I woke up in a sweat, literally. I had just finished Day 1 of the BC Bike Race, a monstrous mountain bike race in British Columbia, and suddenly realized I didn’t have accidental cover. Silly!
I had nearly written myself off a couple of times on some of the drop offs, and if I landed in the ER in Canada, I’d still be paying the medical bills.
Normally my credit card flight purchase would have covered me, but this time it didn’t. Cutting a long story short, after about 90 minutes of international calling, I had cover in place via a reputable international bank. The rest of the race ended up injury free (barring the odd bruise from sailing over the handle bars), but that early morning stress was painful and unnecessary.
It didn’t have to be like that. What if I could have used WhatsApp and through a simple chat sorted out my cover while inflating my tires and adjusting my suspension?
Sounds too good to be true?
Let’s begin with a whirlwind tour of WhatsApp’s coming of age. WhatsApp is the dominant third party messenger service in most EMEA countries, as well as India, Russia, Canada, Mexico and South America. Its growth has been stellar, far outstripping other big names like Facebook, Gmail, Twitter and Skype. And as at October 2018, it is the most used messenger app worldwide at 1.5 billion users; 200 million more than Facebook Messenger and 500 million more than WeChat.
What started as an app to show your availability has morphed into a fully-fledged messenger service, incorporating voice and video calling, including group calls. It also allows for voice messaging, as well as photo sharing.
The transformation reached another milestone in 2018 when WhatsApp Business and WhatsApp Business API were launched. The first was built with the small business owner in mind, the second looking after medium and large businesses. They make interacting with customers easy by providing tools to automate, sort and quickly respond to messages. It’s intended to feel and work just like standard WhatsApp. You can use it to do everything you’re used to, from messaging to sending photos. This communication flow is also two-sided: you can communicate with your customers, and they can communicate with you.
Next in line is the addition of WhatsApp Pay. It has been tested in India, with Mexico and Brazil supposedly next in line. This completes the business cycle, making it easy to get paid for services and goods delivered. And even without WhatsApp Pay, you can already embed links in messages to direct payment to third party payment services.
Why is this so revolutionary for insurers?
Insurers are constantly striving to engage more effectively with their customers. They want a stronger, ongoing relationship. They can offer appropriate solutions at the right time if they understand their customers better. In doing so they can build loyalty, increase their brand strength and enhance the persistency of the business.
Some insurers have done this very effectively using a variety of options, the best being through wellness and loyalty schemes. Some also use data analytics to great effect, ensuring targeted messaging to their customer base, whether through SMS, email or calls.
But WhatsApp has the ability to super-charge customer engagement, through all parts of the value chain. It has the ability to make the conversation real and engaging, and in a manner that the customer wants. You’re finding them in their digital space, rather than requiring them to download your app or come to your website.
Live WhatsApp Insurance Examples
Some insurers have already embarked on this journey and are embracing the technology. A start-up in Ghana, RedPear, launched a travel insurance proof of concept which covered the whole client journey. Everything was covered via WhatsApp, from quote to claim.
Some more established players in India (Future Generali India Insurance and Bharti AXA Life Insurance) have rolled out claims handling and customer administration queries. The customer engages directly with the insurer via WhatsApp. Once the claim event happens, you don’t need to search for an app and then download it. You just start a WhatsApp chat with your insurer - you follow the prompts, take the pictures, and submit the claim.
The same goes for making policy changes, updating details, or other admin questions. Simply chat to your insurer using an existing app that you’re familiar with and that also automatically creates a record of the “conversation”, benefitting both you and the insurer.
Using apps is not new and many insurers already have apps utilizing the camera capabilities on phones to digitalize the claims process, or use in-app messenger services to communicate with customers. But that requires a very specific app strategy. It also means the customer must download the app before they can communicate, and in developing countries this would be key, as customers don’t want to spend data to download unnecessary apps.
In the more developed markets of EMEA, app fatigue is the issue; customers don’t want to add another app on the 5th screen of their mobile device. Research from Comscore show that mobile users spend 85% of their time using just five apps, and that 41% of users are not downloading extra apps.
It is still the early days, but once AI and Bots becoming smarter, the customer will be having a real-time, intelligent WhatsApp conversation with the insurer - not just a glorified menu selection process which is often the case with current chats and USSD sessions.
One Size Fits All
Does this mean that all insurers will need to migrate all parts of their insurance solution to WhatsApp? Probably not. For the start-up, though, this potentially offers an inexpensive market entrance, provided the value proposition, including distribution and customer acquisition strategy is sound.
For the larger, more established incumbent, it might mean a foray into using WhatsApp for only certain parts of the value chain.
And for some insurers, it might not be of any relevance at all.
It is key to remember that WhatsApp conversations are quick and engaging, so if you use it, you need to respond in real time. It’s another tool in the automated self-service revolution that is already happening. It can produce significant cost savings, but only if your human and IT systems are up to the task.
Some Parting Comments
Based on some U.S. engagement research, the majority of U.S. customers don’t want to engage with brands on messenger apps. This might not be the case going forward, and might also only apply to more developed markets where insurance is readily available. WeChat offers a glimpse of the integration that can happen within a messenger app and how that has exploded in China. WeChat covers the full spectrum of services, including payment, all through one app. Part of its offering, WeSure, has partnered with 20 insurance players to also provide insurance solutions.
WhatsApp has the potential to significantly disrupt, enhance and revolutionize our industry. It seems prudent to at least assess the potential impact of WhatsApp on your business strategy, and not just see it as an alternative to SMS marketing.
Hopefully the next time I need to engage with my insurer, whether to buy a new policy, update some information or submit a claim, I can do it easily just using WhatsApp.