We clapped enthusiastically for carers during the height of the pandemic. But how many of us would clap for our insurers?

The outpouring of appreciation for NHS staff, carers and key workers was precisely because of the excellent, invaluable and selfless service they have provided to the public in very difficult times.

The insurance sector has also been very active during the pandemic. The COVID-19 effect can be seen in the huge spike in claims for holiday, travel and business interruption.

The honest truth is that the insurance industry has been massively stress-tested by the pandemic. The results of this test have been illuminating and, frankly, a little concerning. It has crystallised issues that some of us have been banging on about for years.

The fact is that most customers really don’t care about insurance. It’s an important but boring, grudge purchase so it’s not surprising that most of us just go for the cheapest option.

Nearly all customer interactions with the industry come at a time of stress (a crashed car, a break in, a cancelled holiday, a very ill Fido the dog) so this doesn’t make for pleasant associations and positive customer experiences.

But the pandemic has revealed starkly what customers and brokers do care about and where the industry has fallen down…

As millions were furloughed and millions simply saw their incomes dry up, customers were worried about their wealth and their health. They wanted advice about how they could get though the devastation of the pandemic.

In fact, they wanted support and reassurance, as study after study shows unprecedented levels of anxiety and depression in the country. What they were not so bothered about was granular detailed advice about filling in their insurance application or the nuanced interpretation of the wording on page 17 of their overlong, overcomplicated policy.

For them, in difficult times of lockdown, isolation and quarantine, the definition of great customer experience just took a quantum leap. Answering the phones promptly in a friendly way is simply no longer enough. The acme of good customer experience can’t be the rep asking for their name before their policy number.

It now means helping them to make sure they stayed protected, helping them with accessing relief from financial strain, and helping them adjust cover easily in light of how their risk profile and financial position has changed.

With ‘following the science’ now almost a mantra, the insurance industry is rightly seen by many as the go-to people to understand protection and mitigation in light of COVID-19.

Risk is what insurers do, so it’s not unreasonable for customers to assume that the industry could help them with, say, applying for help from government relief funds or advising them on what they can and cannot do during furlough.

They might reasonably turn to insurers for guidance on the risks and cover for returning to work, using public transport, sending the kids to school or even whether or not to wear a face mask.

Brokers and intermediaries, too, are looking for client experience of a different order. The majority are small businesses and their number one concern is finding ways to support their vulnerable businesses from the horrendous economic impact of COVID-19 during the worst economic collapse in history. They want help with continuing to place risk and service clients get relief from financial strain. Their concerns are existential.

In other words, the industry focus has to be on the individual – whether that be the customer or broker – and not on the product.

In healthcare, the big trends are holistic: patient-centred medicine and wellness. Don’t focus on symptoms and illnesses. Focus on achieving a healthy, happy life for the individual. Look at achieving their upside potential, not just minimising their downside.

So how do we achieve this breakthrough from answering the phone to providing an excellent, seamless and frictionless customer experience? How, exactly, can we make customers and intermediaries clap?  

Well, quite simply, we offer them a cake!

A cake is exactly what insurance customers want. They don’t want all the individual ingredients that they have to put together themselves. And they don’t want to buy a grudge product, they want to buy a complete experience.

Some industries and companies already offer exceedingly good cakes. Peugeot, for example, once offered a single ingredient – a car. But now they’ve baked it in with lots of other ingredients to offer a complete customer driving experience. They call it Just Add Fuel and it’s a deliciously tempting single confection comprising the vehicle, servicing, tax, roadside assistance, tyres and insurance. Desirable, delightful and ready-to-go.

And while the COVID-19 disruption has undoubtedly been tough on the industry, it may have given it an opportunity to reconsider strategies and accelerate trends towards the massively improved customer experience that could make it loveable to customers and brokers alike. It’s about seeing the big picture rather than the individual pixels. It’s about anticipating and satisfying needs rather than asking “Will this do?”.

A prime example, during peak lockdown, many of us were paying for car insurance that we were not using. That’s not a great customer experience.

But with telematics, it is possible to pay only for what you use, just as you do with utilities. Contact tracing apps are being rolled out to combat the spread of COVID-19. We have them on our smartphones. Imagine a product that not only automatically paused your premiums when you weren’t driving but notified you of falling petrol prices and alerted you to when lockdown restrictions were eased on journeys.

Cloud’s enormous data processing and data analytical power allows the industry to exploit the enormous potential of telematics, allowing customers to control the price of their insurance through their behaviours. The insights and innovations completely customised and tailored rather than off-the-shelf commodity and it gives the opportunity to genuinely place the customer at the heart of the service rather than hanging around on the product periphery.

That’s just one example, there are other ways cloud can deliver this cake. It offers the means to deliver seamless, frictionless, supportive insurance services with no requirement to own and run the infrastructure: it offers the scale, agility, automation and innovation that can deliver real customer experience.

Cloud offers resilience, the ability to spin up servers to meet surges in customer inquiries and the automation to streamline the routine processes, freeing customer service teams to look after customers personal worries.

But beyond the crisis, cloud offers the industry the chance to thrive in the longer term. Its huge data processing power and analytics can enable much faster response times and permit the move to preventative and proactive services such as notifying customers about flood warnings or increased burglary threats in their area.

We fall in love with homes, cars and pets. We don’t love the insurance policy that comes with them. However, cloud allows us to bake it into something much more appetising – a seamless, personalised, omni-channel experience that delivers a desirable result. 

Now, that really is something to clap about.