The future of COps

Insurance has a bad rep for customer support, but we've raised the bar with 9am to 9pm availability and a 1-minute response time. Here's where we're headed next.
By Team member, 18/07/2019
6 minutes read
From the very beginning, we set out to transform the customer experience in the insurance industry. We looked at the lengthy, tedious processes at most insurance companies - entering your details again and again, going through middlemen, and jumping through hoops - and we made it fit nicely in the palm of your hand. 📱 We did the same with customer service, which gets a pretty bad rap in the insurance industry. Looking at the current insurance customer service standard, we pinpointed its flaws and got to work. After all, our new and exciting product needed a new and exciting support system. But there's still a long way to go, and the needs of our current customers, and all the ones we hope to have in the future, are changing. So here's what we've done to meet those needs - and where we expect COps to be headed in the future.

Insurance and customer service: the problems

Traditionally customer support in insurance has been slow. And not very effective. Customers get stuck in long call centre queues, and they're passed between the departments and waiting on hold for what feels like forever, because the poor member of staff working in the office can only deal with one customer at a time. And even once the customer does get through to someone, they're greeted with a generic script and asked for their policy number. So as well as being a slow experience, it's not a very personal one. Most insurance customer service systems aren't flexible, either. What if you had to insure a car in the evening or at the weekend? With a lot of customer service call centres working office hours, contacting them is difficult. But the insurance industry can't easily shake off these problems, because of the number of middlemen and third parties involved when you buy a policy - from the comparison website you started with to the underwriter. Information is passed back and forth between all these separate companies, and that makes it impossible for your insurance company to know who you are and personalise your experience. So if we wanted to change customer service and offer something personal, fast and readily available, we had to change the whole system.

What we did

A more human approach: personalisation in the app

We tackled personalisation by building everything in-house and offering policies through the app. Unlike other insurance companies, with Cuvva you make an account. And that means all your details are stored. When you get a quote, you don't need to re-enter your details each time - unlike on a comparison site. This not only makes life easier for the customer, it means we can offer personalised customer support. No need to ask for your policy number if you're logged into your account in the app. We'll already have your details in front of us when you pop in and say hi. It's more personal. And much friendlier. It also means we don't reel off scripts when a customer comes through. Our Customer Operations (COps) team are humans. So we talk to our customers like humans. That means tone of voice is hugely important. Every member of the COps team is trained to write in Cuvva's tone of voice. We avoid long sentences, walls of text and industry jargon. And instead we write in skimmable, easy-to-read chunks, and we write like we speak.

The setup

Although Cuvva is a mobile app, we felt like customer service via talking on the phone wasn't right for the product and what we wanted to do. So instead we use a live chat service. Our customers can get to it from most screens in the app. It means help is literally a couple of taps away. (That said, if there's a reason live chat doesn't work for a customer, we make whatever adjustments we can. Plus there are some things we're obliged to offer phone support for.) Using live chat also means nobody has to queue or wait on hold, and our team can talk to more than one customer at once. So there's no need to work out whether you need to press 1, 2 or 3, and then pick the wrong one and have to go on hold all over again. We use a system called Intercom. When a chat comes in, we can see all the conversations the team has had with that customer. With a single click we can get to the operations dashboard and see all the things we need to know about that customer. That means we can sort out their problems more quickly. Example screenshot of a customer chat in Intercom It's because of all these things that, on average, we get back to customers within 1 minute.

9am to 9pm support

We've also structured the team so we can offer 9am to 9pm customer support - something we've had in place since April 2018. We've done that by having the team work in shifts - a lot of the team works remotely or part-time.

The future of COps

But as customer expectations (and the business) change in the future, we'll need to adapt. That means offering more expertise, more quickly, with the same flexibility.

Technology and communication

Going forward, it's all about communication. Between our customers and the COps team, and between the COps team and the backend engineers. That's because we don't use much external software in the COps team. We build our own. We have a dedicated platform product team, which includes front-end developers, back-end developers, a product manager and designers. The COps team works closely with them to make sure these systems are always getting better. Screenshot of our operations dashboard We share feedback on the systems in regular meetings, and we use a Trello board to chuck in any new ideas or concerns. We've also made a new role to improve how we work with the platform team - the eCOp, which is short for Embedded COp. This person works directly with the platform team, and we rotate it every few months. It means that we're always building the best possible system to offer faster, better customer support. And it's great for COps because we learn so much about the systems we're using. With the Cuvva product always changing, it's important that the processes we use are adaptable. Any external software could become stale and dated very quickly. But our in-house system can be changed and adapted with these changes, so we can keep our customer support fast and easy.

The COps career path

Great customer support isn't just about being fast - it's also about being really knowledgeable. That's why we structure the COps team so that every member of the team develops new skills. Early on in their training, COps are asked what they're interested in and where they might like to specialise. Sometimes that will be a specialism that already exists - like investigating fraud or being a tone of voice expert - and sometimes it's brand new. Either way, everyone in COps is very much behind the wheel when it comes to their own career. We've also introduced new kinds of training. We call it the "badge system". Like the Scouts or Brownies, COps can gain "badges" by completing certain tasks. We have COps with badges for dealing with complaints, mentoring the wider team and replying to customers on social media. This is designed to make our COps team experts, so they're able to offer even better support for customers. Customers expect their questions to be answered quickly and accurately. So it's important that COps team isn't just a front line redirecting questions to subject matter experts. As we launch more products, our customers' needs will get more complex and varied, so getting our training right is even more important.

Remote working and flexibility in COps

We have a few COps that don't come into HQ very often. That might be because they're part-time and have other things going on, or they might be students making some extra cash. Some are even further afield, travelling the world. But even with the lack of office time they're still kept in the loop. All our meetings are live streamed and recorded so no one misses out on the latest goings-on. These live streams are a two-way thing, so others taking part from a distance can present their work and ideas at a click of a button. As we get more customers and launch more products, having a team that can work flexibly is even more important. Customer service needs to be faster and more flexible. Slow call centres just don't cut it anymore. That's true in every industry, but none more so than insurance, which has a pretty bad reputation. For Cuvva, the future is about getting even better at using technology to support customers and scaling how we run the team. That's how we'll keep offering the same level of expertise and availability we always have. And we're always looking for talented sorts to help us do that. If you're interested in being part of it, take a look at our job openings.

Team member