James Norman, the KPMG’s East Africa lead insurance expert, was in Rwanda recently. Business Time’s Peterson Tumwebaze caught up with him to discuss a range of issues, including how the insurers can leverage technology to boost service delivery and deepen insurance penetration rates in the region:
Insurance uptake remains low in the region, what should be done to change the situation?
Insurance firms need to develop products that meet customer needs increase uptake levels not only in Rwanda but across the region. It is important to use customer information to realise this objective. The approach is informed by changing sector trends, requiring players to diversify distribution channels and how insurance cover is sold to boost financial inclusion.
As more people access insurance services, insurers will service larger customer bases, challenging them to improve customer care. It is important to look at every customer as a new client, a loyal customer.
Anyone, from deep in the village or upcountry towns, should be treated the same to gain consumer confidence and satisfy their needs. The new challenge for any East African insurer is how to increasingly look after customers to ensure consistent and fair delivery. Remember, insurance is a product you cannot see, touch or feel; what the consumer buys is peace of mind and protection.
Policy holders always complain of delays in paying claims, how important is customer care when it comes to insurance?
Besides, you do not get a second chance to make a first impression. It is, therefore, visual. An attractive broker or insurer’s office will create a warm impression; well dressed and friendly staff will keep that impression going. A handshake, a smile and, above all, timely delivery - do not keep the customer waiting. Customer service is also technical so, insurers cannot hoodwink customers with small print and jargon. Less is more when it comes to the products. So customer care is about breadth, knowledge and geography, and insurers must understand their policies, explain them in simple language, and be able to know the unique emotional and cultural sensitivities of different people.
Making an insurance claim is stressful, so there has to be a balancing of empathy and the right outcome; this is what makes up the customer experience.
It is a culture. It should be the number one strategic priority of any CEO and the whole company should be built around the customer.
This runs from product design, service, and claims. It covers everything from policy wording, call scripts, letters, complaints and litigation. The culture of customer care should be automatic and unconscious.
The way forward is to embrace technology and use social media to monitor customer satisfaction proactively (not reactively after the customer complaint has gone viral). They must use predictive underwriting, and design well balanced products. With proposed harmonisation of EAC regulations, customer care is high up on the agenda. The race is on and East Africa can look forward to more products, more innovation, and service with a smile.
Insurers have a critical role to play in supporting the sector develop a customer centric culture that will drive greater sustainability. The 360-degree view that drives innovation, products, pricing and delivery self-assessment is vital in positioning decisions and actions. Therefore, it is important to carry out internal and external benchmarking and use this to build customer centricity. Placing the customer at the heart of the insurance organisation is a key strategic priority. Our recent survey revealed that a majority of stakeholders in the sector carry out customer surveys. This is a positive but carrying out surveys alone is not sufficient, the findings must drive strategic and operational development.
Do you think cross-selling can enhance insurance uptake in the region?
As external market factors add more pressure and customer understanding and demands grow, cross selling services within the organisation including Insurance is critical. This is a key aspect any organisation that wants a one stop shop for all their insurance needs. In addition to developing a myriad of insurance products, it is critical that these services are not treated in isolation but as one package to serve and support the customer.
This is with an understanding of if you design a product how will you serve your customer. The good news is that in Rwanda this seems to be very well developed, according to our survey, 100 per cent of organisations proactively cross sell their services.
How can insurers leverage predictive underwriting?
Predictive underwriting is critical in developing business intelligence and leveraging new products and managing risk. It is about using your customer knowledge to optimise future decisions. Our survey revealed that 87.5 per cent of organisations in Rwanda facilitate predictive underwriting based on data collected from sales and claims made. However, to improve customer experience, audit review is critical.
The question managers should be asking is, “What is our customer care philosophy? What do you believe your goals should be when serving your customers directly or indirectly? Are the organisations customer care procedures, structure and framework working for you? It is critical that organisation understand who their customers are as this helps them manage them and attract new ones.
How important is ICT in increasing insurance penetration in economies like Rwanda?
ICTs are critical in customer care management as they cut across all operational and financial processes. Organisations need to seek to centralise their IT systems for easy flow of data, from one function or process to the next. This gives them an integrated customer platform.
However, these systems must be efficient, deliver value and align to your organisation goals, and serve the key customer-focus areas.
With the advent of the mobile customer and a changing distribution landscape, the next generation customers want to be able to transact and access products, services and to be able to report claims on the go. It is crucial for executives to assimilate mobile technology and ensure that these models deliver value to the customer.
Insurers need to understand that the best IT platform is that, which can meet the demands of the customers and market trends to survive the increasingly competitive pressures. If insurers are going to thrive in the cutthroat insurance world, they will need to make fundamental changes to virtually every part of the business.