The emergent norm as the world combats the COVID-19 pandemic is for businesses to migrate speedily online not only to keep their customers but also to increase their market share through available online engagement tools and platforms. The battle for the customer has gone from mobile to online!
For the insurance services providers, the battles that existed before these new ones, evident in Work from Home (WFH) phenomenon and other new behaviours of customers, have heightened. If it was more challenging to convince people in face-to-face meetings, the likelihood of achieving better outcomes now has become more remote, except insurers adopt certain emergent measures to earn the attention of the increasing mobile and online population.
According to data released by the Nigeria Communication Commission (NCC), as at May 2020, Nigeria has 141 million active Internet Subscribers and 191.93 million telephone users, across the licensed service providers utilizing different technologies. So, insurers have to decide, in view of the existing and new challenges, why they are going online; whether to invest in branding for acceptance or technology to sell and serve the customers or both!
Mindful that of these large number of subscribers, only 12 percent have active social media accounts, insurers have had to worry about spending where they are most likely to get value – income growth, and technology seems to be the choice over branding.
Managing Pre- and In-COVID-19 Challenges
To ease the process of validating which of the two areas industry players should invest in, let us revisit the critical areas of challenges that the insurance industry had been addressing before COVID-19:
Trust has remained scarce amongst insurance stakeholders and becomes more relevant as insurers, brokers and agents go live to engage existing and potential insurance policyholders. The reason for the high level of distrust is, squarely, delay in payment of accepted claims; put differently, failure to fulfill promises made by insurers.
With COVID-19 and its life-changing protocols, the tendency for customers to listen to the excuses of non-performing insurers will lessen but this may affect leaders in claims settlement except they are able to deliver speedy and convenient means for their claimants. Most likely as policies fall due for renewal, customers will switch to providers that have hacker-proof digital solutions that can be trusted in many ways more than when physical meetings prevailed.
The question for insurance operators would then become “Can we trust your system?” If your system will bring customers and suppliers to the same point of experiencing delays in the payment of claims, then it might be necessary to critically consider the decision to invest in technology. Only brand-sensitive industry players understand the effect of poor claims management on their results and market position. All said, trust remains the currency of the insurance business!
Many insurance players could boast of the ability to deliver services to their customers prior to COVID-19, however, like many other businesses, the quality of such services became evident and not a few are still reorganizing their processes and touchpoints to ensure the much touted automated services are enjoyed by customers.
Beyond the promptings to download and use branded apps, customers now expect that the point where they have to speak with humans would not take them back to the beginning because of our nature of asking “How may I help you?”
With automation, there is the greater challenge industry players face in attempting to introduce themselves. Where your name does not ring a bell, you will need to develop a 10-second introductory statement that will earn you access to the real business opportunity.
On the customer side, automation of the process of opening bids would be an interesting development that should interest the regulator, National Insurance Commission (NAICOM), which seeks to have the database of the insurances of all Ministries, Departments and Agencies (MDAs).
Acts of disagreement and discord amongst insurance players and between the insurance industry and customers have lately been described as lack of discipline which has existed long before COVID-19 and most likely to continue except NAICOM takes back the driver’s seat.
Indiscipline anchored on a culture of failure to honour obligations without any consequential action had pervaded the insurance industry and, thankfully, recent attempts to rebrand on an industry-wide basis exposed the gravity of this challenge. Emerging brands within the industry have realized that they will need to invest heavily in technology to distinguish themselves before the insuring public, and customers are gravitating in their directions.
Notwithstanding, there are policyholders that have attempted to take advantage of the positive attitude of certain insurance players and, in my view, drastic actions like publication of “Public Notice” against them would be necessary. Is it not strange that there are discussions about the bad behaviours of policyholders and insurers, yet there are no news of any party being sanctioned or prosecuted to serve as deterrent to others?
In this respect, NAICOM would do well to invest more in branding and mass communication to enable the populace know and separate the good from the bad and hopefully correct the behaviours of industry players and policyholders alike.
Before COVID-19, you could push and pull for profit-making interactions but today, interventions that will enable us survive have become more important. The need for citizens-support does not need to be overstated.