Digital Customer Experience as a Core System 

The Front End (customer portal and the agent portal) as a core system

By Bryan Padgette | April 1, 2021

In my nearly five years with Sureify, I have frequently heard the same comment at the start of many conversations with those in the life insurance industry – “Our policy administration system needs to be upgraded before we can even think about putting a digital front end in place.”

My response? “Actually, no, it doesn’t. The two are not necessarily mutually exclusive.” This type of thinking has the potential to set you back years in digital transformation putting you behind your peers and new players in the market.  

Instead, I propose that we begin thinking of the front end (the customer portal and the agent portal) as a core system in its own right. 

I would call the philosophy that the policy administration system is the ultimate “core” of an insurance company flawed, since one can argue that the entire life insurance sales continuum, from inception to issue and beyond, is “core” to the organization. From my perspective, as I look through what core means in 2021, the agent and customer experience, whether it is in the front, middle, end or post-issue segment of the process, is about as “core” as it gets!

Just a few years ago, that thought would’ve been laughable. The insurance world before the digital revolution was based on being able to manually intake and process data and produce a result – a policy, an activity related to a policy, or a claim payment. But today, if you are not at a point where you see the agent and customer experience as not just a core system, but as the core system of your business model, you’re missing the boat.  

Now, I’m not suggesting that upgrading your PAS isn’t important, or that it shouldn’t be part of your strategy, but I am saying this: The belief that an upgrade must happen before any other parts of your business can advance, is wrong thinking. 

In a world where everything from mom and pop florists to local community banks are offering virtually all of their services on an app, why are some, if not most, insurance carriers still reliant on downloadable forms that have to be completed, and then scanned or faxed back? Or in an environment where agents and customers need to send an email or make a phone call to access the most rudimentary case status or policy information? Processes like these often take days, if not weeks; they are often fraught with errors; they waste paper; and they keep agents and call centers distracted from their real job, which is to help people. Worst of all, they impede what should be a frictionless customer experience. 

This is why a digital front end core system is needed. It allows agents, and in some cases, customers to take the reins (which they prefer in most cases – Customer Thermometer found that 73% of global customers prefer to resolve issues independently). The modern life insurance customer expects to have a digital self-service option as an addition to direct contact with an agent. Because of that expectation, a customer experience core system should be built without regard to the status of the PAS.

The Digital Agent/Customer Experience Core System

Marketing   –>  Sales Submission/Decisioning Platform   –>   Case Status   –>  e-Policy Delivery   –>  Self-Service   –>    Post-issue Engagement/Communication

As a bonus of re-envisioning the digital customer experience as a core system, you can learn volumes about where to focus financial and human resources so that the experience of agents and customers isn’t compromised. In other words, what upgrades (to your PAS and other foundational blocks) will be necessary to build a functioning digital infrastructure? As any software engineer will tell you, you can spend two years building something, but you learn ten times more on the first day that you go live. With digital customer and agent portals in place, insurers will immediately see where to focus efforts to smooth the experience of both audiences, and where you might be able to hold off on an investment.

Ultimately, all your core systems will have to work in harmony to provide the kind of customer-centricity that is expected in all industries, including life insurance and annuities. As I have often said before, a one vendor bringing all tools approach doesn’t work. For instance, an expert in PAS is not likely your expert for a digital front end experience. A better approach is to bring together the best in class from each area to succeed. 

When insurers adjust their thinking and start to view the digital front-end as core to the experience rather than as an add-on, they will be able to better connect with all customers (policyholders, potential policyholders and agents) and create the base for a valuable lifetime relationship.   

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