Ben Bengtson, Senior Vice President, Global Insurance Leader, Cognizant
WhatsApp, WeChat, live chat, Facebook messenger: these are just some of the instant messaging (IM) channels which are no longer solely used for exchanging everyday messages, sending ubiquitous selfies or sharing one’s location. Messaging apps, in particular, are a way for organisations looking for more direct channels to communicate with their customers.
Messaging apps build customer loyalty by providing an interpersonal transaction and demystifying the traditional back office-processing. Effectively, mobile messaging can become the tool of new-age distribution, digital marketing, after-sales service and customer support. In fact, what was first recognised by entrepreneurs as an inexpensive way for businesses to stay connected with their customers has become a medium of choice for some big players. For instance, Dutch insurer Ditzo is partnering with WhatsApp for claims, allowing customers to ask questions about their insurance via the messaging application.
WhatsApp has now also recognised the potential messenger apps have for organisations, announcing it will drop subscription fees for users. It will instead focus on earning revenue by monetising communication between businesses and individuals.
Why has a tool, initially conceived for the general public, become important for business?
For insurers, instant mobile messaging opens a new channel of communication, whilst reducing operational costs and turnaround time. Messaging also improves their marketing, sales and customer service. It can help overcome challenges such as the need to educate and engage with customers and prospects, as well as make distribution channels more efficient by enabling easy dissemination of content and effortless consumption by the target audience.
One example of content awareness is in the personal property segment. The homeowner experiences loss-causing damage, for example from a leak. The ability to integrate a message to the claimant with specific instructions on what to do next such as a video or a set of steps can save millions in further damages.
However, that is not the only reason why messaging applications have become an important business tool. The low-cost nature of instant messaging not only optimises costs for insurers, but also empowers customers. With WeChat’s API, as one example, businesses can build apps that run on its instant messaging platform, allowing them to customise functions according to their needs and perform specialised transactions, such as payment and image verification. Insurers can introduce features such as push notifications with the help of stickers, icons and one-touch payment such as the one introduced by Snapchat.
Mobile messaging can help insurers meet growing consumer demand for a better, more personalised service. With the advent of traditional digital communication channels, customers now have numerous means of contact and support; however, most of these still involve the need to manually record complaints or fill out surveys – a requirement which does not meet today’s standards of convenience customers are expecting.
Furthermore, mobile messaging can be used by insurers as a very effective tool for personal and structured customer support. The inherent non-voice, concise and synchronous nature of communication can help insurers swiftly and effectively address and redress queries and complaints.
Insurance industry is ready for instant messaging adoption
There are many opportunities for insurers to stay connected with customers and create customer loyalty. The industry is buffeted by a variety of business and technology forces, such as social, mobile, analytics and cloud (SMAC), allowing insurers to gather and analyse data for more personalised products and services, making it ripe for instant messaging adoption.
To ensure successful implementation and adoption of IM technologies, insurers should consider a variety of different steps, like assessing available messaging platforms, paying attention to the best choice for hosting apps on the messenger or extending current services to a new channel. Insurers should also set up robust security protocols to meet data security and other compliance needs.
With the steady rise in importance and use of mobile messengers as part of their omni-channel approach to engage with customers, insurers of all sizes, geographies and lines of business will need to adopt messengers as a key channel for sales, service, education and engagement. The time that insurance people knock on your door and provide a personalised service is forever gone. Personalisation is now digital, even in the insurance industry.