How much do customers want to chat with insurance agents? We built a feature to find out.

Cover
Cover
Sep 10, 2019 · 6 min read

If you believe the hype, there’s an argument raging in insurance right now — and the dividing line is customer experience.

On one side you have the insurtechs (the tech companies doing insurance) who champion the power of AI to make buying insurance faster and more convenient. On the other side, you have the incumbent insurance companies, using prime time TV ads to play up the value of talking to a human being ahead of a bot.

But what if both sides of the debate have it wrong? What if the issue isn’t whether people want to deal with bots or agents, but more when and how they want to talk to either?

At Cover, we started with this question: How much access to our insurance advisors do customers want?

Are customers happy to avoid human contact wherever possible, or, given the means to initiate a conversation directly with a human being about anything to do with their policy, would they reach out?

So we designed a new feature for our app to find out.

  1. What we did
  2. What we built
  3. Initial results
  4. Takeaways

1. What we did

The basic customer flow for Cover sees a user sign up (either through the app or website) and complete a quote, which is automatically sent to them via SMS. Then, if the customer likes the price, one of our advisors picks up the SMS conversation to confirm the policy.

We started exploring what would happen if we could make our advisors more visible and more accessible earlier in this process.

Our product team explored making communication more direct and personal by encouraging customers to save Cover’s contact details to their phones, so they could shoot any questions over to our advisors and get personalized advice at any time.

As far as we know, this hadn’t been tried before in insurance.

We augmented our onboarding process so that new customers would be asked if they wanted to use the feature, even before they completed a quote. Those who opted in would see a screen with all the required details already populated. All they would have to do is save them.

We deliberately didn’t make it mandatory. Customers can still get a quote without adding Cover to their contacts, and if they do use the function, there is nothing forcing them to send any messages.

This means it is completely elective, so how much, when, and in what ways customers used it would be purely up to them.

The results should provide useful data on how customers want to communicate with insurance companies.

2. How we built it

The key challenges in building the feature were making sure the contact details were correct, maintaining the flow of the Cover app, and adding the contact without requiring access to a user’s contact list.

The process of making sure the contact details were pulled accurately and seamlessly was a little more challenging since our contact numbers are responsive.

Our SMS interactions with customers are distributed across multiple numbers. These are set automatically by our communications platform Twilio Flex, and any automated messages such as sign up confirmation messages are sent via Twilio.

To make sure customers aren’t getting messages from two different Cover numbers, or worse, adding an obsolete number, the contact details the users see when they add Cover as a contact have to be the same number Twilio has assigned to them.

Thankfully, so long as the front end of our app is getting the right information from our back end, and this is in turn correctly communicating with Twilio, pulling the correct contact number is relatively straightforward.

The second issue is keeping the experience part of the Cover app and minimizing disruption to the flow. The process is designed to be as simple as possible. For users to opt-in, they just have to tap once to add Cover as a contact, and tap a second time to confirm the contact details.

Rather than opening the user’s contacts, the add to contact screen appears as a modal window within the Cover app. So if a user opts in, and saves the number they stay within our app, rather than needing to navigate back.

The other advantage of the modal is privacy. To add Cover as a contact the app does not require access to a user’s contacts. The Cover app simply provides the information in the modal. From there, it is the user that adds the details into their phone’s contact list.

While this means the process requires an extra one button to push, the reality of the situation was that we had no need for the user’s contact details for this to work, and respect the privacy of customers who wouldn’t be willing to grant our app this kind of access.

3. Initial Results

In the first month after we launched the feature, we’ve seen over 40 percent of app users choose to add their agent as a contact. The age group for those opting in skews heavily towards customers under 35, but this is in line with our customer base as a whole.

The users that opt-in to adding Cover as a contact communicate more with our agents. The rate for users engaging our advisors in an SMS chat of three messages or more was 29.2 percent, about seven percentage points higher than for customers that skipped the feature.

And the big question — did it impact sales? Potentially yes. Our conversion rate was over 50 percent higher for people who used the add to contact feature, but this could be due to the types of customers who used the feature.

The graph below shows that the customers who saved contact details were stronger leads, according to our internal system (the higher the score, the better the lead, and the more likely they are to buy a policy).

The average lead score for customers that used Cover Chat was 25.6 versus 20.3 for those that didn’t.

So the higher sales conversion rate could just mean that the better quality leads were also the people more inclined to use the feature.

But either way, we have a feature that increases conversion rate, or at the very least adds value for the types of customers who are more likely to make a purchase.

Takeaways

These initial results are certainly promising. Given that customers see this option extremely early in the journey towards buying a policy, the fact that so many of them opt-in to a different way of communicating with an expert insurance advisor tells its own story.

The opt-in rate shows that among our customers, and potentially property insurance shoppers as a whole, there remains an appetite for the advice and guidance of a human being.

In a space that will be transformed by automation, there is still a need for some human communication. Just a different type, and through different channels.

The complicated world of insurance means customers lack clarity over their policies. This gap can turn into a barrier that inhibits them shopping for the best policy they can find.

Connecting customers to experienced advisors has always been a way to deal with this.

The challenge facing insurance companies is making sure they innovate to find new, convenient ways of offering it.

Cover

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Cover

Making insurance easy. For cars, homes, pets, and just about everything else.

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