How can companies and financial professionals stand out with service? The relationship with the policy owner starts during the sales process, regardless of the sales channel. For the in-person sales process, prospects turn to their financial professional to help identify the right products and the amounts of these products to buy. Post-sale, policy owners want the assurance that they will receive the service they need, from the channels they prefer.
When policy owners need service, how much value do they place on digital channels? And how important is it to policy owners to talk with someone — either a financial professional or a customer service representative? LIMRA’s research with policy owners and financial professionals shows that many see the benefits of expanding service options, including incorporating digital channels.
Financial Professionals Are the Top Choice for Service
Life insurance policy owners want service. Financial professionals were their top choice for service channels in the past and they remain the desired channel into the future. (See chart.) Policy owners across all generations want to meet with financial professionals in person, talk with them on the telephone or email them. Financial professionals are the first line of service for information, sales and advice for the majority of policy owners.
Consumers have increasing expectations on using digital channels for financial services. Expectations are highest among millennial policy owners, followed by those in Generation X. Younger policy owners want to be able to go to their financial professional’s website for service. In addition, quite a few want the option to exchange text messages or meet virtually, using tools such as Skype or WebEx. Social networks are in less demand, but millennials value social media options more than older policy owners do.
Financial professionals themselves increasingly see the value of digital service options. Many find that greater use of digital options helps them provide better service, enhance client relationships, retain clients and reach younger clients.
Millennial financial professionals use more digital technology with clients, including greater use of email, social media and virtual meetings.
Financial professionals across generations use text messaging. Quite a few advisors would like to text more, but some are restricted from doing so due to compliance concerns. These financial professionals often limit texting to making and reconfirming appointments.
Online Service Will Grow for Informational and Transactional Services
While financial professionals are highly valued for service, channel preferences vary by the types of service that policy owners seek. In fact, interest in online service from a company in the future is double now than it was in the past. (See chart.)
Policy owners often choose to go online for general information about companies and products, preferring to self-educate prior to contacting a financial professional or the company. Online service is a time-saver they can access 24/7. Quite a few prefer to make transactional changes online, including updating payment and contact information, checking beneficiaries or changing their names.
Service satisfaction is often higher when policy owners talk with someone by phone, in person or via virtual meeting. However, this probably indicates that some digital channels (most notably, website and chat) need to improve, either by adding certain services or by making them easier to use. Policy owners often report that they could not find a desired service on their company’s site.
Financial professionals increasingly see the benefit of having clients go online for some services, particularly transactional ones. Many know that as long as they maintain contact with their clients through regular reviews, their clients will turn to them for advice and future purchases.
Quality Service and Channel Options Build the Post-Sale Relationship
Offering quality service is essential, regardless of the channel used. It reinforces the sale, ensures policy owner information and coverage is up to date, and identifies needs that may have occurred since the prior contact. Digital services — whether through companies or financial professionals — can increase policy owner satisfaction and cement the relationship that started with policy purchase.
Mary M. Art is a senior research director of technology research at LIMRA. Mary may be contacted at [email protected]