Digitalization of service channels and the customer experience
Nobody will be surprised by the data showing how the pandemic led to an increase in digitalization for many industries and business activities. Now, two years later, although offline activities have returned to a great extent, it can also be said that digital channels have become firmly established, and that users are increasingly demanding more options in their relationships with companies and the services they provide. For MAPFRE, customer service is a key factor, and in addition to having around 5,000 offices providing customer service worldwide, the company relies upon a comprehensive service offer to ensure that all of our customers will have a satisfactory experience, regardless of which channel they decide to use.
According to the last version of the Digital Sentiment Survey report from McKinsey & Company, users are now interacting digitally with twice as many industries as they were before the pandemic.
There are four factors associated with increased digitalization: higher per capita GDP (Sweden, Finland, and the UK stand out in this area), investment in IT, penetration of mobile networks and devices, and the presence of industries with end-to-end digitalization (those with services that can be provided entirely through digital means, such as banks). Based on these factors, we can see that banking, telecommunications, and insurance are Europe’s leading industries in terms of digitalization, with rates of up to 80 and 90%.
According to that same report, digitalization will help companies establish closer connections with their customers, while also reaching more markets and improving their efficiency and decision-making. However, to achieve these benefits, there are three areas that they need to work on: the user experience, use of smartphones, and interactions that will lead to transactions and generate revenue.
Although more and more customers are now using digital channels, to ensure that their experience will be satisfactory companies need to improve the communications and interactions being performed in this way.
Use of digital channels in Spain
In terms of what is known as digital uptake, Spain is now ranked in 7th position in Europe: 73% of consumer interactions are taking place through digital channels, with 55% of these requiring no human assistance and about half with smartphones being used as the preferred device.
The satisfaction level that Spaniards have expressed when using digital channels has decreased by 0.15% compared to last year, with trust being the key factor behind this reduction, mainly because of fear of cyberattacks and personal data privacy concerns.
Digitalization and customer service in the insurance industry
In this context, Mariel Vázquez, Manager of Digital Customer Experience at MAPFRE España, participated in the sixth chapter of the Generación de Oportunidades podcast produced by Spain’s Europa Press website, where she shared some perspectives on digitalization of the user experience in the insurance industry.
The pandemic led many users to interact digitally with an insurance company for the first time, and this was especially true in relation to health care. These interactions turned out to be easier than many users had expected, which helped them overcome their aversion to using digital channels.
“Many insurance customers who had been reluctant to use digital channels had no choice during the pandemic, and they ended up being satisfied with their interactions.”
As new users arrived on these channels, it became apparent that delivering a good customer experience would inspire them to return and use the same digital channel again. MAPFRE made the decision to implement a more complete, simple, intuitive, and streamlined form of digital service, which resulted in a very high level of user uptake.
“With use of digital channels, we have achieved satisfaction levels of over 85% in the Motors line and 96% in the Home line.”
This process also took place across all areas. For example, the company gave customers simple digital tools that they could use to create a personal savings plan. In relation to this, a new version of the MAPFRE Afin app has just been launched. It helps its users make the most of their savings, by letting them use their smartphone to select the most appropriate investments and track the evolution of the products they have contracted. Another recently launched new development is an online simulator that lets users create a customized savings plan that is adapted to their own needs, priorities, and economic situation.
Generally speaking, in almost all industries customers are demonstrating that they are more than ready to adopt digital channels, and they are increasingly counting on companies to provide them with the corresponding responses and tools.
“Without a doubt, uptake of digital channels increases when companies make a strong commitment to forming digital relationships with their customers. For example, MAPFRE lets its customers use digital channels to fill in and submit all of the most commonly used forms, of all types, including those required for their auto, home, and, of course, health insurance policies.”
Insurance companies have evolved, and their interactions with customers are no longer limited to situations where a claim arises. These days, they offer additional services, loyalty programs, and much more, and all of these activities are also carried out in the digital environment. If the relationships developed through those digital channels are simple and fluid, despite the absence of human interaction, customers will progressively use digital channels more, even for procedures that are more complex.
“At MAPFRE we have implemented new digital operations, such as for requesting roadside assistance, calling for a tow truck, having a car part delivered, or solving a home repair problem. Special attention has been given to these customer experiences, to make sure that everything is easy to use and comprehend. Every customer should be able to understand what information they need to send us, and they should feel comfortable with every procedure. Thanks to this approach, we have seen an increase of more than 40% since the year of the pandemic, in terms of the number of customers who are using digital channels for simple procedures.”
Sometimes in the world of insurance there is a sort of technical language barrier, but this can be reduced when access is provided through a digital channel. Interaction can be improved by using contextual help features, along with a transparent process. All of this will help increase the use of digital channels, with users in turn gaining the benefits of freedom and independence. All of this work has resulted in a degree of satisfaction above the average seen in Spain.
The future of digital channels and the customer experience
Although IT investment in Spain has increased by 25% since 2019, the main challenges for digitalization will be those related to the user experience and the interfaces developed for digital channels.
Technology can be a tool for connecting with customers and generating trust. In the insurance industry, hyper-personalization and artificial intelligence will become key aspects for adapting to the needs of customers. Humanizing the process, and developing one-on-one relationships with knowledge of our customers through their data, behaviors, etc., represent tremendous opportunities for closer relationships and more personalized service.
“Getting to know the customer in real time is what will allow us to achieve hyper-personalization for our services and products. Data is now allowing us to adapt to our customers’ needs, whatever they may be, because these days the focus may be more on insuring their mobility instead of their vehicle, or their free time instead of the place where they are.”
Evolution of the industry must go hand-in-hand with adaptation to those unique and personalized needs. It will also involve application of artificial intelligence in areas like, for example, preventing accidents by predicting situations such as extreme weather events, so we can notify our customers about the need to be extra cautious.
“Here at MAPFRE, artificial intelligence is also seen as something we can apply to virtual assistance. We want to reach a point where assisting a customer who has questions can be an experience as similar as possible to one managed through a human contact.”
Trying new things and learning from them, asking customers for feedback and analyzing it, getting to know the customers and adapting to their needs, and also to changes in their lifestyles: these will be the major challenges faced by the insurance industry as its customer relationships become more digitalized.