Lisa Feely explains how digital migration has changed consumer behaviour in all walks of life – and how Friends First has reacted.
The need for life assurance has not changed. It remains vitally important to ensure that you provide for the financial future of both you and your dependants. Whether this is ensuring that you have the funds to benefit from the retirement you deserve, or income provision through an income protection plan should you be unable to work due to illness or injury, or providing cover for your family should you die, investing time in planning financial security is a must.
However, what is changing dramatically is the influence of the digital world on consumer behaviours in all walks of life, including life assurance. Of particular interest for anyone in the business of sales and customer services are the immense changes that have occurred in the purchasing habits of consumers.
The influence that new digital technology and innovations have on how we live our lives cannot be underestimated, and there is an increasing demand to be able to do all things ‘online’ or through a digital channel.
Not only is there now far more product choice, but how consumers research and make a selection has changed. For financial services products, although many still rely on the recommendations of family and friends and advice from a financial broker, the majority of people will also do preparatory research aided by technology before making a decision. In addition, there is a higher expectation of access to added-value post-purchase services.
The influence that new digital technology and innovations have on how we live our lives cannot be underestimated
This change in consumer behaviour must be recognised by all businesses as a key challenge, and acted upon in order for them to remain relevant. However, unlike a new start-up that can decide that digital is its only or primary channel, there is a transition period in many more traditional industries – similar to ourselves in the life assurance sector – whereby both digital and non-digital methods of operating and providing services to our customers should be offered.
Insurance companies, like many other industries, must respond by providing services in line with changing customer expectations.
It is widely acknowledged that customer expectations are rising. Anytime-anywhere service is a standard requirement in the current age. Customers want to be spoken to in simple, jargon-free language, on their own terms, and expect fast resolutions to their queries or issues. Increasingly, customers wish to be remembered and not to have to repeat, call back, wait on hold or be transferred.
Friends First has responded to this changing and dynamic environment in a number of different ways.
RESPONDING TO THE CHALLENGE
As part of a wider digital development programme we have looked at a number of areas in relation to our customers and how we can better meet their expectations and needs. A basic requirement is for an immediate and instant access to information online through our consumer, financial broker and end-customer websites.
Customers want to be spoken to in simple, jargon-free language, on their own terms, and expect fast resolutions to their queries or issues
This starts with a plain-English approach to company and product information on our websites for pre-sale research on account and policy information online. Consumers are used to being connected 24/7 and we need to make sure that they can carry out their business at whatever time suits them from their device of choice.
Our responsive websites include customer guides and videos along with testimonials, tools and calculators all aimed at benefiting the customer by providing knowledge of our product benefits for them. Our online customer service centre provides a self-service environment for a range of queries and policy amendments. We are adding new features and options all the time and are now also active on social media, including Twitter, where you can hear all our news.
However, we also know that some of our customers simply do not want this. They are comfortable with the status quo and do not want change. Therefore we have also retained traditional methods of communication including simple human contact over the telephone. For those who do want to talk online, we have webchat on offer too.
By taking this structured approach to the challenges presented by the digital age we feel we can enhance our customers’ experience and bring it to a new level – adding value for the customer, without negating the important role and advice of the financial broker.