Since when did ‘Digital First’ become a valid customer strategy?

The good news is that every single institution that I meet in this mysterious world of claims that I move within is “customer centric”. I know this because they all tell me that this is so. Without exception every insurer, broker, and claims manager places the customer “at the heart of everything they do”.

The bad news is that not just a few of these businesses are either fooling themselves – or their customers.

To illustrate my point let me glance at the small print of those many institutions that proclaim a digital-first strategy in all things claims. Specifically, new customer portals, online notification systems, status tracking, and a myriad of other applications that rain down on claimants from the digital God on high.

Whether or not the customer wants them.

By fair means or foul the claimant is encouraged to use digital channels. Simply finding a human being to speak with becomes a major trial of persistence. IVR systems are subtly altered to inform the ever-suffering customer that online claims systems are “readily available”. Once caught in the vortex of digital options the customer is only allowed to emerge slowly, reluctantly, and with a headache the size of Jupiter if they dare to challenge the new norm.

Digital Choice Rules OK

Of course, I exclude those institutions who are genuinely and irrevocably committed to digital-choice, which is an altogether more acceptable offer. But how many claims managers do you know where this so-called “freedom to choose” is offered evenhandedly between online and offline communications media? Where freedom is hard wired into systems, training, and internal structures. Where freedom to choose is not just another platitude in the 10-year road map?

The reason why digital-first rules the roost too often is simple.


The rush to digitisation is not primarily motivated by any fanciful notions of customer-centricity. It is driven, instead, by a desire to reduce costs. The more claimants that can be cajoled into using digital channels then the lower the expense ratio of the business.

“Once caught in the vortex of digital options the customer is only allowed to emerge slowly, reluctantly, and with a headache the size of Jupiter.”

Throw in a few rounds of automation plus judicious use of AI tools and the cost per claim tumbles.

Even better is that the internal use of the latest tools can also be used to reduce indemnity costs as well. Who knew that subtle changes in programme parameters can make such a difference to the propensity for cash settlement in property claims?

But what is actually best for the customer? Don’t ask such awkward questions!

Might Versus Right

In an age when information is so readily available, and comparisons so easy to make, it seems to me that the imbalance between customer rights and institutional might have never been so great. And those who proclaim a digital-first strategy merely seek to feather their own profits-supporting nest at the expense of the people who really pay their wages. The policyholders.

My many clients from the world of insurance, claims management, and the supply chain will know that I am not a technological luddite. Quite the opposite. They know that my 25-year quest to drive new solutions referencing real customer need continues unabated. They know that my advocacy of informed and integrity-driven use of digital tools knows no bounds.

But let me be clear.

Digital-first is not a customercentric strategy. It is an excuse for the real thing.


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