Products, services, sales: what insurers expect in the future

June 29, 2022 – Specialists and sales directors from four national insurers discussed performance promises that do not match customer expectations and the customer’s desire for claims to be resolved as quickly as possible. He also addressed the question of the future of exclusive sales in times of digitization and how young people can be given perspective. And finally, it was about whether industrial insurance can remain attractive to domestic providers.

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Insurance Forum Austria 2022: Specialist and sales directors discussion (Image: Sabine Klimpt)
Insurance Forum Austria 2022: Discussion of the specialist and sales directors. From left to right: Peter Loisel (Finlex), Walter Kupec (Generali), Sonja Steßl (Wiener Städtische), Wolfgang Petschko (Donau Versicherung) and Wolf Gerlach (Uniqa). Image: Sabine Klimpt. Click the pic to enlarge.

At the 10th Austrian Insurance Forum last week, a high-level discussion with specialists and sales managers from Austrian insurers addressed the question of which products, services and sales channels should have a promising future.

Moderator Peter Loisel, head of Finlex-Austria, tackled three big blocks of topics and initially asked what claims strategy the “big houses” were following in the area of ​​tension between profitability and customer satisfaction.

Walter Kupec, director of property/casualty insurance at Generali Versicherung AG, began by emphasizing that his company does not have a claims strategy: there is only one strategy, these are the things you want to do and offer to the customer. subordinate.

Complex value propositions

If you talk about profitability and customer satisfaction in the claims process, it’s really about what the customer’s expectations are and what the associated service promise is: “Expectations are often a long, long way short of our service promise.” Kupec says.

The performance promises of insurers are very complex, many clients can hardly estimate them. What is disruptive and where to go are less complex products and value propositions.

Claim settlement begins with product development, with sales, with the right advice. It is important to prepare the products in one language so that there is no gap between what the insurer promised and what the client ultimately expects.

deal with damage quickly

For Sonja Steßl, CEO of Wiener Städtische Versicherung AG, it is important to let the customer decide how they want to communicate with the insurer, whether on site, in the office or by phone.

However, the number of digitally savvy customers is increasing and, particularly in the case of mass claims (Steßl cites the example of sending pharmacy bills to health insurance companies), it is essential to be able to automate and settle claims as quickly as possible. fast possible.

Most of the damage could be “routed” if customers “behaved themselves and filled out a form”; but you work with people whose lives need to be made easier: from a claims settlement point of view, it is essential not to be too complex.

A potpourri of expectations

What has been discussed so far applies to private enterprise, Wolfgang Petschko, CEO of Donau Versicherung AG, emphasized. But there are also other customer groups, such as commercial or industrial customers, who have completely different expectations.

For example, the average cyber customer is not primarily interested in quick payment of a claim or comprehensive coverage, the most important topic for him is “24/7 availability in the sense of assistance support” and first level support.

The expectations of those customers are very different from what you could handle with automation. So there’s a whole potpourri of challenges, lots of product and service promises. This is where the differentiation must take place.

The customer just wants a quick fix, no matter how

“It’s up to us as a service provider” to adapt to customer requirements, said Wolf Gerlach, COO of Uniqa Österreich Versicherungen AG. The customer does not care how something is done, he has to find the way that works in the cheapest, fastest and optimal way.

This is the “balancing act”: on the one hand being “on site” with the customer, on the other hand ensuring the most structured, fast and high-quality processing possible.

The industry often tries to solve a problem or shortfall at the end of the value chain instead of dealing first with the product, then the process, and then the IT solution.

The future of exclusive distribution

How insurers can position their exclusive sales and where the future fields lie so that they can be successful despite digitization was the topic of the second round.

According to Gerlach, there is a suitable sales channel for every customer need and every life situation. On the one hand, Uniqa follows a multichannel path, but it also makes a clear commitment to exclusive sales, to which it provides the greatest amount of resources possible.

This also allows the sales department to process claims on site – it really doesn’t matter where a claim is made or paid, as long as it’s done according to certain processes. Therefore, property area sales can regulate site damage up to certain limits.

Insurance sales are currently not “sexy”

Of course, like everyone else, they are committed to field service and want to strengthen and expand it, explains Petschko. However, selling insurance in field service “isn’t super sexy right now.”

There is a problem with the hiring of new employees, although the subject is “extremely exciting” and even economically attractive and, therefore, there is no lack of substantive or financial incentives.

Therefore, it is trying to give the sales department the means to make the business cases to be processed “easier, faster, more advanced, at the point of sale”.

The sales force was given a purely online product from the field of home insurance, which was very well received by them: for Petschko “a clear step towards the topic of hybrids”.

Offering prospects to young people

Stessl emphasizes that Wiener Städtische’s approach must be very broad based. The large customer area is more likely to be covered by brokers, the retail area by regular sales. It is also a question of where the client wants complex advice.

Travel insurance has long had a digital contract, which is also available to brokers and field staff via their websites. The situation is different with complex life or health policies, where personal contact is important.

Regarding the problem of personnel, Steßl points out that this also affects other sectors and “could not be less”. The only question is how to position yourself and how to offer young people a horizon or an opportunity.

In the insurance industry in particular, a lot can be achieved with good training, perhaps with less previous training, and you also have prospects in the company. This is the correct answer to “being able to re-employ young people in our industry.”

stabilization achieved

Yes, there are difficulties and problems with recruitment, confirms Kupec. You have to deal with the subject intensively, in recent years you have invested a lot, especially in “pork fat”, and therefore you have achieved a stabilization.

You try to give employees platforms, support with your own website or your own Facebook presence. And it is necessary to provide sales with digital tools that facilitate consultation.

“If we improve there, we will also find the young people who are there,” Kupec said. Coming in “with the fee booklet and paper application” and saying you have a job for someone is “not sexy.”

Steßl adds that the biggest challenge is to make the young people who are hired succeed and give them the right perspectives so that they can be happy with their work. Digital tools in particular would support this.

National insurers: withdrawal from the industrial business?

In the third round, moderator Loisel raised the question whether Austrian insurers are increasingly withdrawing from industrial business and perhaps also SME business and whether almost only “retail business is done”.

According to Petschko, there are always different considerations, risk assumptions and price expectations for individual risks. But Austrian insurers have ensured that many risks remain insurable in their community, Loisel’s question is denied.

The national insurance industry forms the backbone, so “it’s still very much going.” Non-Austrian colleagues, on the other hand, “would go into the market, go out of the market.”

Risk management is often neglected

Clients who have neglected risk management in recent years now have “one challenge or another to master,” Petschko emphasizes. Therefore, some risks were not 100 percent placed at the last rollover.

Industrial companies would now face “exciting challenges”. Petschko expects business disruptions – key supply chains – and with them lead times to “shoot up”, which will have an impact on renewal in 2022.

Kupec confirms that Generali has “definitely massively” reduced its market share in the business sector over the last 15 years. This is “simply a question of profitability of the business.” A rethinking of corporate risk management is necessary.

For example, in business interruption insurance, which is “at home” in the industry, the volume of premiums went from 65 to 86 million euros between 2011 and 2020, but the expense in claims went from 38 to 207.5 millions.

Not everything is insurable

As an Austrian insurance company, Wiener Städtische feels committed to Austrian business and industry, Steßl said. They are working “very hard” to be able to cover this line of business.

The question arises how the Austrian economy and industry would react if not a single Austrian insurer was willing to cover certain risks. However, there are subject areas where not everything can be assured.

Gerlach emphasized that there are good risks even in a supposedly bad portfolio. It is the insurer’s job to find exactly these good risks and help clients become a good risk.

Finally, Petschko pointed to a current problem: With the planned conversion of the Mellach power plant to coal, the insurers, all of whom had pledged not to insure any new coal-fired power plants, would have to “work out this balancing act together.” . .

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