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Language Support for Insurance: What You Need to Know


Insurance provides peace of mind and security. But what happens when the person who needs a policy or to submit a claim is unable to communicate with their insurance company?

Language barriers are a significant problem for a large and growing population of limited English speakers. These customers still need the security that insurance can provide, but language barriers can make the process of shopping for, acquiring, and using insurance challenging. The right language support solution can help your insurance company offer better service to every policyholder and reach potential customers.


Serving a Diverse Population: The Growing LEP Community

Based on Census Bureau data from 2018, approximately 67.3 million people in the U.S. speak a language other than English in their home. And 25.6 million (38%) people who speak a language other than English at home report that they speak English less than very well.

A person born outside the U.S. is far more likely to be limited English proficient (LEP) than someone born in the U.S. In fact, in 2019, the Migration Policy Institute found that almost half (46.4%) of foreign-born people over the age of 5 in the U.S. spoke English less than very well, compared with just 1.8% of U.S.-born individuals. The term "foreign-born" refers to:

  • Naturalized U.S. citizens
  • Permanent legal residents (green card holders)
  • Refugees or those granted asylum
  • Legal non-immigrants, such as someone on a temporary work or student visa
  • Undocumented immigrants


Around 8.1% of all people living in the U.S. are limited English proficient, but in some states, it is a much larger percentage of the population — more than 15% of people in California, Texas, Nevada, New York, New Jersey, and Florida fall into this category.

As the LEP population grows, so does their need for insurance products and services. Companies that use language services to better communicate with this population can offer better service to existing customers and bring in more new customers.


Providing Language Access to Underserved Markets

Insurance is a complex industry, but one that is necessary for our overall health, well-being, and safety. The ability to communicate clearly with your customers and policyholders is a vital part of customer service. Unfortunately, not all insurance providers take the steps necessary to offer information in languages other than English. Those that do can provide a valuable service to an underserved population.

In 2015, the Census Bureau reported that there are at least 350 different languages spoken in the U.S., including 150 Native American dialects. In the New York City metro area, there are 192 different languages spoken in homes, with Los Angeles and Chicago not far behind at 185 and 153, respectively. Many insurance companies hire bilingual staff to communicate with customers in some of the most common languages, such as Spanish or Vietnamese. But it would be cost-prohibitive and difficult to hire 350 different people to address all possible languages and to have them available at any given time to speak to an LEP customer.

That's where a language support solution comes in. The right language support partner will have qualified interpreters who speak hundreds of languages available at any time when customers call, including after business hours for on-call services. Additionally, language support professionals must have specialized training and qualifications to understand and discuss terminology specific to the insurance industry that a general interpreter or bilingual individual may not have.


Finding a Solution that Addresses All Touchpoints

Obtaining or utilizing insurance coverage is a multifaceted process with several important touchpoints along the way. Your language support cannot be pigeonholed into a single part of the process. It's important to have on-demand interpreting available for:

  • Outreach and marketing to prospective customers
  • Sales
  • Customer onboarding
  • Claims management
  • Policy changes or updates

The right solution can also shorten the claims management process for LEP policyholders, so it's more efficient, saving you money and increasing revenue.


What's Trending: Price Shopping

With access to more information than ever before, consumers are shopping around to find the best prices on a variety of products and services. Insurance coverage is no different. Since many insurance companies now compete on price, and average prices remain pretty steady across various insurance industries, companies must differentiate in other ways.

The J.D. Power 2017 U.S. Insurance Shopping Study found that companies offering "personalized advice and strong agents" were more likely to get customers to sign up for a policy. The greatest indicator of customer satisfaction with insurance, according to the survey, was whether customers fully understood their coverage. The bottom line? In order to reach millions of LEP customers with personalized service and adequately explain their coverage, you need to communicate in their native language.


Quality Considerations

Another important factor in outreach to LEP communities is the ability to clearly explain policies, costs, responsibilities, and coverage. The insurance industry — from auto and homeowners policies to health and life insurance — all have specific and nuanced terms that customers must understand. A language support partner must have highly qualified and trained interpreters who can convey these insurance terms accurately in a second language.

It's also important that your language partner is ISO 9001:2015 certified. This ensures they meet quality standards for technical translation and can communicate the intended information to your non-English-speaking audiences.

Beyond technical certifications, though, quality is essential to insurer-customer relationships. Clear information about policies and coverage builds trust and ensures that they get the support they need to feel protected against unexpected life events.


Ability to Scale During Catastrophic Events

Catastrophic events are unpredictable, but when they happen, language support is more important than ever. In the middle of a stressful life event or natural disaster, language barriers between you and your customers can be frustrating at best and life-threatening at worst.

Some of the areas in the U.S. most likely to be struck by natural disasters — such as California and Texas — have the highest LEP populations. Without adequate language access, the claims process will be more difficult and may not result in the best outcome for insurers or the insured.

The ability to scale up significantly when disaster strikes is an essential service that your language partner should provide. They must be able to handle an influx of calls and telephone interpreting requests during and after an emergency.


Increase Access with Language Support

Proper language support is essential for insurance companies to reach new customers and provide exceptional service to existing customers. With a large and growing LEP population in the U.S., having the right partner can help you communicate clearly with people who speak a language other than English. Find out more about our services and how GLOBO can provide the skilled and qualified interpreters you need.

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