Belgians are no different to their neighbours in taking out insurance on their homes, cars and much more. However, they have little sense of who is insuring their risks. The brands are fading from view. Insurers, in a word, are invisible to the end consumer.

That is the conclusion from Accenture Belgian Consulting’s Insurance Market Pulse Survey 2018 looking at how Belgian customers feel about their insurers. Released on October, 2018, the survey shows that insurers need to keep up with innovations and trends to deliver the best customer experience.

It is as if they are listening to a song but have no idea who is singing

Our data shows that there is no differentiation between the Insurance companies: customers are showcasing indifference towards their insurers. It is as if they are listening to a song but have no idea who is singing.

Make no mistake: insurance products are still relevant. Belgians still want to guard against risks and want an insurance partner who offer them such services. But the insurers brands are indistinguishable, and this blurring of brands is captured by the data from the survey.

When asked, “If you could start all over, who would you choose as insurer?”, 29% of those questioned responded with, “I don’t know”. The first named insurer only commanded 9% of the answers. These two figures are a clear indication that customers are indifferent to their insurers.

This is reinforced by the net promotor score (NPS), a measure used to gauge a brand’s loyalty by looking at how willing people are to recommend a brand to friends and family. We found that the Belgian Insurance industry average slipped from “15” in 2017 to “6” in 2018: fewer people now recommend their insurance providers to friends and family.

This shows that customers are barely aware of who they have actually signed up with – and this lack of awareness helps explain why their expectations are rarely met on services and products. It means that they have less motivation to become true brand ambassadors in the market. Customer loyalty to their insurer is today supported by “out of habit” reasoning.   

Losing freshness

Another way of looking at the relationship between insurers and customers is to analyse what makes people love a brand. We identified five dimensions for measuring customer feeling towards a brand experience. These are the FRESH values:

  • Fun – holds people’s attention in an entertaining way
  • Relevant – provides clear and customised information
  • Engaging – identifies with individual needs and wants
  • Social – connects people with each other
  • Helpful – is efficient, easy and adaptable over time

The FRESH values show insurers still have a long way to go: they have woefully low scores on the Fun, Social and Engaging criteria. Arguably, these are secondary values. But Belgian insurers also have not the best scores in areas where they should be doing better: Relevant and Helpful.

Of course, some might say that an insurer must remain serious as it is dealing with serious issues. But the key for customers is whether it is credible – and insurers can be fun, while being credible.

Insurers today operate in a changing market. Tech giants and digital start-ups are redefining customer expectations

Changing markets

A second large part of our market pulse survey shows that, insurers are operating in a changing market with changing customer expectations. Like other service providers, insurance is transforming as it adapts to new digital technologies. Tech giants and digital start-ups are redefining customer expectations. Customers now want their services fast and personalised – and they want to have them delivered in the easiest way.

This is confirmed in a survey question on the nature of the relationship between insurers and their customers. There is a growing level of unmet customer satisfaction, with 60% saying they are satisfied with the personalised and specific advice; 47% satisfied with the self-service channel; and 42% satisfied with their insurer’s technology innovation. Insurance companies might want to address this dissatisfaction by helping their brokers and agents to take up more important advisory roles, so customers feel they are getting the service they want. On this part, digital technologies can support the brokers and agents to push out administrative tasks to their customers and focus on the interactions that really count.

Now, what are these key interactions that truly count? Our survey also shows that customers have different approaches to different tasks. When asked about how they want to interact with their insurers, they say they prefer dealing with a human for advice, product purchases and filing a claim, but prefer going online to request a quote, update personal data or follow up a claim.

On top of these changing expectations, insurance companies only have limited interaction points to meet these expectations, and this feeds the customer’s feelings of indifference. If we dissect the relationship between them, we typically find just three peaks of communication: when the initial quote is sought; when the premium is paid; and when a claim is made.

These valleys of silence are actually potential opportunities for insurers to reach out to customers with new offerings like prevention services and new service models. There is a chance for them to increase interactions with their customers allowing them to build up stronger relationship and become hyper-relevant.

Customers ultimately want peace of mind when it comes to their money – and, indeed, their lives. Our survey shows that they are even ready to share data if they get the right service in return. For example, 62% of people would support sharing data in return for health tips; and 52% would share data in return for coaching to improve their driving style.

Making insurance relevant

If insurers are to stay vibrant and connected to their customers, they must find better ways to stay relevant. They should offer the right service, at right time and through right channel. They should:

  • be there for their clients on a day-to-day basis to help them prevent accidents or incidents. That means becoming a partner in their client’s life endeavours, including educating them on risk and nurturing safer behaviour.
  • finding new ways to deliver theses service. Since people shouldn’t have to visit their broker or agent on daily basis, they need to find easier communication channels. The key is to deliver clarity and consistency regardless of the insurance distribution channel.

So if we have one message for Belgian insurance companies, it is to connect with their customers. Insurers need to get ready for the future of insurance. They need to become the best version of the traditional insurer by being a true advisor to their customers. And they should do this while being relevant to customers by offering new services and solutions.

In our next article, we will look at how insurers are already responding to these changing expectations.