Insurance and Empathy

Featured image: “Empathy and Emotional Intelligence” by Roy BlumenthalCC BY-SA 2.0

Empathy and Emotional Intelligence by Roy BlumenthalEarlier this week I was chatting on LinkedIn messenger with my friend Alexander Tran, who happens to be a UX Designer at Embroker. Alex and I met when we worked together at Code for America. I pinged him when I realized that we were in the same industry again. It was surprising to us both that we would go from #civictech to #insurtech.

But then we realized we were both bringing many of the same motivations with us from one field to another.

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Alex agreed.

This got me thinking about empathy and insurance. Is that weird?

I’m new to this industry, starting in 2014. Two things I learned in my first couple weeks have stuck with me ever since:

  1. Everyone needs insurance
  2. Most people don’t understand their insurance

Mainly I’m referring to property and casualty insurance though I’m sure this applies to all insurance. I could go as far as saying no one understands their insurance because I’m confident that I could surprise anyone with things they don’t know about their own policies. Every day we hear customers exclaiming, “wow, I didn’t know that!”

That just seems wrong to me. How can so many people be uninformed about something they are required to have and that has a huge impact on their most valued possessions? Righting that wrong is a big part of what drives me – us – at Comparity.

I don’t blame the insurance industry (for selling something nearly every single person must buy when there’s no practical ability to compare options) though it would be easy to do so.  Carriers are in the business of writing good insurance policies, not making it easier to shop.

Unfortunately, lead generators in the space are just selling and reselling contact information for someone who has said they want insurance and leaving it to agents to race to the customer. Read lead generators’ fine print. What buyer wants eight insurance agencies calling and selling them? BTW, agents hate it, too!

But the fact is that home insurance is complicated. There’s no other way to put it. Home and auto insurance with a family, a couple of teenagers, maybe a minor infraction is exponentially more complicated. It’s not just hard for buyers but sellers, too, including carriers and their agents.

This is the vibe that attracted me to insurance technology even before I fully realized it. Insurance is a massive marketplace affecting hundreds of millions of people, it’s an industry where simple technology applications can have exponential impact, and it’s desperately in need of technologists who have empathy.

There’s plenty of talk around #insurtech about disruption, with camps both favoring and marginalizing the idea. Sensors, big data, drones are all the rage. I get it. Those things are cool. But they don’t do anything at all to address the main problem with insurance: people don’t like it and don’t understand it even though they must have it. I certainly don’t want “empathy” to become insurance buzz d’jour but I would like to see more of it in #insurtech.