Like everyone else, insurers have had a tough year with COVID-19 and the ensuing economic uncertainty. The sudden re-modelling of their businesses around mass working from home, the collapse in the markets for travel and other insurance products through
to the difficulties around claims for business interruption insurance, are all factors that have affected insurers and their relations with customers.
COVID-19 has shaken badly, but has not broken, people’s bonds with insurers.
Support for this viewpoint comes from research by Censuswide conducted during lockdown which shows that more insurance customers believe that the industry has let down consumers (22 percent) than feel positive about how insurers have helped (12 percent).
Yet, almost one in three (29 percent) believe an insurer would still give the best customer service compared to any of the alternative insurance providers, like retail brands or Big Techs such as Apple or Amazon. And when asked about their experience of
making a claim, over three-quarters said it was either fine (40 percent) or easy (37 percent).
So perhaps insurers are in good place?
Maybe, but customers still do not necessarily feel they have much of a relationship with their insurer and COVID has not (yet) brought both sides closer.
Again, the Censuswide research suggests consumer caution, even scepticism, about insurers’ attempts to interact with them through new services and the use of new technology. People like the idea of some services to prevent damage but are not willing to pay
for them. Most, (81 percent) expect a cut in their premiums if they pay for services designed to reduce risks, such as driver behaviour monitoring or home security cameras.
However, the experience of COVID-19’s economic shock might be renewing interest in the way insurers can look after our property and livelihood in these uncertain times.
For example, having become much more digitally dependent, customer reluctance to pay for cyber identity theft insurance might be changing. Sadly, the risk of quarantining and increased unemployment, could be making more people look at job and illness protection
products, too. Indeed, the Censuswide research suggests UK consumers could be almost three times more likely to insure themselves against loss of income or illness, and twice as likely to get cover for online identity theft.
The impact of COVID in 2020 has not happened in isolation. Insurers have been adapting already to changing demographics and how technology can bring them closer to their customers. While there is a great deal said about the fact that change is accelerating,
it is wise for the industry to take careful considered steps, too.
Customers do desire change, but it must be on their terms; while many prefer insurers to be forward thinking they also want strong allies in uncertain times.
What stands out strongly from the Censuswide research are the answers that customers gave when asked to rank the most important qualities in an insurer. The top three were: paying claims quickly, keeping their data safe, and providing human customer service
staff. Notably these were all ahead of low premiums.
So, when some talk about insurance being broken and ripe for disruption, insurers should close their ears and perhaps listen more to what customers value from them most. And this points to insurers continuing to pursue their goal of more transparent, faster
and fairer services, and offering appropriate products and services with a 24/7 omnichannel approach.
Notwithstanding all the misery and widespread difficulties COVID-19 has caused, one small ray of light may be that it has made insurers and customers think more clearly about what is most important to them.