Leveraging automation can be a double-edged sword. As customers look for simpler claims processes and access to information, it can be easy to put tools into place that make customers feel left out of the loop, unheard, and wary of the process.
To make automated claims work at optimal levels, companies need to embrace the technology early, and actively work to deliver maximum value to the customers. The first insurers to make it through the gap will win the day.
When customers make claims, they are generally under great stress, uncertain of the outcome, and sometimes in the midst of the most trying times of their lives. The job of insurance providers and agents should be to deliver service that customers want, service that is informative, reassuring, and that has the human touch. With automation, we can reach more people, deliver more information and service faster - but how do we do that without sacrificing that all-important human element: empathy?
During a webinar discussing how insurance carriers can ‘Deliver Empathy at Scale’, Bill Brower (Vice President – Auto Claims, LexisNexis Risk Solutions), Mike Fiato (Chief Claims Officer, Liberty Mutual), Lori Pon (Director of Claims Transformation and Claim Service Center, Auto Club Group), Samantha Santiago (Head of Claims Strategy and Automation, Farmers Insurance) and moderator Alan Demers (Founder-President, InsurTech Consulting) shared their insights into the possibilities for the claims ecosystem.
Alan Demers opens the discussion saying, “I was excited because of the importance of where we’re headed as an industry, through automation and self-service, and then trying to find a balance [...] from a human standpoint into the value of empathy itself.”
The idea of scaling empathy is more ambitious than it might seem. Anyone with experience growing a business may already know why. The fact is that some services scale well, and others do not. Generally, uniquely human qualities - things that are not generally manufactured - do not scale well. Reproducible goods scale incredibly well. That’s why a Hollywood blockbuster film is worth spending hundreds of millions to make. The owners of the final product can make copies with considerable ease. The same goes for novels, trinkets, and goods of all kinds.
But, how do we scale empathy?
Consider the fields of nursing, home care, or childcare. These are tasks that require an individual human. They cannot be duplicated without creating a new human to perform them. So, scaling empathy seems impossible, right? Well, modern information technology may have something to say about that.
Demers makes a very important point – how do we define empathy? The dictionary definition is “the ability to understand the feelings of another”. But when put into the context of claims-handling it “may be described as anticipating needs and delivering on them”.
Any time a claims agent deals with a client making a claim, they are dealing with someone experiencing a personal loss. It could be a profound loss, or it could be relatively minor, but it is always significant. Hence the value of empathy.
At that, Bill Brower touches on the topic of the “touchless claim” in delivering empathy.
From Traditional to Touchless:
Bill began by explaining the common physical damage claims processes including traditional claims, Fast Track Claims which includes Direct Repair and Virtual Claims Processing where customers provide smart phone photos of damaged autos for adjusters to prepare repair estimates remotely normally in hours. Bill said the move to Fast Track and Virtual processes were driven by technology advances like the introduction of computers and digital cameras for claims back in the 1990’s and Virtual began due to the high quality of cameras within the smart phone beginning around 2013. Therefore, with continued advances in technology and the availability of real-time claims data Bill predicts the next evolution in claims processing will be a touchless claims process. Bill defines touchless claim as “a process similar to Virtual Handling- except no claims adjuster or carrier employee is involved in the process. Technology is used to report the claim, capture damage or invoices, run a system audit and communicate with the customer electronically. If the claim meets the approved criteria, the claim is automatically paid without human intervention.”
Brower notes that insurance carriers continue to enhance and fast track processes while offering virtual claims handling options for customers that have not yet decided on a repair shop. Bill explained that while virtual claims processing began around 2013, it grew dramatically starting around 2017 and for the next three years”.
He goes on to note that, based on a LexisNexis Risk Solutions report that found that 95% of claims executives were either using virtual claims today or moving to virtual claims in the near future, “the next logical step seems to be touchless claims.”
Although a great many steps have yet to be taken before touchless claims is common in the industry, Brower points to the obvious advantages that fewer touches has for the carrier and the customer. “If you can get to the point where maybe just one person is involved in the claim that would certainly be an improvement in many operations as carriers surveyed shared that it’s still common for 3 or more claims professionals to be involved in even a simple non injury auto claim.”
Delivering Empathy at Scale Now:
Mike Fiato provides key insights into how insurers can quickly provide empathy at scale with technologies available now – in this case, Fiato refers to Liberty Mutual’s adoption of two-way texting technology. Crucially, this service allows the customer to still have a strong connection to their insurer with the added advantage of more convenience for them, and lower cycle times for the insurer.
“If you can build trust and provide peace of mind,” Fiato concludes, “and the claim does not require face to face, or phone to phone contact, you can create an experience that the customer is wowed by or satisfied with and still accomplish the goals that you want.”
The Power of Empathy
Lori Pon discusses empathy as a preventative process: “no matter how outstanding our claim service delivery is, a claim always disrupts the customer’s life. As a consumer, how important would it be for your insurance company to actually alert you in advance of danger?”
The first impulse to this challenge might be to simply allow the customer to fill out a text field explaining the loss in plain language. However, in the absence of advanced AI, this would still require the eyes and effort of a human being. That is the opposite of scaling. Therefore, AI is deeply integrated with these solutions as a matter of necessity.
That’s not to say that people don’t play a role. Pon underlines how important it is that “your staff is aimed with the information they need to better personalize the claim experience based on the customers preference claims is the most critical moment of truth in the insurance lifecycle, you do not have a second chance to make that first impression”.
Finally, Pon outlines how insurance carriers can determine their “secret sauce”. Discussion of the importance of working with the right partners throughout these transformation processes is particularly frequent within the industry today and is arguably just as important as the technology itself. As Pon concludes, “it’s not about low touch or high touch – it’s about using the right mix of technology, people and processes to deliver the right touch.”
Empathy as more than emotion:
Sam Santiago argues that “the biggest part of delivering empathy is about providing choice and being there and looking at ways to improve overall response times… whether it's in person through the text, on video, or however we choose to interact with them. It's being there for them in their moment of need.”
This is absolutely right. How can an insurance carrier provide empathy to customers if they can’t be there for them in the first place? A customer would certainly feel more relieved if they were able to communicate with their insurer as quickly as possible through whatever channel they are most comfortable with.
To hear the full webinar including the Q&A, you can access the full webinar here.