Today’s article is a reminder to insurers to ‘sit up’ in the wake of the fast changing environment, a topic discussed earlier in the year.
Dynamics in the insurance industry have significantly changed the way things are done over the years.
The ways things are done in the current environment are different from the way they used to be done 10 to 15 years ago.
The industry has transitioned from a monopoly market set up of about 24 years ago to a free market with few competitors of about 10 years ago.
Today’s customers have become more knowledgeable about insurance than those of yesteryears as competition has become stiff and regulation of the industry has also improved.
Therefore, insurers who continue to apply old tactics risk going out of business because the business environment has improved.
Today’s busy customer will not accept unnecessary delays in issuing their policy document, neither is he willing to entertain unsubstantiated reasons for delaying to pay a claim.
If he doesn’t understand anything he will simply go on the internet and be able to find that information which the insurer may not even beware of.
Insurers are no longer privileged to exclusivity of insurance knowledge; it is all in the airwaves.
It is unlike to the days of old where insurance seemed to be a secret society where only members of the industry had the knowhow which was only shared amongst themselves.
The red tape that was applied in the past can no longer hold today.
For a decision to be made, a file had to pass through a thousand hands with each person enjoying holding on to a bunch of files in his tray and felt he could not be pushed to make a decision although this was at the expense of customer service.
Such a mindset is irrelevant in today’s changing dynamics. Work is not measured on how many files you have on your desk, in fact keeping files on your desk may be construed as a sign of inefficiency.
Most work is on the computer and cell phones. This is why all those who are not computer literate, if any, will find it tough in today’s market. Smart phones means emails can be accessible 24 hours every day.
The days of secretaries is slowly getting behind us. All those in management are expected to type their letters, use emails etc. with the exception of a few positions maybe.
In claims settlement today, customers want their claims to paid at the same speed as premium is collected as opposed to insurers collecting premium at the speed of lightning but pay claims at the speed of a chameleon.
A customer of today will not watch an insurer take a month, or more to pay a simple motor claim which should be paid within a fortnight if not days or better still on the spot as the case may be.
Such a customer who is meant to wait for such unnecessarily longer periods may resort to much recourse within their rights.
They may demand for loss of use, something which could have been unmentionable a few years ago!
The customer can also seek the regulator’s intervention. In today’s crescendos the Pensions and Insurance Authority and the Competition and Consumer Protection Commission are at hand to handle insurers who unfairly treat customers.
The advance in technology such as the use of the internet and mobile phones means insurers have to respond by devising ways of reaching customers where they are found and opposed to customers looking for insurers.
It is commendable that most insurers have mobile offices which serves customers closer but this is not enough. Let us consider the mobile phone.
People spend more time on their phones than on their computers or TV or even radio. This calls for insurers to invent mobile applications which will reach customers on their phones. Banks have already gone ahead of insurers in this respect.
This will also transform the operating time from eight to 24 hour service providers.
The role of intermediaries is also a development that insurers need to live up to. More than 50 percent of the Gross Written Premium (GWP) is brokered.
This means the broker has more power in the bargain process. It means clients who might otherwise be dancing to the insurers tune due to insufficient knowledge on insurance can now be well represented by a well conversant broker and the contest is now between the two knowledgeable parties.
All these advent developments calls for insurers to adapt and find bespoke solutions to the ever changing market and consumer dynamics.
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[The Author is a Chartered Insurer with more than twelve years