If you are a millennial, the idea of a customer service that involves face-to-face interaction with a real, live human being is probably an alien concept. Driven in part by readily accessible WiFi and high speed 4G data connections, the rapid rise of the internet turned after-sales service, help lines, and troubleshooting into a faceless, impersonal, and uncaring void more interested in selling the cheapest service than meeting the actual needs of the client.
Several industries were left in the dust and found themselves scrambling to keep pace with a world that is interconnected albeit one that revels in anonymity. Chief among these is the insurance broker in which part of the appeal had always been an eye-contact level of honesty – the come into your house with a stack of papers and proposals, sit with you in your living room, and emphatic discussion of policies that best serve your lifestyle and financial circumstances type of sincerity.
The 21st century came and with it the demise of the traditional customer service.
A survey in 2016 conducted by Engine, a service design consultancy firm based in the UK, found that “insurance” was not among the top 3 industries with dreadful customer service. That’s not to say that it is much of an upgrade since the same survey still found insurance among the top five with terrible customer service.
Customer-service in the Age of the Internet
Technology and the internet is not the cause of the decline in the quality of customer relations but they are instrumental in highlighting terrible service to a global audience.
Social media sites like Yelp, TripAdvisor, and Glassdoor all provide consumers with a platform to express their reviews, grievances, and complaints to a larger crowd in a very public manner. A decade ago, an unsatisfied customer might find himself alone fighting a hopeless battle against a monolithic corporation. However, social media virtually changed the business landscape and a customer can now harness the power of the internet to express his views. Furthermore, a single post on a social feed can create a snowball effect through shares and views and if sufficient traction is found in turn become, in 21st century parlance, viral.
The customer satisfaction in insurance is good, but not good enough. Read this article.
United Airlines discovered this the hard way. A scandal that involved an overbooked flight, the airline personnel, and an aviation officer that violently dragged a noncompliant passenger off the flight turned into a public relations nightmare for United Airlines after another passenger filmed the entire incident and posted it on Twitter. The single tweet quickly became viral and others began sharing their “horror” stories over the accommodation services, or lack thereof, of United Airline. This prompted UA CEO Oscar Muñoz to issue an emphatic mea culpa along with assurances for a more improved customer service.
We have seen this effect time and again specially with digital sales platform such as Steam, GOG, and Origin. Review bombing is an act in which large group of consumers and users leave negative reviews on a product’s webpage in an attempt to lower their sales or popularity. This occurred much to the detriment of large video game publishers like 2K after it issued a cease and desist order against a widely popular modification tool OpenIV and Bethesda after it introduced paid mods to the game. In all these cases, the internet acted as a kind of watchdog that forced large companies to change some of its more questionable practices.
Fortunately, technology can also be harnessed by tech savvy firms and companies in order to raise the quality and speed of their response to meet the desires of a modern customer base.
For an industry focused on insurance, digital platforms, high-speed internet, and cloud storage technology opened an avenue allowing them access to tools and opportunities needed to address key issues in customer care that the public is most critical of. These areas include length of resolution, communication, and the tedious process of form filling.
Customer-service goes Mobile
With the prevalence of smartphones in our society, insurance agencies and firms have tapped onto this platform in an effort to provide a speedier and more efficient customer service in insurance.
Two of the largest insurers in the United States, Allstate and State Farm, have their own dedicated smartphone apps available in both iOS and Android operating systems.
In particular, Allstate Mobile allows their clients access to everything from policy and claim information to digital ID cards and accident support. Meanwhile, their Quicktrip app provides their customers with the smartest route for all their daily tasks and helps with maintenance reminders all in an effort to keep their clients’ automobiles running smoothly.
Not to be left behind, State Farm also developed the Pocket Agent app which enables users to register an account through their smartphones, view insurance cards, submit a claim, access a State Farm Bank account, and locate a State Farm agent. Other apps also include CarCapture, which makes car shopping easier; Steer Clear, an app designed to help new and young drivers drive safely; and Drive Safe and Save Mobile, which provides customers with discounts on auto insurance premium.
Technology did not eliminate quality customer service, it enhanced it with the efficiency and speed of wireless technology. Wherever you may find yourself as long as you have a smartphone and cellular data service, your customer sales representative is right there with you in your pocket.
But that’s not the best part yet
Remember those days when you had to queue through a line just to air a very minor problem that can probably be fixed in just under 5 minutes? Artificial intelligence can take care of those kinds of problems. The increasing use of virtual assistants, automated processes, and bots means that trivial claims can finally be quickly resolved. This enables customer reps to focus on problems that specifically require a human touch. One company that make extensive usage of all these techniques is schemeserve.com. They’ve been improving these techniques for the last few years as part of their online marketing presence improvement efforts.
Lost a pair of sneakers? A bot can help you with that. Your house is flooded? Then let one of our customer sales representative help you with your problem.
Read about insurance and big data technology revolution:
While the effect of the internet and technology to highlight malpractices in any industry is palpable and far-reaching, it also significantly increased the speed with which companies can address the needs of their clients. At the end of the day, technology is nowhere near replacing the human touch of customer care, it is there to augment and create a more bearable workload.
The dialectic between technology and tradition will continue but there is no mistaking the symbiotic relationship they share.