Consumers want smartphone, email communication from carriersNews added by Benefits Pro on March 13, 2014

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By Dan Cook

Insurance companies have been slow to adopt nontraditional ways of communicating with their clients. But as customer demand for new avenues of communication increases, those companies who meet that demand first will likely have a competitive edge.

That's the message from a FICO global insurance customer survey, which queried 2,200 people in 15 countries about their insurance communications preferences.

Overall, the results weren't surprising. People today want to receive notifications by smartphone or email, and younger people are much more likely to expect to be communicated with in that regard. Perhaps of more significance was the sheer number that are requesting information in ways other than snail mail. A full 55 percent across all nations and ages essentially told FICO they wanted carriers to “send me an email or a text about my policy renewal and stop chopping down those trees.”

While policy renewal notices by mobile app, text or email garnered the largest vote, another 52 percent said they'd prefer to be smartphoned or emailed about any changes in their policies. This desire is strongest among the 18-to-24 crowd. Nearly a third of those over 40 still like to get stuff in the mail.

The data also unearthed clues as to why the tradition-bound insurance industry still sends out so much paper correspondence. Asked if they trust their insurer with their personal data, 60 percent said they didn't. The industry is doubtless aware of this prejudice, whether fair or not, and perhaps this has led to a continuing reluctance to communicate in “modern” ways.

Yet despite the majority of customers saying they didn't trust their insurer with personal data, the demand to receive materials in new ways suggests that, though trust levels may be rather low, being communicated with as they wish to be has a higher priority with some than protecting personal data.

"People like to have information and control at their fingertips. With emerging mobile technology, it's possible for insurance providers to deliver what their customers want – for example, to develop apps that send alerts as well as allowing more routine interactions like policy renewal," said Russ Schreiber, who manages FICO's insurance practice. "While not everyone has started using mobile devices to interact with their insurance providers, those who do report a significant increase in customer satisfaction."

There's plenty of room to respond to this demand, since the industry has barely scratched the surface, the survey showed. “Some 65 percent of consumers worldwide say they have never used their smartphone to manage or interact with their insurer. Only 9 percent said they have managed their policy using their smartphone.”

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