The pandemic drove ‘tech-celeration’ around the world as almost everything went online – from health consultations to shopping, banking and exercise classes. The digital economy soared as new solutions were devised to meet a wide range of lockdown issues. The benefits of technological developments are tangible, particularly in the insurance industry, where improvements were designed for the customer experience and operational efficiencies while reducing costs. But is everyone reaping the benefits?
According to research work compiled by leading charity Good Things Foundation, an estimated 10 million people in the United Kingdom lack basic digital skills, while 14.9 million have low levels of digital engagement. The document, Digital Nation UK 2021, also stated that roughly 2.6 million people are offline and 1.5 million homes don’t have access to the internet. People with minimal digital skills were eight times more likely to be over the age of 65.
This has created a divide between those who are digitally included and those who are digitally excluded and as a result, disadvantaged in this increasingly online world. Some people simply find it too expensive, but around 42% said they weren’t interested and 46% found it too complicated, while others said they just don’t trust digital technology.
In insurance claims management, we come into people’s lives often when they’ve been traumatised by a loss, and not everyone reacts in the same way. We all have different thoughts, feelings, challenges, and capabilities. One size doesn’t always fit all, making it important to avoid pushing everyone down the same route — particularly when it might complicate and make things even harder.
Vulnerable people are more likely to be digitally excluded, including older people and people with long-term health conditions — whether physical or mental health related. It's believed that digital engagement advanced five years during the pandemic. However, for those who didn’t have internet access or the know-how, it was extremely difficult. Providing a device or access to the internet doesn’t necessarily mean someone will use it.
Access, motivation, confidence and skills
The four main causes of digital exclusion are lack of access, motivation, confidence and skills. First, people need to be motivated to use these tools and understand why they’re relevant and helpful. Understanding how we can motivate insurance claims customers to use technology efficiently is an essential consideration in our digital development journey. If we launch a new portal, app or add a digital process, we need to go further than just sending the user a link and expecting them to understand what happens next. We need to help customers appreciate the benefits for them. We must also tailor our support to overcome barriers, whether they be related to access, motivation, confidence or skills.
When designing a website, for instance, the goal should be to make sure it works for each individual user. In practice, that means spending time talking with and listening to people with disabilities, as well as their families. In addition, invest time into testing the products and services with customers at every stage. The key is to never lose sight of the users’ needs.
Building trust and confidence
To support vulnerable customers in accessing digital services, we talk them through each step, so they know exactly what they can expect to see on each screen. This ensures no surprises or confusion, and eliminates concerns around, for example, clicking on a malicious link. Some financial services organisations have teamed up with charities to provide ‘digital buddies’ who can deliver technical support for customers depending on their needs. It’s all about providing simple, safe, user-friendly options that will motivate people to interact online and help them understand why the internet is relevant and valuable to them.
Providing specialist care
Whether a vulnerable customer is living with anxiety, memory loss or sight loss, supporting them through the digital process with individual, one-to-one assistance is vital. Digital inclusion needs to be an ongoing agenda. We must continually hit the refresh button, measure performance, monitor what does and doesn’t work, and design processes that encourage more people to become independently confident online. Technological growth isn’t slowing down anytime soon; we must simplify the experience to consider everyone in future digital developments.