The industry is heading towards a more user-centric approach, which is likely going to be its greatest strength
Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, this year will go down in the history books as a pivotal point for humanity and our economies, and the general insurance sector is no exception to the same.
Among the many impactful trends that the pandemic brought along with it, increased digitisation has been one of the most substantial developments. The acronyms BC and AD could now mean something else - Before COVID and After Digitisation. This has forced the general insurance industry to evolve and the wheels of its digitisation have been set in motion.
In addition to this, general insurance has evolved as a category, propelled by the new needs that the pandemic shifted into the spotlight. And at the heart of this transformation lie the consumers we serve. Over the past few months, health insurance companies across the country have stepped up to the challenges laid bare by the crisis, and together, the industry has brought many innovations to life.
Here is a look at three ways the sector is evolving going into 2021:
1. Increased customer-centric product alignment
The COVID-19 crisis has encouraged health insurers across the country to take a second, look at their product offerings, and offer health insurance solutions that align with the changing needs of India’s new-age consumers. Where health insurance was once predominantly perceived as a necessary solution only for senior citizens and people inching closer to retirement, today, the consumer diaspora has evolved to include more millennials.
The pandemic has put mortality into perspective, and an increasing number of younger people are growing curious about health covers. As one study revealed, around 63 per cent of people aged between 25 and 35 made inquiries about health insurance amid the COVID-19 pandemic. Health insurers have responded to these evolving consumer needs with COVID-centric products.
The trend in 2021 will continue with new types of coverage, as the launch of more parametric policies (which pay upon the occurrence of a triggering event rather than having to claim a specific insured property loss) catastrophe coverage and might also have applications for future viral outbreaks.
2. Digitising for efficiency
The COVID-19 crisis has also necessitated extensive digitization of the industry. Nearly every top health insurer in the country embraced digital solutions to keep the end-to-end process smooth and seamless for customers. With lockdown-induced restrictions coupled with a general need for contactless solutions, insurers in the health industry sector resorted to digital tools like telemedicine and chatbots, among others.
At Reliance General Insurance, for instance, we facilitate e-consultation through
telephonic, video, and chat-based channels for our customers as early as April 2020. We also organised webinars on social media to help spread awareness of the pandemic and educate them about preventive steps. Several other industry leaders also developed digital and online solutions to ensure that customers could access every phase of the insurance journey online - from application to claim settlement.
3. Simplifying processes for a smoother experience
A welcome effect of increased digitization was the simplification of processes. For the customer, this meant better and more seamless experiences. Teleconferencing made face-to-face interactions possible, so customers could get their queries answered. The process of raising and settling claims was also greatly simplified, and this meant greater satisfaction for customers, particularly during the uncertain times that marked this past year.
RGI also endeavored to simplify the process of claim settlement, with over 90 per cent of the claims being settled digitally through our mobile app, our website, or through the customer portal and emails. In addition to this, our single page claim form and guided claim submission flow made things smoother for our customers.
The health insurance sector looks set for a full-scale makeover. Innovations that would have taken years have now been accelerated out of necessity and they look like they are here to stay. This is a good sign and one can be optimistic about the industry’s growth in the next few years due to these developments.
These, I believe, will come in the form of continued product design transformation, catering to the new-age consumer. Penetration in the country looks set to improve as documentation and other processes will continue to be made smoother and even more simplified. With digitisation growing from strength to strength, it will serve as an extremely solid framework for consumers in the post-COVID era. More than anything, the entire industry is heading towards a more user-centric approach and this is the approach that is likely to be the greatest strength of the industry in the years to come.
The author is CEO at Reliance General Insurance