We speak of crowdsourcing like it’s the new kid on the block but it’s actually been around for over 10 years.  Paul Stanley, CEO 360Globalnet, responsible for setting up the first crowd for insurers, highlights its appeal

Crowdsourcing, or soliciting the skills or knowledge of an ad-hoc network of people, paid per job and local to your customers, is not just about economics, it’s also the result of digitalisation; less formal working arrangements to keep pace with customer demands.

Most crowds are a group of individuals, with no distinguishable skills.  Our crowd consists of hand-picked and experienced individuals to assist insurance claimants.  In fact, experienced, appropriately-skilled crowds can be tasked to deal with anything, even rocket science!

On-demand services have increased our expectations as customers and companies like Amazon and AirBnB have shown that these expectations can be met and the cost to serve the customer reduced. 

But there are still times when customer engagement, face to face, is a must.  Either, to offer the customer assistance, for compliance, or to stand out in an increasingly competitive marketplace, to earn customer loyalty.

Share and share alike

Like all collaborations, crowdsourcing uses spare resource.  And there’s a lot available.  Crowd Skills estimates 47 million people in the US participated in the collaborative economy in 2013 (buyers and sellers).

In the UK, IPSE the Association of Independent Professionals estimates there are 1.9 million British freelancers working across a wide range of sectors, from professionals to unskilled workers.

This sector already contributes $15 billion globally and, according to PwC, could contribute £9 bn of UK revenues by 2025.

The concept of helping one another is genuinely popular, it taps neatly into the gen Y and millennial tendency for social sharing and collaboration and many prefer companies that do this.  Professor Steven van Belleghem, a customer relationship thought leader, says 55 percent of customers like being helped and 58 percent are happy to help other consumers. 

The new face of insurance

Insurance is not rated for its customer service.  The Engine annual customer experience survey rated insurance eleventh out of fourteen sectors. 

While face to face engagement is relatively rare, typically only happening when a policyholder is visited at home to progress a claim, the power of the crowd in this instance, is proving very alluring.

And it does make perfect sense.  Agents to provide home visits that are local to the policyholder and can visit at a time to suit them (evenings and weekends included) has proved extremely popular and is often rated highly by our clients’ customers.  It means too avoiding the inconvenience of taking a whole day off work to wait in for an assessor. 

What’s more, our crowd is made up of vetted individuals, highly motivated to help the customer and remunerated for each job completed.  Both parties win.  So too, the insurer gets a satisfied customer and lowers overheads.

It perfectly complements our core digital strategy of mobile enablement which puts customers at the heart of the insurance claim, as they start the process (using a mobile phone or say, laptop) and it keeps them informed throughout the claim – from start to finish – while the insurer takes speedier ownership of the process. 

In the traditional model, where an insurer visits a homeowner say, due to an escape of water, using an in-house team or traditional outsourcers is expensive and, if the customer needs to wait weeks to see someone, it’s neither customer nor claim/insurer-focused.  Once the claim is settled, why would the policyholder bother to stay with the insurer come policy renewal?

Always on

More of us own and use mobiles and download content on them than ever before.  Modern technologies will only increase our data connectivity and add further expectation for an instantaneous response from insurers. 

To manage customer expectations and maintain a viable business, customer self-service is the answer.  It’s always on and always responsive.  Our expectation is for transactions to be handled digitally and we’re frustrated when they are not.

We inhabit the age of shrinking company lifespans – where in traditional times they might have survived 65 years - today this figure is around 15 years.  It’s no wonder that traditional bricks and mortar companies have been superseded by rival online companies - the bookshop versus Amazon. Insurers have a lot to do to provide a totally digital service that’s responsive online, as per the retail sector.

I think Belleghem is right when he predicts that digitising your company, while retaining a human touch, in whatever way is appropriate to win hearts and minds, is the way to stay in business.