African Insurers Turn to Chat to Break Their Digital Gridlock

African insurance companies are relying on omnichannel strategies, and especially chat commerce, to rapidly advance their digital offerings and help them tackle their current digital gridlock. 

Delivering the keynote at Clickatell’s webinar for the African insurance cluster recently, Mark Walker, IDC Associate Vice President Sub–Saharan Africa, opened with a reality check for the industry. He noted, according to the IDC’s 2020 MEA CIO Survey, 64% of insurance organisations in the region are stuck in the early and middle stages of digital transformation. Just 11% are currently in what the IDC describes as the most advanced, or optimised stage, where the insurer is aggressively disruptive in using new digital technologies. 

Walker noted, however, that the Covid pandemic had been a trigger for many organisations in the insurance sector to accelerate their digital initiatives, with 62% advancing plans by one year, while 14% accelerated their digital roadmaps by two years. 

Referring again to the 2020 MEA CIO Survey, Walker shared that the biggest expectation of digital transformation from business was an improvement in the customer experience. He also highlighted that the future of insurance would see a move from the traditional channels of agent and broker supported by websites and call centres to an omni-engagement environment involving traditional channels, as well as new digital channels including mobile and social networks. 

The importance of a strong omnichannel strategy was affirmed by the attendees in the results of a virtual poll taken after the keynote, which showed that 90% of respondents saw chat as a catalyst to their digital transformation drive. 

Moderator of the event, Werner Lindemann, Clickatell Senior VP Commercial Middle East and Southern Africa, took the attendees through the benefits of using chat to enhance customer experience, reduce cost, and decrease time to revenue. 

Contextualising the power of chat’s reach, Lindemann pointed out that chat is now surpassing the reach of social media with chat platforms serving 5.8 billion users, while social media serves 4.6 billion users, underpinning Clickatell’s mission to bring brands to their customers on the channels of their choice. 

Lindemann also shared research from WhatsApp which showed that 81% of customers would message a business to find out about products or services, 75% to receive support, and a healthy 74% would use chat to connect with a business in order to make a purchase. 

Chat holds the key to future innovation in insurance 

Looking at the future of chat in insurance, Lindemann shared with attendees how Clickatell was already working with insurers in Africa to market and sell insurance over WhatsApp, including the admin intensive FICA requirements, as well as the lodging of claims. 

The second virtual poll underscored the importance insurance players placed on chat with almost 50% of attendees saying they had already implemented chat functionality in their digital offering, 42% saying they were planning to so this year still, and just 11% saying they had no firm plans for chat, as yet.  

The panel discussion kicked off with Pieter de Villiers, co-founder and CEO at Clickatell, affirming the IDC studies. 

“The insurance industry has a lot of catching up to do. Customers have expectations of how they want to engage with all of their brands, including the more traditional insurance companies. In 2017, when the chat economy emerged we saw banking leapfrog into the new era, but it has taken the insurance companies some time to transform out of the call centre era and realise the efficiencies of chat,” de Villiers said. 

Sharing his experience of the digital transformation journey, Kreegan Govindsamy, Head of Product Management at Discovery Holdings, looked at the benefits of chat and its role in Discovery’s future. 

“We now have the ability to offer interactive messaging, which has use cases across the entire customer journey. All the way from leads generation to sales, onboarding engagement, and if needs be, credit control and conservations. I think the use cases are becoming more widely adopted as a means to support and enhance human-based interactions,” Govindsamy said. 

Looking ahead, Govindsamy said Discovery would be looking at using its chat architecture or conversational AI architecture to experiment with video and voice as a means to enhance the conversational offering. 

Wrapping up, de Villiers pointed out insurers in Africa would need to ensure their products were tailored to the market with a focus on micro or pay-as-you-go insurance. They should also not neglect billing and collections which, fortunately, could also be supported by digital channels. 

“Insurance providers in emerging markets have an opportunity to leverage the additional reach made possible through chat commerce, expanding their total addressable market by up to three times with micro insurance products,” de Villiers said. 

Finally, he summed up the consensus of the webinar, saying that unless insurers in Africa had reach, they would not be able to effectively serve their customers. This, he reiterated, required the effective use of mobile and the power of chat. 

To watch the webinar, Chat Commerce for Insurers: Your Digital Transformation Roadmap, on-demand click here: