By Pankaj Pandey, Head – Information Technology, SBI General Insurance
The insurance industry has traditionally been a face-to-face contact-based industry, depending on relationship. While technological advancements had been underway for most insurers, COVID-19 changed perspectives overnight.The insurance industry in India faced challenges of leveraging their personal equity through a virtual environment in the initial days of the COVID-led lockdown.
Digital transformation on a war-footing
Business continuity took on a whole new proportion in the insurance industry as all departments finance, sales, marketing, claims, human resources etc., had to function effectively irrespective of the lockdown, overcoming issues of accessibility, connectivity and above all security.
Transition from a physical environment to the work-from-home environment happened almost overnight where every function went online to cope with needs of customers and other stakeholders in what are traditionally the busiest months for the insurance industry (March and April). Digitisation, automation went on an overdrive and the insurers began responding to the needs of worried customers, employees and channel partners, understanding individual needs, and providing resolutions with empathy.
With a sizeable workforce catering to customers, operational challenges in a work-from-home environment were met with ingenious solutions. For instance, human resources departments provided extraordinary support to internal stakeholders through online team building measures, creating learning modules, helplines to assist employees facing challenges in a work-from-home environment and the leadership stepping in with frequent connects to boost morale of employees.
Personalised customer experience
For customers, insurers have shown an increased level of digitised engagement and delivery. The usage of digital payment mechanisms through smartphones has been key to business continuity in the pandemic situation.
The pandemic has brought the IT to center stage. The increased use of technology across all departments has highlighted that there is a great opportunity to collaborate and reimagine products& processes with technology for insurance that is essentially believed to be driven on brick & mortar module.
What the future holds
It has also given insurers a unique opportunity to re-look at the vision of innovating products basis the changing behaviour of not just customers but also the situation.
For instance,, in general insurance, there may be an appetite for “usage-based” insurance products. For instance, data-analysis and telematics can be used to assess a customer’s usage to decide the quantum of motor insurance. Changes like these can catapult personalisation and thus enhance value proposition of insurance products as a whole.
What’s more with customers’ seeking hyper-personalisation everywhere, data-based innovations can change customer mindset with regards to insurance, that is still somewhat purchased grudgingly. Further, with distribution being reimagined, the day may not be far away when customers engage with advisors on a video call as first step before moving on to online channels for purchase.
A lasting impact
What the pandemic has brought to the fore is a fresh perspective, one that will have far reaching impact well beyond the pandemic. New models of working, better use of collaboration tools, enhancing customer experiences in a tech-enabled environment have transformed the industry for the better.
The current situation has compelled all companies to integrate technology in a manner to make the ecosystem more robust. In a heavily digitised and personalised world, the value proposition of the insurer must be consistent with the customer experience, no matter through which channel it is accessed.