Family, health, technology: insurance in Italy during Covid-19

How does the perception and relationship of Italians with insurance have changed with covid-19? Here are the results of the survey “Trust, relationships and communication: Italians in the age of Covid-19” conducted by BNP Paribas Cardif with the research institute Eumetra MR

Published on 01 Jun 2021

Family, health, technology. These are the founding values of the Italian “new normality”, according to the survey “Trust, relationships and communication: Italians in the age of Covid-19” performed by BNP Paribas Cardif, in partnership with Eumetra MR research institute. 

According to the survey, Italians trust their families more than they trust themselves, they have regained the importance of health and prevention and wish to return to social life, but without giving up the positive aspects of technology. The average trust index is 65%, with a high degree of trust in family and friends, but also trust in colleagues, in the direct manager and the head of the company, and in the public and private health system. 

More than half of Italians trust insurance companies, appreciating the digital services offered and the transparency of the language used despite the difficulties of the period. In the relationship with brands, even in the bancassurance sector, seriousness, transparency and attention to the client are essential more than ever. 

“These new relationships based on trust require us as people and as a company to maintain and deserve it, to renew the deal as much with our customers as with our partners,” comments Isabella Fumagalli, CEO of BNP Paribas Cardif. “Building and strengthening relationships based on stronger and more unifying values is becoming fundamental; this is the challenge we want to accept for renewing the interaction with people. We will also work more on the quality of content to give a valuable response to the demands of the reference ecosystem as a whole.” 

 “Ultimately,” said Fumagalli, ” with regards to the research, the underlying sentiments are about the desire to strengthen private and public relationships, for example at work, to give more importance to people and overcome challenges and even fears together. This increased togetherness makes the relationships created within work groups, in relationships with partners and in dealing with customers more personal. Pandemic’s great opportunity is it has focused people’s dialogue on the concept of trust and therefore forces a more human interaction that relies on each individual’s contribution, talents and needs. This is a great opportunity to set a future based on an immediate, skilled and perfectly blended interaction between physical and digital. 

Italy in the age of Covid-19, the trust ranking 

The first fact that emerges from the survey is that Italians have a great deal of trust in themselves: eight out of ten Italians (86%) have a great deal or enough of it. Trust in family members (95% very or fairly) is higher even than trust in themselves, with 71% trusting them a lot. Friends come in second place (86%), although only 45% say they trust them a lot or very much. The Covid crisis, amidst fear of contagion and individual behavior that is not very responsible, seems to have worsened trust in others, both among acquaintances, people in one’s own social environment, and in one’s own community or city (16% trust very much or very much), a percentage very close to that of strangers (strong trust index 8%). 

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Trust in one’s own company is also very high (84%), just below that of friends. Trust is distributed fairly evenly among the various figures in the company: colleagues (77%), one’s own boss (75%), the company head (72%), obtain fairly homogeneous indices. 

With regard to trust in institutions, on the other hand, the most credible are non-profit (70%), scientific or supranational (66%). All the others have rather low indices, with a preference for local elected representatives, such as mayors (59%) and Regional Presidents (50%). The Italian State (49%) and the Government (36%), on the other hand, rank lower. 

The opposite is true for trust in the healthcare system, with public healthcare reaching 81% (up in the last year for 38% of Italians) and private healthcare 78% (up for 23%). In addition to the family doctor, there is a significant social feeling of gratitude and trust in hospital physicians, nurses and healthcare personnel, but also in pharmacists and digital medicine. 

As regards the world of finance, the overview is overall positive: trust in insurance, banks and consumer credit is around mid-range. In detail, 53% have a high level of trust in insurance, of which they appreciate above all seriousness and transparency (45%), attention to customers (40%) and value for money (37%). Trust in banks stands at 48%, while trust in consumer credit companies stands at 40%. 

“It is interesting to note that, globally, technology is at the top of the ranking, considered as a neutral entity detached from those using it, while in Italy the first place is occupied by the family,” noted Andrea Veltri, Deputy CEO Digital Transformation at BNP Paribas Cardif, “While throughout the rest of the world finance, banks and insurance tend to be at the bottom of the ranking, in Italy are about half-way up. This is a sign of a well-done job by the insurance players, that have been able to show themselves alongside people and sensitive to their needs.” 

New normality, new forms of communication: the focus on insurance 

In this “new normal”, technology is helping us with its means to keep in touch. Among the most popular communication tools, video calls stand out above all: 43% of Italians say they use them much more than before, with 41% expressing a desire to continue to do so. Compared to the pre-Covid era, the number of people who used texting more (37%; with 62% intending to continue), phone calls (27%; 55%), email (24%; 36%) and social media (21%; 35%) also grew. 

In the banking and insurance segment, phone calls (29%) and email (26%) have become essential, although 24% still preferred in-person meetings at the office/counter. When it comes to insurance and banking, a certain desire for relationality emerges on the part of Italians, with 40% wanting more live meetings in the future. What satisfied customers most during these months of changes in the way they use financial services were the clarity of the language used (91%), the digital services made available and the assistance received (both 89%) as well as the speed of response (84%). Support and solidarity for customers through bonuses, discounts, suspensions and payment deferrals garnered the most support (34%). 

 “Two things are very interesting, mainly looking ahead,” Veltri said, “First, the phone call still counts as important, but the agile and fast (but at the same time more formal) relationship enabled by email and messaging is going to come in trending first: it balances the agility of the phone call with some formalism and the necessary supporting documents. The other thing that remains extremely important is in-person contact: despite all of technology’s alternative solutions, it remains essential to relate to the client face-to-face, to look each other in the eye and talk to each other with empathy.” 

Covid-19, according to 4 Italians out of 10 banks and insurance companies have helped 

Mixed results on the perception of banks’ and insurance companies’ efforts to meet the customer’s needs in the context of the pandemic: 4 out of 10 respondents (1 out of 2 excluding those who do not have an opinion) noted “closeness or solidarity” or aid directed to their community or employees. 

“Despite the fact that great actions have been put in place to simplify processes and facilitations to come to the customer’s aid, it seems that this commitment has not been widely perceived,” Veltri explains, “There are a number of actions, implemented to make processes more streamlined, that may perhaps appear arbitrary; for example, asking for documentation to make a prior screening and avoiding having to make the request later, complicating the process. More communication effort is probably needed so that the customer understands why certain procedures are being done.” 

The most appreciated actions were first and foremost those of economic support, such as discounts, suspension or postponement of payments, or support for workers. This was followed by measures for communication and customer and employee safety. 

“Looking at this ranking, an interplay between form and substance can be detected,” Veltri pointed out, “as can be seen from points 6 and 7, it matters not only what we do, but also how.” 

Insurance and digitalization, the person is still crucial 

During the pandemic, clarity of language (91%), digital services (89%) and assistance received (89%) were particularly valued among the actions taken by insurers. 

However, looking at the previous image, it can be seen that, on the scale of importance, the new technologies implemented by banks and insurance companies to ensure continuity of services are relatively low on the scale: a point that would seem to contradict the trend of increasing digitalization. 

“It’s a factor we’ve noticed in our relationship with the client,” Veltri explained, “When we did a focus group to define what services to make available in our UNICA BNL policy, by far the overwhelming request was to digitalize the primary care physician. Not automation or more streamlined services, but the option to communicate with a human being. The customer doesn’t want to ask a robot, they want to interface with the person.” 

Therefore, the possibility of interfacing in person with a reliable contact is still crucial for the customer, and technology should not replace it, but rather integrate and support it to ensure accessibility and safety. 

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