When it comes to the insurance industry, your customers are firmly in the driver’s seat. Keep that top of mind, and you are ready to address new customer-centric call centers challenges to reduce stress for your call center agents and ensure high levels of satisfaction for your customers.

The economy is improving, home sales are on the rebound, and – as government regulations continue to change– consumers are more knowledgeable than ever about their insurance needs. They know what they want and they expect more from providers.

Self-service channels and online quotes and comparison sites lead to more complicated calls. Agents need to cross-sell and up-sell, leading to longer handling times. And regulatory compliance issues continue to proliferate.

In this new environment, customer-centric call centers will play a critical role in differentiating insurance providers and building competitive advantage.

Are your agents up for the challenge? Here are three areas of concern you must address if your call center agents are to make a difference to the customer experience:

Self-service on the rise

Today’s customers are simply more informed. Websites offering self-service options, online quotes and in-depth comparisons of competing providers have put the customer in control of the buying and decision-making process.

As the insurance industry becomes more consumer-focused, agents must be equipped with the knowledge and skills they need to handle more complicated customer inquiries and issues. Today’s property and casualty call center agents must be able to resolve customer problems and provide exceptional service with every interaction.

To stand out from the competition, agents must be well informed and equipped with the information they need to provide a consistent and personalized customer experience, but finding time for this preparation cannot impact service levels.

Increased handle times

As insurance becomes more of a commodity in the eyes of customers, pressure increases for agents to cross-sell and up-sell customers with additional products and services. This leads to an increase in handle time, which can ultimately negatively affect service levels.

At the same time, newer channels such as mobile, chat and social media have given customers more available options to communicate with providers. These channels must be well-supported and the customer experience must be consistent across all channels.

Additionally, customer-centric call centers must be able to dynamically scale operations and manage channels to meet changing peaks in demand. Balancing agents across channels allows providers to leverage those agents with the right skills to positively impact the customer experience in whatever channel the customer prefers. Enabling this requires immediately updating agent skill associations based on training and performance metrics, so agents are re-skilled to handle new inquiries in multiple channels right away, responding to customer demand in real time.

Regulatory compliance

As regulatory compliance continues to increase and become more complex, agents must be trained on new policies, changes and requirements in order to effectively handle customer inquiries and claims and provide them with the most up-to-date information.

This training must be ongoing and include alerts and re-certification for agents to ensure they have the information they need to deal with complex customer inquiries while remaining in compliance.

In order to attract and retain customers in this new competitive environment, providers will have to make the enrollments and claims process easy and efficient, improve agent performance and increase overall operational efficiency.

New technologies will play a critical role in the contact center in this new consumer-driven age, replacing manual processes and creating a real-time workforce that can dynamically respond to customer needs.