Texting has been around ever since we learned to use our ‘phone thumb’. Now that it’s about to make a giant leap in sophistication, it’s time insurers got the message, says Zipwhip’s Vice President of Enterprise Sales Brendan Moore
Increasing the number of touch points and frequency of interactions with customers is becoming a key means of differentiation for insurance companies, as well as a way of reducing risk and improving the bottom line: the more advice and alerts an insurer can give, the less likely claim incidents will occur.
And yet, on the whole, policyholders only ever hear from their insurer once or twice a year: at renewal or if they’re unlucky enough to have to claim. That goes for a staggering 90 per cent of home and motor insurance customers in the UK. At the same time, the fallout in the industry from the COVID-19 pandemic – described by Evan Greenberg, CEO of insurance giant Chubb, as potentially ‘the largest event in insurance history’ due to its impact on both assets and liabilities – is challenging both insurers and agents to find more efficient ways of dealing with policyholders as the workload soars. That will call for new solutions. So, how about texting?
It’s not exactly new but many organisations, particularly in the US it seems, have been a bit slow to catch on. Seattle-based Zipwhip pioneered two-way business texting in 2014, when it established connections between wireless carriers and landline operators that allowed business phones to send and receive texts. Before Zipwhip, it was impossible to text an existing landline, VoIP or freephone (toll-free) number.
And yet, according to its 2020 State of Texting Report, 32 per cent of businesses still don’t use any form of texting to reach customers, despite it being the customers’ preferred method of communication. In another recent Zipwhip survey, 67 per cent of consumers would text their insurer if given the option to do so. Texts get the job done when other mediums fail – consumers typically ignore calls from unknown business numbers and emails can get swamped in busy inboxes. But a text gets a response in less than 30 minutes, says Zipwhip, partly due to its ease of use and partly to its association with communication between friends and family.
The US telecommunications industry association, the CTIA, says six billion SMS messages were sent each day in 2019 – and that’s increased since the COVID-19 outbreak, with major US wireless providers seeing a 25 per cent uplift in text traffic. Zipwhip’s own research discovered that 56 per cent of people had been using their mobile phones more since the COVID-19 outbreak, and 62 per cent said they were responding to texts more quickly.
“If underwriters, agents and claim representatives are only leveragingemail and phone calls, they can expect to see big results by using text,” says Brendan Moore, Zipwhip’s vice president of enterprise sales. “The consumer is familiar with how to use text and, because a firm can use an existing phone number, it’s a really elegant solution. “The ability to text-enable an existing phone number isn’t typical of all texting platforms. That’s a stand-out feature of Zipwhip and it’s an important differentiator. Instead of using short code or a separate, text-enabled line, the ability to text or call the same number has numerous benefits. Most importantly, it allows customers to initiate a text conversation with their agent or adjuster on the same number that they call.
“When we turn the system on for the first time, there are always text messages waiting for them in our software. Why? It’s allowed business landlines to receive texts and people have been trying to get hold of them that way – they just expect it. Without Zipwhip, those texts fall into the ether.” And there are not just plain texts between policyholders and insurers to consider. Customers can receive and return documents or photo evidence to support a claim, for example.
“Anything that mobile operators allow you to send via your phone, you can send via our software,” says Moore. “It works easily and it’s not an app that someone has to download – text is a feature on every mobile phone, straight out of the box. It’s a powerful tool for any use cases that require human-to-human interaction, of which there are a lot in insurance, specifically with claims, sales and distribution.”
Zipwhip’s system allows customers to text an insurer or agent’s landline number, or agents can flag up the opportunity to send a text to their smartphone when a call goes unanswered. Its solutions can be custom-built to integrate with an agent’s existing customer relationship management systems, such as those offered by Guidewire, Salesforce and SugarCRM, accessed via a Zipwhip application programming interface (API) or as a software product. Last year, the company became the first to launch a Ready for Guidewire Accelerator for two-way business texting, which now supports Guidewire’s ClaimCenter 8 and 9 – a platform favoured by property and casualty insurers.
Such integrations allow insurance staff to auto-sync contacts and archive text conversations. That could be texts between additional claimants or insurance staff handling a claim, so that multiple staff can collaborate on a single claim. Triggers can be built into claims workflows to send automated texts. In essence, the system is built to allow insurers to get more done. Zipwhip says adjusters who use its system can expect to settle claims 20 per cent faster than with alternative channels, and see a reduced number of voicemails. Moore adds that improved efficiency of two-way texts boosts both customer ratings scores and internal performance targets. “Many insurance companies gauge staff interaction with customers by seeing how quickly contact is made. With texting that contact is made immediately,” he explains. “It’s a great story, it makes sense and it’s one of those things that C-suite executives understand because they
use mobile every day. It’s not some new technology that’s behind a curtain that they have to figure out.”
Now that text looks set to make an evolutionary leap, it’s a good time for insurers to start incorporating it into their communication channels, says Moore.
A new generation of business texting is emerging with rich communications services (RCS), a universal standard that’s been on the blocks for years. RCS will allow businesses and consumers to send dynamic content, high-resolution pictures and video, process payments and more, all within a phone’s native texting app. Having laid down the proprietary network of direct connections with more than 30 wireless carriers such as AT&T, Verizon, T-Mobile and Sprint, Zipwhip is poised to facilitate the adoption of RCS between businesses and consumers at a time when there is heightened awareness around business chat services.
“One of our differentiators is that we have our own texting infrastructure,” Moore says. “Below our software platform we have all the plumbing needed to send text messages between mobile phones and landlines and, because we connect directly to Tier 1 and Tier 2 wireless carriers, we can ensure our enterprise customers the security, capacity and reliability they’re looking for.
Zipwhip’s enterprise-grade security includes data encryption in transit, as well as carrier-integrated spam and phishing monitoring. It has SOC 2 Type 2 compliance for security, the industry standard for software-as-a-service providers. The company already directly supplies more than 10,000 clients with business texting services, and around 35,000 businesses tap into its software solutions. “Many industry players want big results without a major investment,” says Moore. “Keeping it simple with technology you can really leverage is vital. That technology is text.”
This article was published in The Insurtech Magazine: Issue #4, Page 30.