August 25, 2021 by Canadian Underwriter Staff
COVID-19 has accelerated insurance carriers’ plans towards digital transformation, but Canada’s insurers are in their “infancy” when it comes to meeting policyholders’ growing demands for texting with their carriers, says a former insurance executive.
Speaking at the Reuters virtual Future of Insurance Canada event Monday, Barbara Bellissimo said while many Canadian insurers do have texting capability, it is “not as robust as it needs to be.”
Bellissimo is the former senior vice president of Desjardins and former chief agent and senior vice president of State Farm Canada. Earlier this month, she was appointed to the Financial Services Regulatory Authority of Ontario’s Board of Directors.
Bellissimo was commenting on a recent survey that revealed more than 70% of policyholders want to text with their carrier. The survey was conducted by Boston-based intelligent communication platform Hi Marley, which integrates texting technology for the insurance industry.
“Insurance companies know they need to meet customers wherever they want, whether that’s via phone, email, text or other channels,” Bellissimo said. “But while the pandemic has undoubtedly accelerated most organizations’ plans to invest in technology, the question is: Where are they today?”
Some carriers use apps for texting, while others use a secure portal, mostly for simplistic transactions or communications.
“But more needs to be done. Texting is clearly something policyholders want from carriers and a great way to interact with your customers,” she said.
Bellissimo said a post-pandemic mindshift was needed within the insurance industry, which had been lagging other industries in digital transformation, mainly because of the perception from carriers that standard systems were meeting client needs.
“In a way, the pandemic has forced insurers to discover the many possibilities of digital technologies — and it’s the push we needed to do what we really need to do.”
Investing in texting technology isn’t just a financial outlay, however. Carriers need to develop the right strategy, employ the right talent and form the right partnerships with specialist providers that can help them not only build their texting platform, but also track data related to the customer experience.
In addition, carriers need to consider personal data security issues from a regulatory and compliance perspective.
“Execution will be key,” Bellissimo said. “At the end of the day, what trumps everything is how does the customer want to interact with you? Insurers need to ask: Can I provide that capability and make it easy? How will I show my value and compete with others who are doing it?”
While investments in digital capabilities like texting make Bellissimo “excited for the future of insurance,” she said digital options shouldn’t prevent human interactions. For example, she said broker advisors and adjusters should have robust dialogues on “more complex conversations that can’t be done by analytics.”
Feature image by iStock.com/Roman Stavila