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For many customers, buying insurance is one of the most unique transactions they will ever make. It’s not that insurance, in and of itself, is a strange thing to purchase. Insurance has been around for hundreds of years, almost everyone has heard of it, and a majority of those have purchased some form of insurance at one time or another in their life. In many circumstances, such as owning and driving a car, having insurance is mandated. So why would buying insurance be considered a unique transaction? 

The simple fact is that insurance is a product that after you purchase it, you may actually never use it. I addressed this idea from a different perspective in a recent article published by Insurance Innovation Reporter. If you happen to be one of those people who have never made an insurance claim, consider yourself very lucky. Not using your insurance likely means that you have never been in an auto accident, never had a tree fall on your house, never had a washing machine water supply hose fail and flood your laundry room or finished basement, or never had myriad other calamities, big or small, happen to you.

Further, a consumer’s relationship with their insurer is as unique as the transaction itself. Unfortunately, if you are interacting with your insurer it typically means that something has gone wrong. And even if that something isn’t too serious, it’s serious to you. Over the years, you have paid thousands of dollars to your insurance carrier and asked for nothing in return. Now you are asking them for help. You are asking them to fulfill their promise. Simply put, you are asking them to be there for you in your time of need.

And this is the goal of insurers around the world. Carriers are spending significant amounts of time and money in an effort to improve the customer experience. Yet, these initiatives will never deliver the desired results if employees are not empowered to truly “be there” for their policyholders when something goes wrong. Does the policyholder feel they are a valued customer? Is the claims process free of friction and needless delay? Or does it take weeks or months and multiple calls or emails to settle a claim? Do the carrier’s employees instantly know the status of a claim, independent of the team on which they work, and can they share that information with the policyholder? Getting the answers to these questions right is the key to making policyholders feel not only respected, but cared for.

So how do we reach this point? Fundamentally, employees must be empowered to support their customers throughout every stage of the claims process. Insurers must create a culture in which employees have access to the information required to provide real answers when their policyholders ask. They must also break down the walls between business units and allow that data to be shared so that employees can make informed decisions. And they must invest in new technologies that make this all possible.

Let’s go back to the example of the failed washing machine water supply line. Now imagine that when the policyholder called the customer service line to file the claim they were informed - almost instantly - that the claim was covered, based on the information provided they could offer a settlement on the spot, and that due to a reported manufacturer's recall that the insurance company would seek to reimburse any applicable deductibles and keep the customer informed of progress in the carrier’s subrogation efforts. With the right empowerment strategy in place, supported by empowered employees, the promise of “being there” for policyholders can be the reality.