how insurance companies and their clients have been continuing to drive value and maintain service for the digitally vulnerable.

“We’ve determined that the main segment of the digitally vulnerable is elderly users,” said Nick Rowe, customer success director at CallMiner.

“That’s not to say there aren’t other segments as well. The FCA defined ‘digitally vulnerable’ as those who lack digital skills, but I also think there’s a choice element there.

“There are also connectivity issues to consider in residential areas that don’t have great connectivity. To adapt to all of this, we’ve identified phrases in calls for those who want to stick with talking to people instead of a machine and get paper bills.”

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A way that the digitally vulnerable have been successfully brought along is by increasing accessibility of services while digitising them.

Kelly Ward, sales, marketing and distribution director UKI at AXA Partners, said: “We’ve been looking to slot digitalisation into different parts of the customer claims journey, with the aim of transforming everything from our initial and ongoing interaction with customers, to connecting with our network providers.

“We have enhanced the journey at various customer touchpoints to provide an engaging and informative process. The main challenge in doing so, however, has been finding the right resources to enable the change that we have visualised, and at a scale that we’ve never seen before. We’ve had to think creatively about how we can deliver transformation.

“One recent digital development example, is a change that we have made to our Home Emergency business, offering customers an online claim management option. The solution is agnostic and not an App, which means that those who are digitally vulnerable can be helped by family members to get assistance this way, without any personal data being exchanged.”

Another aspect to be considered is the timeframe that is suitable for an initiative. Stewart Duncan, chief data officer at Superscript, gave his thoughts on the notion that digital transformation will reach a final end state, stating that this is “not the ultimate objective.”.

He explained: “One of the things I’ve learned from the small companies I’ve worked with is that they’ve tended to embrace the idea of continuous change, which is the essence of Agile.

“If you bring that culture to the fore, it means you are constantly adapting.

“This can be exceedingly hard for the people working in the company, as there is a mismatch between being comfortable with what they are doing, and things changing around them. It’s important to give them the skills to cope and thrive like that.”

A vital aspect of offering services that are suitable for the customer on a case-by-case basis, without risking alienation, is correctly determining whether a client is having trouble getting used to the updated capabilities.

When addressing how exactly to identify a vulnerable customer, Diane Leung, conversion rate optimisation manager at Cardif Pinnacle, said: “Covid-19 may have accelerated digitalisation, but the customer may not necessarily be ready for a certain technology.

“We need to understand how customers’ behaviour change through time, particularly how they react to new technology, and look into how technologies can help the insurance industry.

“It’s a collaborative process involving all industries, and not just insurance.”

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Driving actionable insight

The final talking point of the roundtable referred to how insurers are driving actionable insight from their data. This requires a strong, clear strategy that is planned out and promotes efficiency.

Frank Sherlock, general manager and vice-president of international at CallMiner, said: “If we think about the structured data we provide from customer interactions across multiple channels, we are increasingly seeing a need to combine this data with other data sources, such as predictive modelling and knowledge management systems.

“When talking to chief data officers, we want to expand this data with an open API capability from day one, so it can be used elsewhere.

“Our clients are driving lots of benefits by giving the data science team more insight into details of these customer interactions, and the more data sources that are combined, the better the decisions you can make.”

Sabine VanderLinden, CEO and managing director of Alchemy Crew, concluded: “To have an effective data strategy, clarity is needed around what problems need to be solved. Companies need to be clear about innovation techniques, which require looking at the customer markets first.

“Looking at business models and investment patterns can become an interesting way to drive growth-led insights. Also, a marketing-led approach to experimentation, such as those used in big tech, can help evaluate and confirm customer needs faster.

“Then, we can start looking at what data sources are needed, and in every piece of work we are doing now, we see that external data sources must be aligned back to the work’s findings. This also means to decide as to whether to build, partner or acquire growth ventures.”

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Aaron Hurst

Aaron Hurst is Information Age's senior reporter, providing news and features around the hottest trends across the tech industry.