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Leveraging technology to elevate the claims experience: A 9-step primer

Editor's Note: This content includes excerpts from an editorial webinar hosted by PC360, “Faster Claims Service: How the Right Technology Can Deliver the Right Results.”

In an industry that’s been labeled as technologically conservative, if not downright technophobic, a competitive edge is well within reach for insurance carriers that are willing to embrace a new generation of tech tools. But are carriers prepared to seize the opportunity?

The insurance industry “is not typically a first adopter” of technology, acknowledges Patti Griffin, chief product officer, Duck Creek Technologies. But because consumers today expect an elevated, integrated and digitally robust experience, for many carriers, replacing legacy systems isn’t an option, it’s a strategic imperative.

New tools are readily available, she says, to replace or upgrade outdated, inefficient legacy systems with systems whose flexibility, simplicity and automation can translate into tangible benefits to insurer and insured alike. So where to start?

Claims service represents a logical target for tech investment, says Matthew Josefowicz, President and CEO of Novarica, which provides technology consulting services to the insurance industry. “Claims is the moment of truth for the insurance product, and so having a positive claims experience is absolutely critical to maintaining a relationship with the customer past that claim.”

From hardware to software to the cloud, insurance carriers have access to a growing range of tech tools to strengthen their internal claims processes, and to enhance the overall claims experience they deliver to customers. Here Griffin and Josefowicz offer nine best practices for focusing and maximizing their investment while minimizing disruption:

1. Make automating and streamlining internal workflows and knowledge-sharing a top priority. The backbone of a strong claims service operation, according to Griffin, is a system that allows for extensive knowledge-sharing across departments, accommodates parallel claims processing, and is flexible enough to readily incorporate new processes and workflows.

2. Embrace a “test-and-learn” mindset. Don’t be shy about testing new processes and workflows, Griffin says. Pilot them, then refine and implement them if they show promise, and discard them if they don’t.

3. Emphasize enhanced access to data for all stakeholders. Internally, that means giving relevant parties a 360-degree view of the customer (a complete view of their interactions with the company), along with the ability to access any third-party data that can make processing a claim more efficient. “Having access to the information you need, at the point of need, is where responsiveness and efficiency comes into play,” Griffin says.

A system capable of pushing critical claims information to adjusters in the field when they need it, so they don’t have to interrupt their work, is a big part of the equation. So, too, is providing customers with easy, on-demand access to important claims data and documents, Josefowicz notes. Doing so eases customer anxiety, which leads to a more positive overall claims experience.

4. Move to strengthen communications with customers. Devices and channels such as smartphones and social media can provide a win-win for customers and carriers alike. A claims system can be configured to accommodate this technology for purposes such as pushing a proactive email, text message or tweet to customers about a pending weather event, for example, or for accepting claim-related photos and information provided by a claimant.

5. Arm field staff with appropriate tools. It’s vital, Griffin says, to provide adjusters with devices and apps they can use in the field that receive ‘alerts’ about priorities as well as record, access and manage customer and claim information, and upload and download documents, “so they can service customers at the point of need.” This technology can accelerate the claims process, improve accuracy and reduce cycle time.

6. Deliver a seamless, omni-channel claims experience to customers. Smartphone, laptop or desktop computer, tablet — “customers expect access [to their insurer] regardless of the device or the method, and they want the ability to self-serve from any of their devices,” Griffin points out. Thus carriers need systems that provide customers with an integrated multichannel experience, whether they prefer interacting via traditional or digital channels.

That experience also needs to be consistent across channels. “There’s nothing worse than a customer getting a notification in the mail, then going to the website and having that [notification] information not be reflected there. … It makes it feel like the company doesn’t have its act together,” Josefowicz says.

A carrier’s brand essentially is a promise to deliver a consistent, coherent customer experience. Failing to deliver that experience breaks the promise and tarnishes the brand, according to Josefowicz.

7. Embrace the cloud. Carriers are beginning to move core systems and noncore operations to a cloud-based, SaaS (software as a service) model and are realizing benefits around greater transparency and predictability of costs and defined and contractual SLAs. Insures have the option of connecting on-premise systems with applications in the cloud. While there are advantages to having all applications accessed via the cloud, “it doesn’t have to be an all or nothing strategy,” notes Griffin.

8. Choose systems and software providers wisely. Look for companies that have a strong commitment to R&D, as well as an active user group to gather input from the customer community. Also look for software and systems that are flexible, “because with flexibility comes agility,” Griffin says. “And get your hands on the software … understand how you’d make changes to the system … and using the configuration tools will show what you can expect from the system regarding flexibility and support.”

When evaluating systems in which to invest, “build for change,” states Josefowicz. “The pace of change will continue to accelerate” and the 10-year capital depreciation assumption associated with legacy system investments no longer applies in today’s tech-driven world.

9. Don’t settle for minor improvements when major enhancements are within reach. When replacing legacy claims systems, reframe your mindset, Griffin suggests. “Don’t necessarily think about the way you process business today, but think about how you want to process claims and have claims flow through your organization. Look at the software packages in that context. What is it that you want to accomplish with that future vision.”

Because as Josefowicz points out, “Doing legacy replacement without an ambition for changing processes is rarely worthwhile.”

Based in Denver, David Port writes frequently about business, finance and entrepreneurship. He’s also the author of two books for expectant and new fathers. 

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