June 16, 2011 (NEW YORK) – While traditional channels like physical mail and phone are still heavily used for communications with intermediaries and policyholders, communicating effectively via email and web are now critical capabilities for insurers, and close to a quarter of insurers plan to have strong mobile capabilities within 24 months, according to a new report from research and advisory firm Novarica based on a survey of 77 insurers.
“Different elements of insurers’ communications are shifting at different speeds, and older channels are not going away,” notes Matthew Josefowicz, partner and managing director at Novarica and lead author of the study, Paper, Phone, Email, Web Mobile: Communication Channels in US Insurance (http://www.novarica.com/communication_channels/). “This creates additional burden on and confusion for insurer CIOs, who are required to invest in supporting new channels without being able to shutter older channels.”
Among the key findings of the report:
- Paper volumes starting to wane. While paper volumes are still high for policy issuance, billing, and commissions statements, only two-thirds of insurers report “heavy” use of physical mail in these communications with policyholders, and only about half still report heavily paper-based communications with intermediaries.
- Intermediaries still want to reach out and touch someone during underwriting. And send email. More than half of insurers report heavy usage of both the phone channel and email channel during underwriting.
- Agent portals are still the biggest area of planned enhancement in communications. Within 24 months, between 60-80% of insurers are planning to enable most informational and transactional capabilities for intermediaries through their agent portals.
- Close to one-third of insurers anticipate more direct contact with policyholders in service, billing, and claims, and about one in five anticipate more direct contact in underwriting. As sharing rich information through multiple channels becomes easier and individuals are used to accessing information directly in other areas of their lives, even insurers that are committed to an intermediary sales channel are bracing for additional direct contact with their customers.
Unfortunately for insurers, the proliferation of communication channels is not a sequential process. Existing channels are not replaced immediately, nor will intermediaries or policyholders shift en masse to new channels for all interactions. While new channels may mean increased efficiency or decreased unit costs for certain communications, older channels cannot be turned off, and the overall complexity of operations and technology increases with each new channel.
The 27-page report contains 22 charts analyzing survey data from 77 insurers. A summary is available online at http://www.novarica.com/communication_channels/.
Novarica provides information, insights, and perspective on markets, operations, and technology to financial services and insurance executives. The company delivers its service through published research, retained advisory services, and project-based consulting. Novarica’s research includes market and trend analyses, best practices research, case studies, and independent analyses of insurance software vendors. Novarica draws its knowledge from the personal experience of its principals, the ongoing information gathering initiatives of dedicated research staff, and regular communication with insurer executives through informal networks and through the Novarica Insurance Technology Research Council, a moderated knowledge-sharing community of more than 300 senior IT executives representing more than 260 North American insurers. More information at www.novarica.com.