The insurance industry is ripe with opportunities to create better experiences through customer journey mapping, a proven method of capturing and meeting customers’ needs. Noah Grayson, Senior Manager of our Customer Experience and Design Practice, explains.
For decades, most insurance companies have relied on agents to work with customers, and few customers look forward to incidents that force them to call their agents.
However, that model is changing as insurers add more digital tools that allow customers to interact through multiple channels and along nonlinear paths. One simple example: a car accident victim might file a claim through their phone app, talk to their agent by voice, and coordinate repairs through email — all while expecting the same seamless service they enjoy when shopping online.
That’s why the smartest insurance companies are exploring customer journey mapping (CJM), a proven approach to understanding customers’ changing needs so insurers can build tools and processes to meet them.
In this interview with journey mapping and persona development software company UXPressia, our Customer Experience Design practice Senior Manager Noah Grayson discusses the unique opportunities CJM offers insurance companies. The interview will also appear as part of a UXPressia white paper.
Read on to learn why Noah believes that CJM can help you sort out your customers’ journeys and reimagine how you deliver smart, efficient end-to-end experiences that will give them a competitive edge.
1. Is there anything that differentiates journey mapping in insurance from non-insurance CJM and, if so, what should beginning insurance journey mappers know to get started?
Insurance is a broad label for an industry with three main sectors – property/casualty, life/annuity, and private health insurance. Additionally, each sector has sub-sectors, and some insurance companies specialize in one or more sub-sectors. Some of the company-to-customer relationships are business-to-business and others are direct-to-consumer. One of the first things the journey mapper must do is isolate which sector the map will focus on and identify the associated stakeholders/personas involved in delivering or receiving the experience.
The insurance industry is on the verge of significant change. Digital transformation, demanding customers and new competitors are pushing the industry closer to transformation. Insurance carriers must be on the leading edge of this change to survive. Carriers must also anticipate changing customer needs to adapt quickly. Leveraging a robust Voice of the Customer (VoC) architecture allows carriers to capture critical customer feedback and adapt the customer experience (CX) it delivers accordingly. Journey mapping is an excellent tool to develop enterprise-wide empathy for the current customer experience and visualize a future state experience that creates a competitive advantage.
One item not unique to insurance, but a factor insurers must consider is each carrier’s business model and whether it includes agents (either independent or captive). When an agent is part of the carrier’s model, they play a critical role in the policyholder’s experience (from initially selecting a carrier or policy all the way through the journey to renewal). In addition, the agent represents a unique persona who experiences their own journey with a carrier. Another important consideration is whether the carrier will map for the policyholder or the agent.
In several cases, especially for consumers, the carrier-to-policyholder relationship is low involvement. For example, customers engage with an agent or carrier to make changes to their policies during major life events or when they have a claim. Otherwise, a policyholder just pays a bill on a monthly, semi-annual or annual basis. So, when doing primary research with policyholders, you often must screen or target policyholders who have had recent interactions across infrequent experiences.
2. What are the biggest challenges to implementing insurance journey maps, and how can we overcome them?
The insurance industry has several different types of carriers, from local affiliates to state, regional and national organizations. Each of these carriers has different needs and challenges. For example, regional carriers are often small insurers with very effective operating procedures, but they often have difficulty modernizing. Despite each carrier’s unique characteristics, customers expect modern solutions and experiences. A challenge for CX professionals is guiding the organization to adapt to changing customer needs within the constraints of what may be feasible and viable to the carrier’s current business model and operating constraints.
One of the dynamics of the insurance industry that makes journey mapping challenging is the coordination of activity between the carrier and the agent when an agent is involved in selling and servicing a policyholder. The agent’s role and involvement with the policyholder can vary from carrier-to-carrier or even agent-to-agent. It becomes essential to define personas at the start of the journey mapping exercise and develop persona specific maps.
Associated with the above point, the other factor to account for in the journey map is the nonlinear or non-sequential activity that occurs across channels at several phases of the journey. For example, during the claims process, a customer may bounce from interactions with the carrier, agent and digital tools in different sequences. It is important to isolate behavior patterns across channels and use these patterns in the attribution or definition of personas or archetypes. It is also important to visually depict how stakeholders use these various channels during a journey phase to help the organization better optimize the integrated use of each channel.
3. Based on your experience doing CJM projects in the insurance field, during which stages of mapping journeys did you uncover the biggest amount of insights with the biggest opportunities for improvement?
Broadly speaking, the insurance industry is ripe for experience modernization, from enabling digital experiences for both policyholders and agents to providing consistent any-channel experiences across the customer’s channel of choice. This often becomes evident as you leverage tools like service blueprinting to isolate the people, process, technology and data orchestration that occurs to enable the delivery of a customer experience.
Also, during the primary customer research phase, you will quickly see those customer expectations are on the rise for things like self-service, personalization and ease of doing business. Each requires the insurance industry to reimagine how it delivers the end-to-end customer experience.
From a journey phase perspective, a few phases stand out as key moments of truth for the policyholder, and consequently, the agent. Chief among them are the policy selection and acquisition phase, underwriting and claims. Both agents and policyholders often look for efficiency, transparency and effective communication during these processes. The ‘ah-ha’ moments come from diagnosing points of friction in these interactions and defining a future state that applies new processes, digital tools and technologies that enable both carriers and agents to deliver more effective policyholder experiences.
4. Would you be willing to share some examples and/or cases of any of the above from your journey mapping experience?
I am working with a variety of insurance carriers to transform their businesses digitally. We are leveraging journey mapping as a tool to help these organizations engineer new experiences for both agents and policyholders. The focus for insurance carriers is on using the digital channel to increase self-service and automation. As an example, agents want to spend their time servicing existing policyholders and acquiring new customers. They do not want to waste time navigating manual, repetitive processes or spend time on the phone trying to track down needed information. So, we use mobile, web applications, Robotic Process Automation (RPA), and enhanced use of data and analytics to engineer new experiences for these carriers and their customers.
5. Based on your experience, what do insurance companies prefer: seek out outside consultants to facilitate journey mapping initiatives or to grow their expertise within the company? What departments in insurance companies typically take part in the journey mapping projects?
In my experience, whether a company seeks outside perspective or prefers to grow its own expertise within its company is often a company or situation-specific decision. CJM is in the early stages of adoption within the insurance industry, so we find that many companies seek outside help with the tool.
Many parts of an insurance company play a role in delivering the customer experience, either on the frontlines or as a back-stage enabler. That said, the best journey mapping projects include a cross-functional team from an insurance carrier – from Marketing and Underwriting to Claims, IT, Sales and more.
6. How do you scale-up journey mapping initiatives at insurance organizations? How do you achieve long-run organizational transformation, and how do you ensure that early-stage journey mapping is not too disruptive to the insurance company’s business model?
Scaling-up journey mapping initiatives at insurance organizations includes leveraging technology and software tools to facilitate the process, standardizing the tools and supporting processes, and broadening the resource pool that can help facilitate the process.
Long-run organizational transformation requires leadership alignment, executive support, clear articulation of the ROI of the transformation effort and appropriate resource allocation to drive execution of the transformation roadmap. Transformation is not a short-term project, so the organization must commit to innovation over the long run.
If your goal is transformation rather than simple improvement, the journey mapping exercise should not shy away from driving business model evolution instead of process optimization. Organizations should make their objective clear before a journey mapping initiative begins, so the mapper can identify changes that the organization is willing to embrace. Often, some form of prioritization should occur to identify improvements the company is willing to drive.
In my experience, it’s best to use a technique that focuses on customer desirability of the improvement, feasibility of the organization’s ability to make the change, and viability of the organization to embrace the change within its current business model. When it comes to engineering new customer experiences, we use the hierarchy or maturity below to normalize how organizations think about and approach driving CX improvements:
- Differentiate: Reimagining the role of experience in growth models and corporate strategy.
- Imagine: Reconstruct solutions to solve problems and drive toward more innovative experiences.
- Optimize: Iterate on experiences without reconstructing the operation’s fulfillment of the experience.
- Repair: Fix broken moments that matter across interactions, limiting experience as a deterrent.
Like all industries, insurance is experiencing great change as digital technologies, multiple channels and rising customer expectations strain old ways of doing business. By using a CJM process that understands the company’s sectors, the numerous paths users might take when interacting with your company, and the mapping exercise’s objectives, you can adopt this proven methodology to become leaders in delivering great customer experiences.