However, Deloitte Global’s survey also found many respondents eager for guidance in tackling more complex challenges, such as cybersecurity, systemic risks, and legal issues. In such cases, insurers and agents may be able to charge added fees for risk management services. But, since small-business budgets are often very limited, automation may still be a viable alternative.
For instance, policyholders could be offered online, interactive, industry-specific cybersecurity training programs, which would benefit insurers and buyers by limiting losses. Such programs could be produced by insurers or vendors, then offered directly to policyholders or provided through agents. One example is CyberAcuView, a cyber risk mitigation company created by a group of leading cyber insurers.9
Another alternative is a hybrid model, with robo self-service supplemented by video conferences or instant messaging with a live advisor—following the example of investment management firms such as Ellevest,10 Facet Wealth,11 and many others supporting individual investors.
Overcoming obstacles to self-service adoption
One possible hurdle to widespread use of online self-service is the desire by most small-business insureds surveyed to deal with a live person rather than a chatbot or some other automated encounter. Three-quarters of respondents would prefer in-person or telephone contact—at least when it comes to insurance sales.
To overcome resistance to automated interactions, insurers could provide an online onboarding tool at the point of sale to make policyholders aware of all the services available via the insurer’s website or smart phone app, while emphasizing the simplicity and ease of navigation when using automated tools. They might also provide gamification incentives where regulations permit—scoring points that could earn them premium reductions for completing online risk management courses, documenting suggested loss-control steps, and/or exceeding peer safety benchmarks.
Insurers could also add value by remaining digitally engaged with policyholders throughout the year, rather than connecting only at transactional points such as the initial application, renewal billing, or when claims are filed. Supplementing policies with risk management e-newsletters, texts offering safety tips or storm alerts, sharing case studies of successful loss-control initiatives, along with ongoing digital marketing of self-service options and their benefits could keep insurance front of mind and provide additional benefits throughout a policy year.
One example is Nationwide’s business solutions center, which provides a variety of information on recovery from COVID-19–related issues, cybersecurity, and resiliency, along with additional noninsurance tips ranging from managing cash flow to online strategies.12
Ultimately, however, buyers should also have an easily accessible human default option, enabling video, chat, or phone contact with a live customer service representative from the insurer or agent if robo advisors and self-help online instruction alone don’t suffice. This is likely to be especially important in moments that matter most to an insurer’s reputation—such as when claims problems arise.
How might insurers enable more value-added self-services?
- Go the robo route, making customized services viable after a policy is sold by providing digital tools to help small businesses manage their insurance portfolio, file and follow-up on claims, and improve risk management.
- Keep automated tools simple and convenient to locate, navigate, and integrate via apps and a user-friendly online portal.
- Engage digitally throughout the year by offering push/pull loss-control programs and premium-saving incentives.
- Make human support readily available if problems or more complicated questions arise.