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The rapid pace of technological development is transforming the way customers interact with many industries, and insurance is no exception. With the rise of mobility, expectations about communication and service levels are shifting dramatically. Technology has the potential to meet this new level of demand, but there’s a major generational difference in how it’s perceived.

“It’s important to think about the journey a customer is going through. Are you causing more work for your customer with a poor technology roll-out?” asked Mark Garrett, Research Director at J.D. Power, in his speech at the 2017 Property Innovation Summit.

Exploring and understanding the different needs of millennials and baby boomers is a vital first step toward meeting them. To leverage technology and extract the most value, find the common ground and focus on improving your performance. Always keep one simple question in mind: Is this technology making things easier for the customer?

Millennials Have Different Expectations

The idea that millennials want instant gratification is overstated, but they do have a different idea about how long things should take and what constitutes good service as compared to baby boomers. While 47 percent of all customers have positive experiences with their insurers, only 34 percent of millennials do, according to Capgemini’s World Insurance Report 2016.

This is in part because millennials are experiencing the claims process for the first time. They lack the experiential knowledge of older generations. They may not understand exactly how insurance works because they haven’t gone through the process before. It’s important to make provisions for this and consider allocating extra support and time to allay their concerns and explain things concisely.

Millennial expectations may also be set by their interactions with other industries, many of which have been much quicker to implement effective technology. For example, they can do all their banking via a smartphone app, they can track a pizza or a parcel in real-time, and they can skip the line by pre-ordering coffee on their phones.

By contrast, insurance can move at a glacial pace and in some cases there’s a real lack of transparency for customers. They don’t want to make a phone call to know what’s happening with their claim. Even the technology that has been implemented isn’t always user-friendly. A text message that simply states “your claim status has changed” does not deliver what the customer expects because now they have to log in or call to find out what exactly has changed.

Balancing With Baby Boomers

The answer here isn’t simple, as the very same technology solutions that boost millennial satisfaction can be perceived as more onerous or even unnecessary by older generations. If they feel they are being forced to use a smartphone app to submit a claim, for example, it may frustrate their overall experience.

While a millennial might appreciate the convenience and speed of being able to submit photos of property damage, baby boomers may feel they’re being asked to do the work of a claims adjuster. The way it’s perceived will also be influenced by how it’s presented. The customer should be aware that submitting photos themselves could expedite their claim.

Technological options should be fully explained from the beginning, but customers should be left in no doubt about alternative channels. Make it as easy as possible for them.

Easy Steps to Boost Loyalty

Customer retention is vital for a successful insurer. Providing a good customer experience is the path to high retention rates. While 13 percent of displeased claimants switched their carrier after a bad claims experience and 40 percent indicated an intention to switch within the next year, according to the J.D. Power 2016 U.S. Property Claims Satisfaction Study, 81 percent of highly satisfied claimants said they definitely would renew their policy and recommend their current insurer to others.

“Staying focused on the experience is critical,” said Garrett. “Minimize those hassles and meaningless touchpoints and maximize convenience. Remember that good communication is key.”

Refining your claims status updates and taking a proactive approach to keep customers informed is a great place to start because it boosts satisfaction regardless of generation. But you also need to flag different customer categories and tailor your service to meet their needs, just as you tailor your products. Adapt to their expectations and employ technology as a tool, but always stay focused on the customer.