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Redefining CX in insurance: How Aviva is bullish on digital platforms in ‘new normal’

As the Covid-19 pandemic shifts customer behaviour in the insurance sector, Aviva has witnessed significant surge in adoption of its digital offerings. In an interaction with Express Computer, Amit Malik, Chief People, Operations & Customer Services Officer, Aviva India details industry trends and how Aviva is ensuring efforts in that direction

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What’s your assessment of the Covid-19 crisis in terms of its impact on your business and operations?
Back in March, as the impact of the pandemic started growing, demand for liquidity went up as the fears around job uncertainty and pay cuts continued to mount. This definitely impacted policy renewals and purchase of new policies in the month of March and April – March especially being the last month of the FY – is a very crucial month for any of the insurance companies. In Q1 for FY 20’, most insurance companies saw a downfall in total APE collections as high as 30 per cent to 40 per cent. This was due to a sharp decline in sales of market linked products.

On the other hand, the crisis and the related uncertainty of health and life made the need for insurance stand out like never before – especially in a country like India where people are prone to buying insurance not for indemnity, but rather investment.

We definitely have seen an uptick in the business numbers in the second quarter – we have collected pending renewals from March to June which earlier could not be collected. I cannot say the insurance industry overall must be witnessing a similar trend, because it was reported that life insurance companies overall posted a seven per cent reduced APE collection at end of August. However, at Aviva, post May we have seen an upward trend. If we just look at the FY 20’-21’, we have registered a double digit growth in new premium collection.

Purely looking at data, beyond the impact of March, things look good. However, a lot of efforts will need to go into making this change sustainable – business results of the OND quarter will be crucial indicators in this regard.

What’s the shift in customer trends that you have observed during the pandemic?
The last five months have been transformational for our country, including our people and businesses. A “New Normal” is a term we have heard very often. The fact is COVID-19 is here to stay for some time and it has revolutionised the way we live and think. The consumer during and post-COVID is showing remarkable flexibility, bringing about a paradigm shift in consumption. The new consumer is following the “WW” curve — the “Wait and Watch” curve.

One-to-one in person sales has taken a backseat, mandating life insurance companies like us to think of the alternative, more personalised digital channels. Typically, insurance advisor is part of our social network or referenced. A contactless sales process will be a reality, there will be a need for workforce to build relationships by being part of customers’ virtual social networks instead of the physical one. This will lead to new ways of prospecting, need analysis and closing of a sale.

From policy issuance to payments, the entire customer journey need to be re-imagined into a digital process. For many such processes where the move to digital had already begun, the adoption will need to speed up. Consequently, capabilities of employees working at each step will also need to evolve . A recent survey by PwC on technology adoption revealed that 67 per cent of consumers leveraged the online platform to do their research before buying an insurance policy. The trend clearly exhibits that online platforms have already become an influencer in the consumer’s decision-making journey. With volatile markets, preference for market linked products in insurance have dipped, preference has grown for guaranteed plans.

Customer self service is gaining importance. We have ramped up the activation of the customer self service portal adding multiple new functionalities. It is more a behavioural change and the challenge for organisations will be in addition to making these facilities available seamlessly –  pushing the lesser educated customer to adapt to digital.

We have also seen quick uptake of digital payment modes, which has necessitated us to be available everywhere the customer could come to pay digitally.

Please share more about IT and digital best practices at Aviva
Digital experiences are impacting a lot in consumers’ purchasing decisions, especially when it comes to financial instruments. At Aviva, we have followed our digital first approach and to make the customer experience simpler and easier, we have initiated various initiatives that help deliver a truly delightful and contactless customer experience during such crisis.

Aviva’s Mobile Sales Tool (MST) is an enhanced informative interface that provides customers with information such as the key benefits of a plan, illustrations of premium and the payment process. The app also provides solutions to the customers on their financial requirement depending on their current life stage. The tool significantly reduces the risk of human errors while expediting the process of issuing an insurance policy. Due to this streamlined, automated processing, the tool offers its customers a hassle-free buying experience without any physical documentation. The tool has seen an increase in adoption rate from 50 per cent to 97 per cent since the outbreak of Covid-19.

Aviva SME Assist offers a customised and transparent solution to cater to the specific needs of MSMEs.  It is a digital tool that helps small business owners understand their risk profile within three simple steps. By spending only 10 minutes on the platform, business owners receive a comprehensive online report which provides them insights about their financial goals, risks along with the best-suited insurance solutions to address it.

Aviva Kid-O-Scope is one-of-a-kind online platform that helps parents identify their child’s inherent talent at an early age. Today’s millennial parents want nothing but the best for their children and such a tool helps them ensure a bright future for their children. The education cost calculator that comes with this platform also helps them plan their finance for their child’s higher education.

Will Writing is a digital initiative that aims to promote financial literacy amongst customers across all ages. The Aviva ‘Will Writing Service’ helps customers create a Will for their assets, in just three simple steps in just 15 minutes. The unique platform is a way of enabling people to understand that as they earn and acquire assets, they need to ensure a smoother transition to pass on their possessions to their loved ones in a structured manner.

How are you leveraging emerging technologies to offer seamless customer experience?
At Aviva, we have always kept the customer at the centre of everything we do. We are simplifying our procedures to offer our products online to ease the customer journey. We use a mix of technology solutions for faster and effective resolution of customer complaints. For example, chatbots replicate the behaviour of a human representative, while ensuring accuracy and efficiency of an advanced machine system. Our state-of the art CRM system is fully integrated with customer portal, mobile application, and website, IVR and cloud telephony. This helps us get a unified view of the customer’s journey with us.

MyAviva is Aviva’s customer portal that addresses most of our customer queries and helps them through a lot of self service options. Post the announcement of Lockdown 1.0, we had rolled out an SMS campaign to encourage our customers who were not using MY AVIVA self-service portal to join it. The campaign led to 98 per cent growth in registrations. We also saw a huge influx in premium payments through our portal.

Aside from that, we’ve  bots in place and are using artificial intelligence. Our bot, ALISHA, an acronym for Aviva Life Insurance Self Help assistant and it’s based upon, the NLP engine, so it understands in code language and then self- learn and become smarter by the day. It’s artificial intelligence and machine learning that’s built in and it’s has recognised the language recognition skills. It also promotes financial literacy, across all ages and geographies, with Insurance Made Simple, a skill taught to Alexa’s voice bot. With Alexa, Aviva is de-jargonising complex insurance terms through the latest digital innovation. Such tools and technologies can help companies create memorable interactions that effectively strengthen trust, brand awareness, encourage trial and facilitate dialogue with current and prospective customers.

Importance of a phygital approach and what will be the new best practices in the insurance sector in the ‘new normal’?
There was a time when companies that were selling digitally, would just build physical stores to enable customers to have the touch and feel before they could make a purchase. You could check a product in the store and then purchase it from the website making a digital payment which would then be delivered to your doorstep.

In the post pandemic world, the importance of touch-and-feel may go down as consumers are skeptical of stepping out of their homes. Hence, we need to focus on building the digital capabilities fast and re-imagine how we can leverage the existing physical purchase journey and marry the two.  Focus definitely is for companies to build a digital purchasing journey if they already haven’t. Planning the logistics/operations and reverse logistics – in case of e-commerce – is of utmost importance in trying to re-imagine a phygital future.

Since you can’t just buy insurance off the shelf or  do an add to cart and a lot of consideration and education goes behind purchase decision- it is important to note that the move from physical to digital should enhance the personal connect. People still would want to talk to their advisors instead of communicating with a machine – digital thus will be an enabler to make more and more of interaction possible.

How is Aviva planning to realign its strategies in this direction?
From a life insurance perspective, more people will open up to the ‘mortality’ conversations and proactively seek advice to draw out adequate coverage for them. Will Writing is a legacy proposition of Aviva India. In the ‘New Normal’ where face-to-face interactions are limited, this unique digital tool has generated a lot of interest amongst prospects and we have witnessed a considerable spike in cases logged in through this tool.

Processes such as Video Based Identification Program(VBIP), Video MER and Video KYC are being aggressively explored by us. We also see insurance sales moving from mostly physical to mostly phygital as customers draw more comfort connecting on video conferencing and with DIY tools provided to them.

Several initiatives have been adopted by the industry for traditional means of canvassing policies by agents and other intermediaries. IRDAI has introduced e-consent of proposals through OTP for wet signatures and also issuance of e-policies. The regulator also did away with the necessity of physical signatures for issuance of policy.

The future customer should have the option to not walk up to a branch for any service request and yet get a seamless servicing experience online. Our efforts are concentrated in this direction. A lot of innovation is taking place in the product space with attempt to tie in insurance purchase to wearables, IoT and AI.


If you have an interesting article / experience / case study to share, please get in touch with us at [email protected]

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