Expert panel discussed the ongoing challenges surrounding the age of customers and the use of digital touchpoints in insurance based on key findings from Sollers Consulting’s latest research 

Customers’ age can pose a challenge for insurance firms because they need to have enough agility to cater for the varying choices of different demographics.

This was the overall sentiment arising from a panel discussion at a digital breakfast briefing hosted by operational advisory firm Sollers Consulting and software company Guidewire on 9 February 2023. 

As an example, Andrew Morrell - tribe lead for motor retail at insurer Direct Line Group - explained that young individuals may find themselves purchasing car insurance or a mortgage for the first time, therefore they may prefer to speak to a professional to ensure they understand what they are buying.

“For younger age groups, a lot of the time [it is their] first time [buying] insurance and it’s a complex world,” he said.

Simple and seamless communications

The breakfast briefing promoted new research published by Sollers Consulting that same day. Surveying 800 UK policyholders in 2022’s Q4, the firm’s report centred on how technology is impacting insurance customers.

It found that despite insurance being considered a low touch business model - with communications often only occurring once a year at policy renewal - customers do still expect direct digital interaction through a self-service web portal or mobile app, to access policy information or quotes.

The report revealed, however, that a large proportion of insurance customers’ digital interactions with the sector is through price comparison websites (PCWs).

For Julius Christmas, group chief information officer at insurer Saga, PCWs restrict the market’s ability to innovate because they are so price focused.

Reflecting on these findings, Sasha Jory - chief information officer at broker Hastings Direct - noted that customers just want ”simplicity”, regardless of their age.

She explained: “The problem with insurance is [it is considered] negative purchasing – it’s something you have to do. So, we have got to make it simple and easy for our customers to engage [and get] a good [and] fair price.

“Then, through the lifetime that you have that customer, you service them,

“Often, when you need to contact your insurer, that’s a moment of emotional distress - particularly if you are calling for a claim. So, how do you provide empathy?”

While this empathy can be delivered digitally, Jory added that this is not good enough for some customers - especially in the instance of complex claims.

She continued: “[For complex claims], you need to be there in person and guide them through the process.

”It’s how you manage that customer through that journey. How you make them feel safe and secure, how you support them in their moment of need, but also [enable them] to transact with you in a way that is best suited to them.”

These transactions could be via an app, on the phone, or through a video call - but Jory emphasised that whatever the method, it must be “absolutely seamless”.

Creating these seamless interactions between customers and insurance firms is “a challenge”, however, Jory noted.

She believes this is because insurers’ systems were not built with a digital first approach, where data is joined up and can easily connect with back end systems.

To rectify this, Jory feels that firms needs to move away from legacy systems and better interlink data to provide a more joined up journey and create “real value” for customers.

Morrell added that the industry does historically have a “contact centre first view” or a “products first view”.

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Migrating to digital

Christmas admitted that Saga, which serves customers over the age of 50, is not as good at delivering digital touchpoints as some of its peers, “but as our customers migrate to digital, we need to offer a more personalised experience”.

He said: ”Our customer base [is the] older demographic and when [they] start getting into [their 70s] and beyond, [they are] still very digitally capable but [they lose] a bit of confidence.

“It’s not an inability to undertake [a] task digitally – it’s just actually being 100% sure.”