Millions of schoolchildren and workers started back last month and, as life begins to resemble a somewhat ‘new normal’, the looming possibility of a second or third wave remains a key focus for any business at this time, as local lockdowns become more prominent and the colder months are just around the corner.
The insurance market’s response to this pandemic has been admirable and it was remarkable to witness the work of our people, in not only facilitating large workforces to begin operating remotely effectively, but doing all of this while not disrupting services for customers. In uncertain times, customers, more than ever, need to be at the centre of decision making to ensure they continue to have trust in the products and services that they rely on.
But, while there are many success stories and examples of teams pulling together, this pandemic has certainly been a tale of two sides for the insurance market. There have been several companies who have clearly been able to harness their technology investment to manage the situation effectively. However, there have also been those that have been hindered by archaic systems and processes which have had a detrimental impact on their ability to deploy remote workforces while maintaining customer service levels.
People close to the industry will know that legacy systems often mean that making even small changes to an online journey for example, could become the trickiest of requests, let alone asking systems to cope with the large scale and rapid changes we’ve needed in recent months.
Investment in robust and agile technology has been worth its weight in gold and those that have already implemented nimble processes, will have truly seen the benefit of this hard work. However, even those who have the systems in place have faced challenges, and I can certainly imagine there have been lots of heated, virtual conversations across the insurance world.
So now, after several months of operating in these highly unusual circumstances, attention is turning to what our world will be like post-pandemic. The first question to ask is what can we learn? There will clearly be areas of the industry that may never return to ‘normal’ again and it’s important to consider what this means for our customers, our businesses and our people.
It’s difficult to imagine a scenario where motor, home and life insurance won’t continue to play an important role for customers. However, debt and affordability issues may well continue to increase in the coming months. At BGL, the insight and trends we receive from our specialist Contact Centre Lending Support team will be invaluable as we start to understand and shape our customers’ requirements post-pandemic. Understandably, customer needs during this period have changed and we’ve seen a significant increase in calls to this team as customers try to manage their finances. The key for any customer-focused business right now is to take the time to listen. Every person has a different concern based on their own circumstances and a ‘one size approach’ will not fit all and therefore, remaining empathetic and flexible will be vital.
Pre-existing changes in consumer demands and behaviour have undoubtedly accelerated as a result of coronavirus, with the demand for product flexibility and personalisation never greater.
As consumers’ belts tighten, there comes a need for a wider choice of products that meet the needs of individual lifestyles. After recognising a gap in the market, at BGL we launched Jaunt just over a year ago, our first short-term insurance offering, to service the demand in the motor market for a more flexible insurance product structure; a demand amplified by the coronavirus outbreak.
As a nation we are now experiencing a cultural shift, with many drivers choosing to borrow vehicles, rather than own them. This flexibility encourages a whole host of benefits – from cost savings to environmental accountability and in the current climate, we don’t expect this move to change any time soon. While there will always be an important place for annual cover, the way people utilise insurance is changing and may well change forever after this period.
I think we can all agree that these have been extremely unprecedented and challenging times for businesses. The seismic shifts that we’ve all had to adopt has forced us all to make some dramatic changes. Because of this, the insurance market may never look the same again but these changes – if handled in the right way – may not necessarily be a bad thing and could lead to a more robust and agile industry for us all and better outcomes for our customers.
There are key learnings for us as an industry to take forward about investing for speed of change and implementation; in addition, insurers need to embrace agile product development and ensure they are addressing the broadest range of consumer needs while arming their agents with tools to provide those products via digital channels.
I’m confident that this period will bring real opportunity for those equipped and determined to harness the positives from it.
How we supported our customers during lockdown
You can read more from our 2020 Customer Report here