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Sometimes Consumers Want A Little Hand-Holding

By Derek Stubbs | September 17, 2020 | 0 Comments

Customer Acquisition and RetentionCustomer ExperienceDigital Marketing Strategy and Execution

About five or six years ago major property and casualty (P&C) insurers began repeatedly asking me a version of the same question: what do Millennials want from digital self-service channels?

Underlying this question are a set of criteria and assumptions. There was then—and is today—a push to minimize costs and maximize profitability by offloading unprofitable customer-service interactions to more cost-effective self-service digital channels. “Millennials,” the P&C clients told me, “are tech-savvy and so we want to direct them to digital channels to accomplish tasks for which consumers would otherwise turn to agents.” Consumers shop for just about everything on Amazon, they search for and book cheap flights and hotels, and they trade stocks. Why not insurance? That was the logic.

The logic has a flaw. A couple, actually.

Financial Services Interactions Are Often Too Important, Complex And Unfamiliar For Self-Service

Gratuitous Venn Diagram
Many self-service actions in financial services occur at the intersection of unfamiliarity, complexity and importance.

First, let’s define what we mean by self-service. Michael Schrage, writing in the Harvard Business Review back in 2015, put it this way, “Customer-centricity that confuses and conflates self-service (systems design approach that lets people service themselves efficiently, effectively, and conveniently) with self-support (self-service when things go wrong) is bad design. Self-service optimizes what’s supposed to happen; self-support deals with what’s not supposed to happen.”

When searching for and booking a vacation flight and hotel on a travel site (remember traveling?) we are engaging in self-service. When trying on our own to get a refund for a trip that didn’t happen we are engaging in self-support. What the insurers wanted was to direct consumers to do all manner of self-service tasks, from changing an addresses to making additions to policies to filing claims.

Let’s agree that booking vacation travel is not the same as interacting with our P&C insurer.

Not to pick on the industry, but it’s a plain fact that most of us would rather not deal with our insurance companies. And, whereas we might yearn to book more travel on sites we’ve used dozens of times, if we are engaging regularly with our insurers, we’re probably doing something wrong. Simply put, many self-service actions in financial services occur at the intersection of unfamiliarity (I rarely visit the company’s digital properties), complexity (the task is often filled with arcane terms and thorny legal issues) and importance (I can’t afford to get this wrong).

Small wonder that JD Power noted in their 2016 Property Claims Satisfaction Survey that younger, more tech-savvy consumers need more hand-holding and are therefore less likely to engage in self-service. The reason? “[Y]ounger customers, who presumably have not had the same tenure of home ownership and also have less experience in having property work done, are looking toward their insurer to help coordinate the repairs.”

Fast forward to their 2020 Property Claims Satisfaction Survey where JD Power reported a mere 4% of consumers wanted a fully digital claims process.

Rules Of The Road

This is not to say that digital self-service and digital self-support can’t be done in financial services. They can. And in a pandemic, digital channels are even more necessary. But there are rules of the road.

  1. What the enterprise wants must be in alignment with what consumers want. Banks found success reducing unprofitable visits to branches with the launch and adoption of remote deposit (using our mobile phone to deposit checks). This is because consumers found it was faster and more convenient than making a trip to the bank to deposit that $20 check from grandma. Better yet, Grandma, Venmo me the money next time!
  2. Information architecture and UX has to be world-class.
  3. Live support hand-off has to be readily available. Millennials don’t have the patience to tread through automated chat or phone support options that often lead nowhere. Gartner’s annual Consumer Values and Lifestyle Survey uncovered that Millennials highly value services and interactions that bring convenience into their lives. Therefore, the customer service you provide must enable seamless live support options to allow your Millennial customers the convenience of getting what they want, faster.

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