Human contact still reigns supreme for customer service

Legal | Reports

Written by Oke Eleazu, Chief Operating Officer, Bought By Many

Call centres are an integral part of the insurance industry; policies can be complicated and many people prefer to chat through their options on the phone with an expert. But this is often ignored by insurers when it comes to customer service.

Research from Consumer Intelligence shows more than 20% of motor insurance customers buy over the phone. At Bought By Many we see a similar proportion of pet insurance customers buying through our call centre.

And there’s a surprising appetite for phone contact among younger customers. Consumer Intelligence says more than a quarter of young drivers bought their car insurance over the phone. The only age group with a higher proportion of car insurance call centre sales is over 65s.

Frustratingly, it also reports, “we are still seeing some examples through our telephone mystery shopping services of brands being ill prepared to deliver for customers over the phone”.

Call centres are about to undergo mass change though, with many companies looking to AI to improve efficiency and boost sales.

A recent research report on contact centres found UK insurance companies expect to make significant investments in AI-enabled web chat, automated customer identification and automated speech recognition in the next two years, and it’s anticipated that almost 46,000 UK jobs in customer support will disappear entirely by 2021.

While AI can benefit businesses, many bosses are being blinded by the potential and are failing to ask whether it will improve customer experience.

Most of us have dealt with automated customer service and despite advances in technology it’s always apparent you’re speaking to a machine and is usually frustrating to do so.

These interactions dictate many customers’ image of your company and in a time where trust in brands is as hotly debated as ever it’s crucial that customers feel good about the service they’re receiving. Global research by Pega found that just 35% of consumers feel comfortable with businesses using artificial intelligence to interact with them.

Meanwhile, there are many aspects of a human-centric approach with well-trained staff that can’t be replicated by machine learning or AI.

A human can immediately identify what a call is about without the consumer having to go through a screening menu. At Bought By Many the instant awareness and adaptability of our human call handlers increases efficiency by allowing us to adopt a targeted approach to converting callers who are looking to buy or helping those who have an issue with an existing policy.

We do this without using a call script, which means investing in training so staff know our policies inside out. But it’s not just about technical detail, our customer service team can empathise and chat with consumers, they share stories about their own pets and reassure people whose pets are ill.

Customers love this human approach. Our Net Promoter Score is over 70, whereas the pet insurance average is under 20, and we have received over 5,000 5-star reviews in just over a year.

This means customers are more likely renew their cover and recommend our service to family and friends.

There is room for AI and automated customer service in insurance. US content insurer Lemonade is doing great work with AI-supported claims and a frictionless app where people can buy cover. But it’s more effective when covering objects with a fixed value with a relatively straightforward product. More complex and emotional purchases, such as pet insurance, need a human touchpoint.

AI can also be used to answer common insurance queries – ‘what is an excess?’ – before the need for human intervention. Another solution is to limit questions in the first place by eliminating industry jargon from the customer journey. Companies can do this by acknowledging how real people use their service rather than turning to a machine for help.

Bought By Many is a human company but we have sophisticated tech behind the scenes that is making insurance better for consumers. Our online experience is designed to be as seamless as possible to make it easy for consumers to get a quote, understand their policy and use it at the click of a button.

But like many other industries, people inevitably need to ask about how our service works for their personal circumstances. In these cases we know having a human on the end of the phone works best for our customers and business.

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