It’s all about Trust

Our latest Guest Blog is from Vicki Heslop, Director of Customer Experience at Covéa Insurance. She explains why she thinks customer trust is important for insurance businesses, and how it can be achieved.

Trust in Insurance – well actually trust in many sectors – is a hot topic right now, but my focus is on the Insurance industry, and why Trust is so important in meeting the challenges we face, both now and in the future

If we are to continue to deliver value to our customers, adapt to the ever-changing world, prosper post-pandemic, compete with new entrants, and enable our colleagues to feel proud about working in our sector, it’s of paramount importance that we build consumer trust, or rebuild it for those who have lost it. Recent and ongoing changes in the market mean that trust is increasingly important, but it’s also very difficult to sustain.

Working with the Institute of Customer Service (ICS), who have recently undertaken an in-depth piece of research ‘Who Do You Trust: Improving trust through Customer Service’, some important points stood out to me about Trust and Insurance.

First, what affects trust? Insurance is an emotive product, the true value of which is only really felt when a customer needs to make a claim. Empathy too is crucially important when outcomes or costs are unexpected, or there are issues with health, finances, or other stressful and challenging circumstances. There can also be a lack of understanding of the value and limitations of insurance, because insurance products can be complex with wordy documentation and jargon.  Research shows a real disbelief when it comes to value of claims payments, deductibles or whether they will get fair treatment: we say it, we are not believed.

But why does it matter? It matters to me because ensuring all customers get fair value is clearly the right thing to do. For this to happen, it’s essential customers understand the purchase they are making and get the best possible experience when it really matters. But beyond this, as an industry we need to adapt to stay relevant to customers long-term, which I think requires greater operational focus on fairness, simplicity, and transparency.

And there are compelling business reasons that support this.  The ICS Research clearly shows a strong correlation between customer trust and the business benefit:  87% of customers who give a 9 or 10 as a trust score are more likely to stay with that company, and 39% of customers who give the highest score for trust would also pay more for the service.

Other business benefits of trust include a lower cost to serve, greater customer loyalty and customer advocacy. This means less churn, which is something that we would all like more of in Insurance, improved employee engagement and a reservoir of customer goodwill.

Our own research here at Covéa also tells us that customers want their insurance companies to focus on a fair price, claims handling and clarity, and that important factors to improve trust would be listening, empathy, admitting mistakes and engineering operations that mean the same mistakes do not  happen again.

The lowest levels of consumer confidence are around getting a competitive price at renewal, claims being dealt with fairly and their insurer being there for them when needed.  Interestingly, across all customers we spoke to, not a single insurer stood out when it came to high levels of trust so, as an industry, we have a big mountain to climb!

Acknowledging this is crucial and I think there is growing industry awareness which is driving change; customers are starting to be placed much more at the centre of decision-making, product-build and digital enablers, all massive steps in the right direction.

To take things further, I’ve identified 5 key areas of building trust in insurance that I think are important to focus on:

  1. Making customer centricity – and therefore trust – an embedded part of culture and strategies.  A genuine commitment to customer needs to exist and it needs to be a part of the culture across all areas of the business not just the customer-facing areas to be able to truly focus on the customer in everything we do and therefore improve the trust that our customers choose to place with us.
  2. Focusing on transparency and honesty. In a much more online world this covers everything from communications with customers through to how and why we price the way we do and why it goes up (and sometimes down!), what is covered in each insurance policy and being much clearer what isn’t. We need to find more relevant ways to show this to customers than lengthy policy documentation.
  3. Bringing together and integrating the digital and human experiences whilst ensuring we don’t lose empathy. Customers have told us that they are happy and willing to use self-service, upload documentation online, book appointments and so on, but they still want to be able to contact us and speak to us if they need to. We need to ensure that, with all the new digital experiences being developed, this ability is not taken away and in fact made much easier. Trust is more likely to be maintained or increased if the easy and straightforward interactions are digitalised, but direct human contact must be made much easier when help is needed by our customers.
  4. Moving to a model where prevention is offered and acted upon to prevent the incident taking place in the first place. The key to this is ensuring that we are dependable can be relied upon by our customers to be there when they need us. Our services and promises need to be consistent, enable easy access to help and advice for all customers – including those who are vulnerable – and above all take accountability to solve the problem and put things right. We need to do this with the right level of empathy and ensure we listen to and understand each customer’s individual needs and provide a tailored personal solution.
  5. Maintaining ethics and acting with integrity. This is so important right now when we think about customer data, building the right digital solutions for our customers which will offer elements of personalisation, recommended actions, loyalty programmes and so on. We must ensure that customers’ needs, wants and requirements are central to this and that we are making decisions to get the right outcomes for our customers. The urgency of this is paramount with the focus from the FCA on Consumer Duty and Value measures but it should not be done because of regulation, but because it is the right thing for the customer.

 

This won’t be a quick or easy win for Insurers. It will take long-term vision, commitment, planning and investment into customer-centricity. At Covéa Insurance, we have begun our journey building and sustaining trust with our customers, our partners and suppliers and our people by focusing on these 5 key areas. It won’t be an easy path, but I am confident we are heading in the right direction and that it is a goal is one worth striving for.

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