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Call Centers in Insurance – Challenges and Best Practices

WHY YOU SHOULD READ THIS?

Call centers in insurance create both resource challenges but also opportunities.

While they can be resource-intensive and have staffing challenges, well-run call centers can contribute to positive customer engagement, offer opportunities to upsell/cross-sell solutions, and be a training ground for your next generation of leaders.

The Challenges of Call Centers In Insurance

Many of today’s insurance professionals started their careers at one of the many customer call centers of mid-sized to large insurers. Even with a number of self-serve technology available, many customers still prefer to talk to someone. But recruiting and retaining talented call center staff is a major challenge. New technology can be hard to integrate, slowing down call times. If these issues aren’t addressed properly, it means lower customer satisfaction and higher operating costs. Call centers absolutely affect the bottom line!

Staffing Problems

I was recently on an Insurance Nerds webinar panel, where we discussed the talent crisis in insurance. Insurance is struggling to recruit enough young talent into the industry to maintain sustainable operations. And while call centers are an excellent way to train new hires, they aren’t exactly the glamorous positions that many college grads dream of when they are completing their studies. This, of course, means you may not have the most motivated individuals to engage with your prospects and clients.

Making matters more challenging, is the regulatory environment where a regional or national insurer needs to be able to provide state-specific information to callers. Not following state-specific cancellation guidelines can lead to severe repercussions. Your call center employees MUST have accurate information at their fingertips. But, if you’ve been on a call with a call center, you already know the frustration of waiting in a queue, but it’s even more so when the person you are talking to is looking up information (this was the reason for me starting ProNavigator in the first place!)

Other staffing issues arise around being able to staff for peak times (such as following a catastrophic event), holidays and off-hours.

The Upside of Call Centers

Effective call centers present a golden opportunity to connect with customers. These interactions, whether resolving a claim, addressing a billing problem, quickly resolving coverage issues, or seamlessly getting that binder to the mortgage company, are rare touch points in the policy lifecycle. This can be a great opportunity for your company to engage with customers positively and build connections.

Beyond customer service, It’s also a chance for you to drive more revenue. If agents have access to the right information at their fingertips, they can educate your customers to further upsell and cross sell additional solutions, turning the call center into a revenue source.

An additional upside is top-performing call center employees could be the next generation of leaders at your company. By investing in their development and giving them the tools to succeed, you can cultivate the next generation of talent.

Best Practices For Effective Call Centers

Given the challenges with call centers, here are some thoughts about how to make them more effective for your company, your employees and most importantly your customers:

👍 Emphasize Self service – Many of the most transactional engagements can be resolved WITHOUT the use of a call center. Customers should be able to pay bills, download insurance cards, policies and other information 24/7 and without the need for a human to get involved. Consumers are willing to self service if it means faster resolution (how many of us swore we would never bag our own groceries? Now I eagerly will do that to make my supermarket checkout quicker!)

👍 Information at their fingertips – Effective call centers operate smoothly where your employees can quickly and accurate get the information they need to relay to your customers. All the information they need must be at their fingertips. Customers don’t want to wait for extensive periods of time while waiting for your employees to find information. Speed matters.

👍 Searchable information – Some things are more complex than others. Your knowledge management systems must be highly searchable, and up-to-date, and provide a complete view of related information. This goes beyond just slapping AI on top of your knowledge management system. If the AI is not trained on your industry, data, your systems, your employees inquiries, then you will be disappointed at how ineffective searching is.

👍 Training – Give your employees plenty of space and room to keep learning and training.

👍 Measure, measure, measure – Measure everything. Call volume, call length, waiting times, resolution quality, what your team is searching for. Conduct surveys with customers. Find out what needs improving and improve those things.

SUMMARY

Call centers in the insurance industry face challenges such as staffing difficulties, unproductive customer engagement, and with integrating new technologies. However, they can also provide opportunities for positive customer engagement, upselling/cross-selling, and training new leaders.

To improve effectiveness, call centers should focus on self-service options for customers, ensure employees have easy access to necessary information, maintain highly searchable knowledge management systems, provide ongoing training, and consistently measure performance and customer satisfaction.


Joseph D’Souza is a passionate business builder with more than a decade of experience in founding and growing companies. As the founder and CEO of ProNavigator, he's using AI to help insurance professionals win in an on-demand world.