Brokerage Ops the July/August 2022 issue

(Re)Defining Efficiency in Insurtech

Choice for the sake of choice kills user experience.
Sponsored by Vertafore Posted on July 19, 2022

But as insurance tools get more robust (and as users become savvier), forward-looking tech providers and agencies are realizing that efficiency results from not just features and functions but also how users experience their technology.

What does that look like in everyday life? Consider how planning a vacation has changed. You used to call a travel agent and answer questions about preferences and budget. And days later you’d get a handful of possible itineraries. Not terribly “efficient,” right?

Compare that to today’s DIY planning, where travel sites deliver hundreds of options, instantly. Sure, you can book anything with a click, but that’s only after scrolling, evaluating, and comparing. More choices? Yes. But that doesn’t necessarily make it easier or faster.

This scenario isn’t far off from what many insurtech users face: lots of information across multiple tools, all at once. While insurance professionals have technology for their complex tasks, that tech can also feel complex, slowing users down.

This is where user experience and design thinking are changing technology for the better in the insurance industry.

Your agency management system users, for example, want to accomplish specific tasks and functions. But too much information, or endless ways to accomplish a task, pulls their focus and forces them to take time to figure out what’s useful and what they need to do next.

This Is Your Brain on Software Overload

To understand the relationship between design and efficiency, let’s look at how the human brain responds to choices and decision-making.

In 1952, a pair of psychologists examined how people cope with stimuli and how it impacts decision-making. They found that, when the amount and complexity of information increased, the mental work and time to make a decision also increased.

That insight—what is now referred to as Hick’s Law—seems like common sense. When people face more choices and data, it takes them longer to process the information and decide on their next steps. Think about when you last visited a restaurant. It’s likely the time it took you to order was influenced by the length of the menu (even if you had been to the restaurant before).

While some of us love those spiral-bound menus, when it comes to software, choice for the sake of choice kills efficiency. Your agency management system users, for example, want to accomplish specific tasks and functions. But too much information, or endless ways to accomplish a task, pulls their focus and forces them to take time to figure out what’s useful and what they need to do next.

Insurance Technology and Cognitive Strain

As insurance software has gotten more powerful, it has also gotten more difficult for users to navigate. Systems billed as “flexible” or “all-in-one” often display everything at once—providing no guidance or direction for users.

My role involves observing how people interact with their agency tools, and I routinely see how an overabundance of information can create barriers to productivity and efficiency. For example:

Users spend brain power thinking about how to navigate to data or the next step of a process.

Data that isn’t relevant in the moment distracts users from the task at hand.

When faced with multiple ways to complete a function, users often default to the path they know best, even if there’s a better option.

Unique styling—like an alternative to the universal “hamburger” menu icon—is less intuitive and causes users to take time to mentally translate what they see.

Why User Experience Matters in Insurtech

Insurtech leaders are taking a fresh look at how design principles can reduce cognitive load to help users achieve real efficiency. And their investment in evidence-based design shows that tech can be powerful and empower users.

Good user experience in insurtech starts by watching how real people use their tools to find ways to create focus and effective workflows. In practice, that can mean:

  • Automatically surfacing the right information at the right point in a workflow
  • Streamlining and standardizing how users navigate through the system
  • An open platform that can readily share data across applications
  • Breaking tasks into steps, with built-in guidance to help users complete them
  • Decluttering screens and menus so users can better focus
  • Simple, culturally accepted design elements—like icons and colors—to make the user experience more intuitive.

As insurance software has gotten more powerful, it has also gotten more difficult for users to navigate.

Takeaways For Agencies

Agencies and tech providers alike are waking up to how design thinking can transform our industry. Existing users become more productive. New users take less time to get up to speed. Agency leaders find it easier to implement consistent processes and best practices. And software can deliver on what insurtech has long promised: more time for agencies to grow their business and serve their clients.

But good user design doesn’t happen by accident—it is the result of investment, applied expertise, and customer engagement.

As agency leaders evaluate their tech stack in search of tools that deliver on the promise of efficiency, they need to consider what the software can do and how it supports users. That marriage of form and function is where agencies will see the real return on their investment.

Kelly Byrom is VP of platform and experience design for Vertafore.

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