When consumers are confronted with product names that reference ‘death’, ‘permanent disability’ and ‘salary continuance’, making their experience more engaging and a little bit less frightening can be a challenge. FIONA BOUNIAS, General Manager – Member Engagement and Innovation at TAL, encourages her team to shift the conversation on life insurance and put themselves in their customers' shoes to better understand and improve their members’ insurance experience.
In its independent research paper released last year, Report 673 – Consumer engagement in insurance in super, ASIC explored the experiences of superannuation fund members who directly engaged with their fund in relation to insurance. It explored what members hope to achieve through their insurance engagements, what drove them to act, and their perceptions of the experience. In a nutshell, the paper reconfirmed what many of us probably already knew – insurance is complex and, as an industry, we could be doing a better job of meeting members where they are.
Through various roles and several organisations, I’ve spent most of my career engaging with customers and using human-centred principles to design service experiences. And I’ve learned how essential it is to listen to the voice of your customers. We cannot successfully design something without considering the people who will use it, how they intend to use it, and the problems they may face when using it. When we better understand this, we can design better experiences.
Being successful requires us to challenge how we deliver service excellence at every touch-point. Collectively as an industry, life insurers haven’t spent enough time on this in the past. I’d like to shift the dial; from the products we provide, to the experience we deliver, and the language we use.
Research conducted by company Investment Trends showed that less than 50 per cent of all superannuation fund members read their annual statement. For younger people aged 18 to 34 this figure is less than 40 per cent. We also know that the first-time members often only find out about any insurance they hold through their superannuation when they see it as a fee on their annual statement. This can result in cover being cancelled or even in some cases a member leaving their fund, which is not a great outcome for anyone.
At TAL we’ve found that members who engage with insurance (above and beyond their default cover) by applying for underwritten cover outperform the average member when it comes to the way they perceive their fund. These members are three and a half times less likely to leave the fund when compared with those who hold only default insurance, and five times less likely than those with no insurance at all.
The partnership between insurers and superannuation funds has the power to demonstrate value and improve engagement with members with the use of technology. Technology advancements are one important component of step changing member communication to allow for better and faster engagement.
TAL developed ‘Discover’ to assist and support our superannuation fund partners to engage and empower members in their decision making, by using data triggers to reach specific member cohorts. It raises awareness about their current insurance and provides them options if they need advice. Essentially, we’re helping make insurance a proactive choice rather than a hidden cost.
Underwriting is often the first interaction a member has with their insurance so it’s a key moment in delivering a leading experience. While it’s usually considered an operational process to assess risk and provide cover in the fastest possible time, the industry needs to look beyond speed and examine the overall experience.
TAL’s underwriting team is embedded within a broader function that includes member engagement, innovation, and service delivery. The experience often requires us to fully understand a member’s unique situation which may include some personal or challenging conversations. When we create a simpler more transparent experience, underwriting can deliver immense value for members. And by enhancing understanding of cover and educating about the links between health and insurance outcomes, we can provide members with confidence for the future or assurance we’ll be there to help at claim time, should they need us.
It’s probably fair to say that when a member embarks on an insurance application they don’t have high expectations, and sometimes small changes can make a big difference. Language is just one of the areas where I believe getting it right goes a long way in both personalising and differentiating a member’s experience.
We have been researching members and analysing data from our digital applications to consider the impact of language on behaviour. We found significant drop-off occurs during the underwriting experience as a result of complex insurance and health terminology, requests for confronting health information, and ambiguous or lengthy questions. This results in just over 10 per cent of people completing an application in a single session.
At TAL we also see between 15 per cent and 45 per cent of applications for additional underwritten cover across our portfolio that are started by members, but never completed. This means members who’ve taken the time to start the journey aren’t confident in the process and fail to get the cover they need. These types of outcomes have contributed to low expectations and decreased satisfaction over time. By applying a clear set of language principles that contribute to a friendly, trustworthy and plain-spoken voice, we can support increased understanding and confidence among members now and in the future.
We see life insurance as a very human business, but digital, data and AI provide us with a way to complement existing processes rather than replacing people. There are two benefits: supporting improved member outcomes and experiences; and driving scale and efficiency.
Automation and artificial intelligence in the underwriting process means we can ask fewer questions and simplify the journey for most people. TAL’s data scientists have developed an AI solution, ‘Rosie’, to identify referred cases from the underwriting rules engine that our machine learning algorithm can automatically accept without the need for intervention by a human underwriter.
TAL WunderWriter is a machine learning tool that supports quality assurance during underwriting. It allows us to reach a scale that wouldn’t ordinarily be possible, allowing us to audit 100 per cent of underwriting cases to identify inconsistencies that can then be reviewed by our Quality Assurance team. It’s also another great example of how technology can be used to help scale businesses without needing to increase human capital.
When we talk about putting ourselves in members’ shoes, I think about hearing from a diverse group of voices that can provide context, challenge our ideas, and provide fresh perspectives. At the end of the day, we want members to feel confident about their insurance experience whether it’s personalising cover, self-service education or seeking out advice, or even making better health choices.
Our industry has already come a long way in our transformation journey, but there’s more to be done. It’s up to us to make insurance a more human experience and I’m excited to see how much further we can push the envelope.