Policyholders pull back from digital claims in post-pandemic insurance world

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FILE PHOTO: Logo of Zurich Insurance is seen in Davos

By David French

NEW YORK (Reuters) -Policyholders are starting to pull back from digital channels as the COVID-19 pandemic eases and revert to in-person ways to file insurance claims, a senior executive at Zurich Insurance Group told the Reuters Connected Claims USA event this week.

The move, according to Group Chief Claims Officer Ian Thompson, was despite significant customer adoption of online tools in the last two years, and strides the industry has taken to humanize the experience.

Among areas where technology has gained ground during the pandemic includes filing of auto repairs and legal negotiations around workers’ compensation claims.

“We’re seeing some customers are heading back towards saying ‘I was willing to do that during lockdown, but I want to go back to a place where I can see people and speak to them directly’,” he added.

Across financial services, the pandemic has driven American companies to prioritize technology investments to ensure services are available, even when physical locations are not.

People previously averse to using technology for everyday tasks have also embraced it. The percentage of U.S. adults over 50 years old using a smartphone to make financial transactions rose to 53% by the end of 2020, up from 37% a year earlier, according to an April report from advocacy group AARP.

In terms of digital strategies, Thompson said the pre-pandemic era was overly-focused on building an “app” through which customers would have to engage. Now, insurers are creating multiple channels for customers to access services.

There has also been a push to make the digital experience more empathetic, important when the world continues to face pandemic challenges, Thompson said.

“You hear the dog barking or a child playing in the background and you start talking about what our realities are like, not just what is your policy number. Service is important but it’s about making it a human experience.”

In the United States, Zurich offers insurance products to businesses. Zurich’s U.S. footprint also includes Farmers Group, an administrator of policies for Farmers Insurance, which focuses on property and casualty coverage. Zurich Insurance acquired Farmers Group in 1998, while Farmers Insurance is owned by its policyholders.

(Reporting by David French in New YorkEditing by Chizu Nomiyama)

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