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Customer Portals – Moving Beyond Information

A number of multinational insurers, and some local insurers, have customer portals to allow customers to access their policy information online. In this article we explore how a customer portal can be so much more than an information platform and should be a core part of a digital insurance strategy that can generate significant cross sell and referral business in the future.

What is a Customer Portal?

A customer portal at its most basic level is a system, usually accessed via a browser, which allows the customer to access information on the policies they have with the company.

Although The Digital Insurer has not been able to carry out a comprehensive survey of customer portals in the Asia-Pacific region it would appear that insurers fall into one of three camps in the Asia-Pacific region – no customer portal (a surprisingly large number), information only portals, information and transaction portals.

Links to some examples of customer portals in Asia are given below:

Prudential (Indonesia) – an information portal

NTUC Income (Singapore) – an information portal

Aviva (Singapore) – information and transaction portal (nice demo provided)

Bharti Axa – an information portal

Most insurers could benefit from either putting a base customer portal in place to avoid being at a competitive disadvantage or are ready to upgrade their existing portals to a more customer-centric model.

Customer Portals in context

Ideally your organisation should have an agreed strategy and road map before embarking on the development of customer portals. The business model pictured below, The Digital Advisor, is an example of such a framework.

Digital Advisor Business Model for the insurance Industry

Having an overall plan helps – The Digital Advisor Model is an example

The good news is that a customer portal is typically the least integrated component in the Digital Advisor business model. This means you can progress a customer portal deployment in parallel with other components without running a significant risk of creating incompatible or unconnected outcomes.

Customer Portals of the Future – a platform approach

The Digital Insurer approaches the functionality requirements for the ideal customer portal using a platform approach. 6 platforms are identified for the Customer Portal of the future:

  1. Information Platform: Providing basic customer and policy information
  2. Transaction / Service Platform: Allowing customers to perform transactions e.g. update particulars, switch funds
  3. Content Platform: Providing customers with information that allow them to make informed choices e.g calculator tools, explanations of products etc. Content will be a key strategy to develop long term customer loyalty as well as generate new sales
  4. Sales Platform:  Using the customer portal to generate up-sell and cross sell opportunities (and promoting the clients’ advisor within the portal)
  5. Rewards Platform: Using rewards programmes within customer portals to increase customer engagement and loyalty
  6. Communication Platform: Investment in secure email will allow communications to flow more easily between customer and insurer. In addition customer portals can be combined with outbound email marketing to build portal usage and customer loyalty (see related articles)

Some example of insurers who are starting to deliver capability beyond the information and transaction platforms:

Prudential (Hong Kong) – traditional reward program

Great Eastern (Singapore) – innovative wellness and rewards program (not yet integrated into the customer portal)

You will have noticed that mobile is not one of the platforms articulated for the Customer Portal.  The Digital Insurer reserves judgement on the need to develop a separate mobile capability and would, in most cases, recommend customer portals are developed with cross device functionality (e.g. explore HTML5). The case for a separate mobile application becomes clearer when insurers have worked out strategies which drive their customers to their portals on a regular basis – and this probably involves a very well thought out rewards program or fund update/information strategy.

Customer Portal Functionality

The table below provides a high level view on core functionality options that a fully built out customer portal could provide to customers:

Customer Portal PlatformBusiness Requirement
  • Policy information
  • Fund price information and trends (including push notifications)
  • Account information (investment linked accounts)
  • Personal information
  • Advisor information
2.Transaction / Servicing
  • Change in particulars
  • Fund related e.g. switching
  • Premium related e.g. increase in premium
  • Benefit related e.g. withdrawal benefit, surrender value request
3. Content
  • Financial calculators including financial games
  • Online FAQs to enable self-service and self-learning
  • Articles of relevance – company generated
  • Links to quarterly newsletters (also delivered by email)
4. Sales
  • Advisor promotion (and contact / bio info)
  • Product information – including new products
  • Contact an advisor (with routing to back-end)
  • Refer a friend (with incentives)
  • Auto notification of portal activity to the advisor (potential sales events)
  • Promotion of annual check up
5. Rewards
  • Compelling points earning strategies
  • Compelling redemption strategies

(This is a complex area – and we will devote an article to rewards programmes for insurance companies in the near future)

  • Secure email channel to enable most service transactions and provide an easy route for non-urgent communication
  • Outbound email campaign to drive users to the portal (see related articles)
  • Integrate with SMS
  • Customer surveys


What benefits can you expect? Making the business case

The case for a basic information and transaction portal is usually a straightforward case as follows:

  • Meet customer expectations for online information and transactions (internet banking experience)
  • Enabling customer self-service makes it faster and cheaper  to meet customer’s needs

The case for  upgrading an existing customer portal is best made in terms of its contribution to future sales through a combination of

  • Lead generation  that result in increased sales from existing or new customers
  • Better retention of customers through  proven engagement strategies with measurable impacts on customer service and customer retention

 Implementation Best Practice

As usual implementation strategy and execution will determine the success or failure. We briefly highlight some best practices that will help to ensure success:

Simplicity is really hard work

  1. Develop strategies to encourage customer usage – avoid login being just an annual event
  2. Co-partner with  the advisors –promote them within the portal
  3. Use a designer for the interface – avoid a transactional interface design and make it customer centric. Deliver a great sign up experience – designed into the application process to enable portal access immediately
  4. Easy login – in more developed markets 2FA is becoming mandatory. Generally mobile pin is a much more user acceptable second factor and can also be used as part of an online sign up routine. Allow consider allowing for differentiated login – single factor for information and two factor for transaction for example
  5. Provide proper support and customer training materials
  6. Avoid over specification – for example real time data and capabilites is only required for a limited number of transactions
  7. Capture and channel leads into lead management systems

Have fun developing your own customer portal – and remember to share your experiences.

Share this article – and learn more

Please feel free to share this article with your colleagues. And don’t forget to Sign Up to our email newsletter to be the first to see future articles that are posted on The Digital Insurer.In future articles The Digital Insurer will explore how to set the best roadmap for your organisation and what the challenges you may face as you start to deploy the Digital Advisor model.

If you have comments and suggestions on this article or for future articles please contact us directly or just leave a comment below.

Related articles on customer portals

  • Tablet based sales tools : The Digital Advisor Tablet (DAT)
  • Implementing an Customer portal (coming soon)
  • Lead and contact management for the Digital Advisor (coming soon)
  • Emails : A  practical strategy for enhanced customer engagement (coming soon)
  • Rewards programs : Does a digital approach transform the challenger for insurers to create a compelling rewards program (coming soon)

Share your Experience with our readers

If you can spare a minute see how you could help insurance professionals in Asia learn more about Digital Insurance. Find out how you can contribute.

About The Digital Insurer

The Digital Insurer is a blog/article forum and accompanying email newsletter maintained for the benefit of insurance professionals interested in improving on existing business models, or creating new business models that take advantage of technology developments. More about The Digital Insurer

By Hugh Terry
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