Domestic & General: Key trends driving insurance innovation

We speak to Domestic & General CEO Matthew Crummack about the key trends driving innovation in insurance, including AI, ML & sustainable practices

InsurTech Digital speaks to Matthew Crummack, Domestic & General CEO about the latest trends driving innovation in the insurance sector, from sustainable practice to the rapid uptake of AI and machine learning. 

For Crummack, the best innovations today find the balance between maximising efficiencies and maintaining human customer experiences while enabling resilience amid difficult macroeconomic conditions. 

From your experience of working in the insurance industry, what are some of the trends that you are seeing? 

In response to technological advancements, the insurance industry is constantly evolving, and consumer expectations are shifting. 

This includes the use of AI for claims processing, chatbots for customer service and leveraging data and analytics to better understand changes in customer behaviour in order to tailor products and services. 

At D&G we have invested in developing our digital journeys so that customers have more choice in how they can interact with us. Across the industry customer-centricity is a growing focus to remain competitive. 

Our clients move at a fast pace, so it’s important we’re not only equipped to support their ever-evolving needs but also lead the way in driving new opportunities.  

Sustainability continues to be at the forefront of industry innovations, both in terms of employment practices, following a significant shift in workforce expectations, and consumers growing increasingly conscientious about how their decisions impact the environment. 

Climate change is a dominant global threat, and consumers rightly expect businesses to play their role in building a better future by investing in activities that positively impact the health of the planet. 

At D&G we’re committed to providing products and services that can help to reduce the use of energy and natural resources. We believe that our services contribute towards longer product life and reduced waste through effective repairs, and we articulate these important benefits to our customers.

Insurers, now more than ever, have a key role to play in helping to promote sustainable approaches among consumers to improve climate resilience. 

How is AI and machine learning automating customer service in insurance? 

At D&G we’re transforming a 100-year-old insurance business into a tech-driven platform so we’re always on the lookout for how emerging technologies can be utilised to improve the customer experience.

In particular, we recognised that our contact centre was an area where improvements could be made to enhance the overall experience.

Across all industries consumer’s technology preferences are changing at a rapid pace as they seek slick, online options for them to communicate quickly and check a claim. 

We explored the possibilities available to us for advanced automation that can be achieved with AI and virtual assistants to guide the customer through the process, in the same way that they would experience with an agent. 

In a landscape where efficiency and customer satisfaction are key, the adoption of AI chatbots presents a huge opportunity to provide seamless digital journeys. 

Nevertheless, as the business continues to grow and be more data-driven, it is essential that we strike this balance between human interaction and technology so that customers always have the comfort of knowing they have access to the invaluable human touch when needed. 

Is it still important to retain a balance between technological upgrades to customer service and maintaining a human touch?  

It’s important that we use AI and automation to empower people, not replace them. In insurance especially, a personal touch builds trust, can help to foster relationships, and provides the best possible outcomes for customers.

Organisations can be data-driven and technology-enabled whilst also being people-centric. To cater to customers’ unique needs and the different experiences that they seek, businesses need to have a diversity of thought and AI may lack the human touch to understand, customer's emotions, tone, or intent. 

We interact with thousands of customers every day ranging from busy parents to elderly people living on their own, so we make sure that we can provide multiple contact points. 

This includes online, by telephone, and post, as when a sector cuts back on physical access, it’s often the vulnerable customer that loses out.  

Our website also includes maintenance hints, tips, and a troubleshooting ‘soft fix’ option to help customers fix more simple errors themselves. AI cannot yet match the firsthand knowledge or reassurances that a team that specialises in handling more complex calls can provide while detecting signs of vulnerability. 

Whilst the benefits of digital development are widespread in terms of convenience, we must not forget the value of the human touch, especially when it comes to customer service. 

How do you build resilience to face the challenges ahead? 

Successful businesses need to have more than a competitive edge and an excellent product. When faced with significant challenges such as those posed by the COVID-19 pandemic, the insurance industry was forced to adapt and shift strategies to ensure that they could continue to thrive for the long-term. 

The shift to working from home brought with it the introduction of many new systems, causing challenges at various operational business points. But it also showed us that a hybrid model is a powerful tool for building more resilient businesses and expanding the talent pool. 

Companies should also be investing in good collaboration technologies and spaces that focus on employee wellbeing as well as agile working. This will not only help to retain existing staff but be equally attractive to new, potential candidates. 

The increasing frequency of cyber-attacks makes those working in insurance prone to cyber threats, as they embrace innovative technologies and make use of big data. 

Companies must fundamentally rethink how they approach risk by implementing a combination of proactive measures and responsive strategies. 

They need to ensure that cybersecurity is a regular topic of discussion at the board and executive levels and allocate sufficient resources for cybersecurity initiatives. 

As we pursue growth, D&G is recruiting everyone from data science professionals to technology and data engineers, to digital marketing experts – to say nothing of the value it still places on having great agents who can pick up the phone, talk to customers, and provide a human contact point.  

Do you have any tips for other business leaders? 

One of the toughest challenges that business leaders must consciously address is the leadership bubble. 

A turning point in my business was when I recognised that my team could take on more ownership of the day-to-day activities, which influenced my leadership style and allowed me to focus more on mentoring and away from micromanaging. 

This means investing in your teams and the development of future leaders by nurturing talent and creating a culture of continuous growth and improvement. 

If the insurance industry is to attract more young talent, it needs to be flexible, innovative, and open to change.  

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