Are Insurance Customer Service Agents a Dying Breed?

By Megan Delaney

You all know the feeling. You have what you think is a quick question. You tried using Google, the company’s website, an app or Social Media perhaps. But the scope of your question falls somewhat outside of what you can find on your own.

You take a deep breath and dial. You encounter a box of options when all you want to hear is a real person. Instead, the friendly robotic voice on the other end recommends going to the company’s website (most often the place you started in order to get the phone number in the first place).

You may try your hand at a robochat, only to realize it’s more of the same and your unique question or situation can’t be addressed. This dance takes several minutes (sometimes more), some failed attempts of pressing ‘0’ only to be punted back to where you started until you’ve exhausted all options and the interactive recording finally deems you worthy of being placed on hold to speak to an actual human. You can’t help but wonder is this architecture is all part of the design to prevent you from ever getting a live representative?

The friendly automated voice informs you of your wait time and you realize that in that amount of time, you could take a spin class, research and set up your Fantasy Football lineup for the week or take a nap. You’re left with no real time options and resign yourself to never getting those forty-seven minutes of your life back.

Given the complexities of the insurance industry, the average consumer is not an expert, particularly on whether a specific incident would be covered. Although the digital interface has come a long way, this industry is still far from being a completely self-service environment.

With entities such as LemonadeTM disrupting the insurance industry, there is still something to be desired in the form of having your hand held through a complex and sometimes sensitive situation.

I have been entrenched in the property and casualty insurance world nearing two decades and when I had a flood in my home recently, the digital environment simply was lacking. While I appreciate the opportunity to enroll in a policy and initiate a claim all from my handheld, finite questions on what is covered and how to go about a repair vs. a replace in order to still comply with the policy terms can still be a big question mark.

Scheduling a dentist appointment? Paying a bill? Refilling a prescription? Alerts on a delayed flight? Confirming my recurring hair salon visit? I’ll take that digital experience.

Insurance hypotheticals and having peace of mind that I will be able to fulfill on what is required of me to receive reimbursement? Real life person please.

And it seems I am not alone.

A 2019 study completed by LexisNexis confirmed that only one in five consumers prefer self-service claim options. This same study found more than half of customers (57%) with no recent claims said they worried that they might do something wrong during an automated claims process or that system glitches could negatively impact their claim payout (55 percent).

By its nature, insurance typically results from a loss- a car accident, a home fire, a canceled once in a lifetime trip. With these losses also comes stress and emotion. There is no substitute for having someone on the other end of the line comfort you and let you know your next steps so you don’t add insult to injury by not meeting all of the requirements and getting paid.

The conundrum ten years ago was having someone to speak to domestically. Today’s challenge is getting someone to speak to … period.

Digital may be the wave of the future, but if organizations are listening to their consumers, it would be in their best interest to still employ bodies in those chairs, or their first claims experience may be their last as your customer.

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