Why UX is an Imperative in the Insurance Industry’s Digital Transformation

by Jon Fukuda, originally published in UX Booth

The insurance industry is in the midst of a profound digital transformation. Innovative new companies such as Root and Lemonade have disrupted the way customers interact with insurers, offering sleek digital interfaces and promises of five-minute policy quotes. Long-established companies such as GEICO, Nationwide, or Travelers must adapt in a landscape in which customers are increasingly conducting their transactions online. According to a recent Gartner survey, more than 70 percent of consumers of all ages prefer to self-service online rather than call customer service.

That leaves legacy companies facing the pressure to keep parity with disruptors in their efforts to create a seamless digital experience for customers when applying for insurance and filing claims. Gone are the days in which an insurance company can maintain a difficult-to-manage claims process. On the other hand, if you’re shopping for insurance, you can compare term and universal life insurance rates by age.

Today’s digital-savvy consumers are ready to switch companies at the first sign of friction, meaning companies must present as simple and transparent a process as possible. At the same time, the younger, more agile companies have an uphill battle in convincing consumers to trust their brand as much as long-established household names. They must earn trust to be adopted into the lives of customers, who need to believe that their provider will be there for them in an emergency.

The solution to both issues is the same—integrating scalable user experience (UX) operations driven by human-centered design. UX goes beyond the digital user interface to examine the holistic journeys that customers go through to achieve tasks and use products and services. An understanding of those journeys is essential in creating trust and transparency to help customers fulfill their insurance needs.

3 Ways UX Design Helps Insurers Improve the Digital Customer Experience

From conversations with UX executives at insurance companies and from my UX and technical design experience, here are three ways UX design can help companies create fulfilling experiences for their customers as they manage their digital transformations.

Integrate Digital and Human Interaction

Despite consumers’ clear preference for digital transactions, they must have confidence that an actual human being will be there for them when needed—and will understand their goals, wants, and frustrations. Digital products or services must be seamlessly interoperable with human interactions, no matter which channel a consumer uses. This includes online chatbots that leverage conversational AI to interact with consumers realistically, customer service agents able to walk a consumer through a mobile app or website, and more traditional phone-based customer service. From the moment an agent looks up a policy, they need to be able to quickly and easily pick up where the consumer left off in their digital transaction.

“We are moving away from a website being a static experience, and moving into a world where we are hoping to connect and engage with customers in delightful ways intentionally,” says a creative director from a major insurance company. “If you can present that to a customer and have them walk away with a definite brand impression, you’ve succeeded.”

UX design can help in this integration by illuminating all the people, business units, workflows, and systems that cut across boundaries when a customer tries to achieve their goals. By deliberately and thoughtfully designing and putting in place a system to help people communicate and collaborate, designers ensure that customers are never stranded, and always know when they are handed off from one business unit to another. That is especially crucial when a consumer has a deep human need—whether that’s confusion in understanding their coverage during the application process or submitting a claim under stressful circumstances. When the customer desires to speak with someone, the customer service rep must be ready to provide salient information. UX can provide a roadmap for seamless transitions by mapping service design blueprints and customer journeys that facilitate customer success management.

Personalize the User Experience

The insurance industry offers a complexity of products, including life and annuity, homeowner, renter, business interruption insurance, and automobile policies. Consumers have vastly different needs depending on their circumstances; a 20-year-old just graduating college and a 40-year-old with three children, for example, will seek different products. Companies must anticipate these needs and personalize their offerings to present options transparently and understandably. A human-centered UX design strategy considers customer context, carefully considering their circumstances and focusing on solving real problems for real people.

That can be essential in establishing trust with customers by demystifying the jargon of the insurance industry and making it relevant to their lives. “We work through how we can be transparent about some of these confusing insurance-world terms around coverages,” says Jessi Pervola, who leads Root’s product design team. “We are always asking, how can we be straightforward with helping people feel confident in what to buy based on their individual needs. We try to frame it in real stories they can understand rather than just, “Here’s the name of the coverage,’ because most people don’t know what these insurance terms mean.”

Like many companies in the auto insurance space, Root is also experimenting with rating customers in more personalized ways, going beyond factors such as education, zip code, and credit score and looking instead at how they drive. “There’s a lot of talk right now about how to rate people more fairly,” Pervola says. By implementing telematics that follows a user’s driving habits, insurance companies can rate based on how safely — or not — someone drives. “It doesn’t necessarily replace other factors, but it can be a layer on top of them to understand and treat people fairly.”

Design with Empathy

Designing with the consumer at the center requires having empathy for what they are going through at the particular moment they are interacting with a company—whether they are looking for the lowest price for a renter’s policy, for example, or if they are in crisis following an automobile accident. Empathy means more than just imagining what someone is feeling; it also means knowing their situation and what they are trying to accomplish. The best way to achieve that empathy is through the kind of deep research UX design can provide—listening and learning from observing users, developing an interaction model, and ultimately using those insights to design and build a customer-centric experience.

At GEICO, the UX team regularly shadows calls with agents, listening to specific scenarios and customers’ troubles and frustrations. “This is an opportunity to lean in, to say, ‘I’m really sorry to hear that, can you tell me more about why you feel that way,’” says senior UI designer Elizabeth McCormick. “We are always looking for ways to make the interactions as empathetic as possible.”

In practical terms, interaction must be adaptive to the mode of use and state of mind. When a customer is onboarding, they may be in a more analytical frame of mind, discovering and exploring new products; when it comes to filing a claim for an accident or theft, however, they may be in the midst of an emotional or even traumatic experience, with adrenaline high and ability to ingest information low. In those circumstances, it’s essential that the interface predicts the information customers will need and provides access to file a claim with clear prompts that are quick and easy to use. That means replacing text-heavy forms with simple ways to categorize details with icons, buttons, and menus, and providing decision trees and navigation maps to report the most common types of incidents. Savvy UX design will allow users to upload photos with geolocation to report damage, or record videos to explain details of an incident in plain English quickly.

At GEICO, an excellent user experience is highly valued, according to McCormick, and leadership looks closely at the feedback from the UX group. The group takes a holistic approach — policyholders, employees, and agents are all considered users. The UX team looks at the service blueprint for opportunities to make the experience intuitive and easy to use, reducing human error and aligning language across the entire business.


From a customer perspective, insurance can be a complex industry, with a bewildering range of products and options. It’s also an industry that consumers often interact with when they are not at their best—when emotions are running high after a difficult experience. By putting consumers at the center, seamlessly integrating digital and human interactions, personalizing products to their circumstances, and treating them with empathy no matter where they are coming from, companies can earn loyalty and offer their customers peace of mind, whether they are a newer upstart firm or a carrier that’s been around for more than a century. In a world where users are looking to educate themselves and self-serve the best options, the insurance agency that enables clarity of offerings, and provides self-service tools will win.