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Channels of electronic communication between insurers and their customers – German market.
May 05, 2020 electronic channel, german market , Article , Digital, Insurance
By Marcin Pabiś

Building positive and solid relations with the customers is very important for all insurers, as regards creating competitive advantages. Customers’ loyalty is almost priceless; according to many estimations, winning a new client might be many times more expensive than retaining the existing one. On the other hand, customers are often willing to change insurance companies due to inconveniences, which they might potentially experience, when contacting the insurer. It is all the more important in the view of the fact, that a typical customer contacts their carrier a few times a year on average.

That’s why developing the right processes is so important, as they will facilitate an efficient communication with the customers. If those processes are to work properly, one has to plan and implement various points of contact, through which a client (or a prospect) can obtain the necessary information, get in touch with the insurer’s employee or an agent and send the documents.

One of the most important points of this kind is the website, an insurer’s business card of sorts. It should be clear enough for a user to easily find the elements, necessary to build a personal User (or Customer) Experience.

In recent years, the Internet has become more significant as a communication channel; websites are more and more elaborate, while also more user-friendly. Equally important as the content is the possibility to create an advantageous User Experience, that is all the impressions the user gets while using the product (in this case, the website).

For the benefit of this article, five websites of leading insurers active on the German market, have been reviewed. The analysis included an expert evaluation of UX as regards the website’s clarity, easiness to find the communication channels as well as access to the modern communication channels, such as online forms, chatbots, virtual consultants, and more.

The analysis focused on evaluating how easy it is to find elements on the website, directing to the points of contact and their place on the map of the website; in other words, a number of “clicks” necessary to go to the right contact page.

Generally speaking, the analysed websites are of high quality. They are clear and it is not difficult to find the right subpages about particular products, options to report a claim, etc.

When it comes to the elements connected to the points of contact, the websites also scored very highly. On all 5 evaluated Internet pages, it was easy and intuitive to find points of contact within seconds. It did not require going through many subpages.

Naturally, the elements with the above information were located in various places, from a clear, separate section on the main page, including bookmarks “call us”, “write to us”, “report a claim”, “find an intermediary”, to single objects with just a helpline number or a link to a separate contact page.

When it comes to the communication channels available on the main page:

  1. all 5 insurers display a telephone number, easily accessible from the main page; at the same time, it seems that for as many as 4 of them, it is a preferred means of contact, as it is highlighted one way or another,
  2. additionally, one insurer gives you an option to leave your data to request a call-back,
  3. on each website there is an option to easily find an intermediary or an insurance advisor,
  4. 3 out of 5 insurers make it possible to move from the main page to the page where you can set up a client account,
  5. there was only one website with the option to use live-chat,
  6. also just one insurer provides an online form which you can use to ask questions about products.

When it comes to reporting a claim:

  1. all 5 insurers make a phone number available (as one “main” or a dedicated number),
  2. 4 out of 5 insurers make it possible to report a claim online: the same solution varies in sophistication, from simple forms to dedicated subpages with an extensive UI.

The review of the above webpages leads me to the following conclusions:

  1. it seems that the majority of insurers prefer a more traditional contact, that is via the helpline. This is evidenced by highlighting phone numbers compared to other communication channels,
  2. an agent is still a very important communication channel on the German market. It is demonstrated by strong emphasis on the functionalities which make it possible for a customer to find an agent,
  3. it should also be commended that as many as three insurers make it possible to set up a client account. Due to the limited scope of the review, analysing the functionality of the accounts was not possible; nevertheless, it seems that it is a very effective tool of communication with a client and building his or her loyalty,
  4. disappointingly, only one insurer provides the live-chat option (or just one made it possible to easily find it on their website); only one insurer has an online form for a client to ask a general inquiry about products,
  5. interestingly enough, I have not identified any elements which would facilitate online sales or direct to the services with such option, on any of the websites,
  6. another advantage was that almost all insurers were ready to process an online claim. However, due to a limited scope of the analysis, it is impossible to review the process of handling such a claim and how different is it from a “traditional” one, initiated by reporting a claim on the phone.

What I would consider a disadvantage, on the other hand, is a limited capacity for the clients on the German market to use modern communication channels, most importantly the solutions facilitating online communication directly through the website or live-chats (including chatbots). It is a little surprising, as those communication channels help reduce costs of employment for an insurer (fewer operators of the helpline, more options for specialist positions), and make it easier to track the activity of clients and the information they provide in order to improve the quality of services. Analysing the text data left in the chats or an online form is much easier and less time-consuming than analysing recordings of the calls with clients.

Of course, one should take into consideration that the channels made available by insurers, depend to a great extent on the abilities of their IT ecosystems. Which would implicate that dependence on more traditional channels is a result of technological limitations and inability to integrate multiple IT systems, necessary for a comprehensive and multichannel communication.

Incredibly important is proper modelling of business processes as well as creating the right digital ecosystem, which will ensure an efficient client service with a positive impression after contacting an insurer. One can imagine a number of such potential processes.

For example, even when providing the most traditional communication channel with a client, which is the above-mentioned helpline, the insurer should secure the following:

  1. proper technical infrastructure, which will seamlessly service each incoming call,
  2. processes and procedures for an event causing significant process load (like a hurricane or a flood, generating many claims being reported in a short period),
  3. necessary IT back office for the helpline operators, which makes it possible to:
  4. quickly train operators as regards their scope of duties,
  5. efficiently identify a client,
  6. access to the data, which will make it possible for the operators to service a client (with the caveat, that the access should be limited to the necessary data),
  7. access to database and support of the so-called second line, in the cases outside the operators’ competences or particularly complicated.

When it comes to designing an online service, where a client fills in the data directly on the website, e.g., when reporting a claim, important, among other things, are:

  1. creating a clear form, which will include fields with unambiguous meaning for the client, where the key fields are subject to validation,
  2. ensuring the right level of user experience, so that using the service is convenient to the client, doesn’t take too much time and doesn’t generate unnecessary errors and problems (which might prompt him/her to give up on the service and opt for the helpline, for example)
  3. ensuring proper integrations between the website, where the data is entered and a core system, where it is finally transferred (e.g., a claim centre, so that one can report a claim through a form, a CRM system in case of a sales contact);
  4. building a process, which will ensure a comprehensive client service, including the necessary communication with him/her (e.g., considering who, when and with what information contacts the client).

Naturally, the above conclusions and observations merely indicate an issue – developing a properly working business process requires cooperation of specialists from many areas: analytics, who will collect the business requirements, taking into consideration all stakeholders, design the processes and then test how they work; IT engineers and architects, who will make sure the necessary software is implemented. And let’s not forget about the UX specialists, who are responsible for designing a user-friendly front-end.

Therefore, it seems that it would be reasonable for the insurer to use the help of an external partner, who thanks to their experience gathered throughout many projects on various markets, in cooperation with leading providers of the software, dedicated to the insurance industry, is able to offer, design and implement the best possible solution on the market.


Author: Marcin Pabiś, Consultant at Sollers Consulting

Marcin has extensive experience in the insurance industry; conducted multiple projects in areas of claims handling, product management, compliance. In Sollers Consulting Marcin is responsible for developing products in R&D.