The COVID-19 pandemic continues to disrupt how insurance organizations operate. It has significantly altered the traditional ways in which the industry has done business. While many insurance organizations are slowly returning to pre-pandemic operations, most have permanently adjusted to a “new normal” that blends in-office policies with a distributed workforce and remote operations. This shift is notable, especially considering how, over the last decade, insurance organizations have been slower to adopt digital tools compared with other businesses in the financial services sector. Now, there is no going back, and insurers need to come to terms with an altered baseline of market conditions by embracing solutions with the potential to optimize operations for remote teams and supporting partners serving an increasingly diversified, and shifting, client base with greater expectations for digital service and real-time responses.
Insurers with established digital underwriting, claims and operational processes will be better-positioned than less digitally savvy competitors. However, most insurance organizations have an opportunity to improve in terms of their digital market approach. With employees working remotely, partially or full-time, there are concerns about whether those individuals are well-connected to organizational culture and corporate priorities and equipped with the necessary tools to succeed, understand protocols and processes and can structure or distribute workload effectively. Insurers investing in flexible ways of working, enabling more digital workflows, and designing new tech-enabled processes will have significant advantages over those that do not.
Becoming Sensitive to Customer Needs
A recent Guidewire survey of 1,000 U.K. insurance customers aged 18 and up provides insights into the deteriorating public sentiment about insurers. According to the report, the COVID-19 pandemic and resulting lockdown added to consumers’ negative impressions about the industry. One in four survey respondents (26%) thought insurers did not do enough to help customers in need during the pandemic, in contrast with the prior year’s result of 17%. In response, many insurers started offering flexible premium payments and waivers for claims processing and reducing the need for documents to help with customer service and satisfaction. In each of those scenarios, digital enablement is a critical element for success.
Focused Digital Transformation
This new normal is a wake-up call for the insurance sector, forcing many to explore increased adoption of technologies including intelligent, artificial intelligence (AI)-driven automation, low-code/no-code platforms, virtual agents, drones and cloud services, just to name a few.
- Combined with AI, intelligently automating workflows can help insurance organizations better assess risk, reduce the risk of human error, create more defined user personas, predict buying behaviors, augment the claim adjudication process and be ultra-responsive to create differentiation through customer experience.
- AI-driven solutions for policy checking help insurers, agents and brokers with an efficient, cost-effective and customer-centric approach to review policies for errors and omissions (E&O) before issuance.
- The use of open-source platforms for catastrophe modeling allows re/insurers and brokers to gain refined and timely visibility into catastrophic risks and enable access to accurate, high-quality data and insights cost-effectively, bolstering risk assessment and decision-making by underwriters.
- Solutions developed on low-code/no-code platforms can be managed by the business, verified and implemented by IT. This empowers them to deliver targeted outcomes rapidly to meet operational, regulatory or any other urgent requirements.
- Powered by machine learning (ML) and natural language processing (NLP), chatbots provide policyholders and insurance brokers with a 24/7 support system. Intelligent chatbots improve engagement and simplify complicated insurance transactions, like filing claims and selecting the right policy, by enhancing self-service capabilities.
- Claims adjusters are increasingly augmenting capabilities by using drones and virtual inspection methods for remote claim verification, which can reduce allocated loss adjustment expense (ALEA).
- Web portals allow an insurer’s executive team, underwriters and actuaries to view, search, approve and endorse contracts and enable staff to view customer and broker information in a single location. Additionally, web-based underwriting workflow management systems can help expedite the creation and modification of submissions.
- Cloud computing permits insurers to improve workflows, optimize cost management and reduce technical debt. The benefits include optimized data management, cost efficiency, rapid deployment, better key performance indicators (KPIs), advanced customer experience and better risk management.
These technological advancements have resulted in the streamlining of operations and personalization of the customer experience, making the insurance enterprise more scalable and agile and improving the efficacy of remote operations.
See also: Good, Bad and Ugly of Going Digital
Reinventing Processes Key to Bolstering Operations
In the new normal, alleviating capacity-related challenges requires insurers to consider new approaches, like right-shoring select operations, including underwriting, claims processing and policy administration, to help ensure business continuity and the optimization of resources. The right-shore approach promotes best fit for insurance-focused services and enables business-critical services from varied locations. The model provides the best combination of cost and efficiency, allowing organizations to adapt to business and market changes. A synergy of onshore and offshore resources can make insurers more adaptable in a constantly shifting environment.
Right-shoring can complement remote access/work-from-home (WFH) practices. When included as a critical tenet of continuity planning, it can support strategic operations to help mitigate risk and ensure operations continue when a crisis occurs. Instead of relying on a single service provider, insurers are increasingly selecting from an array of specialized technology and domain-focused consulting providers to implement the right-shoring strategy.
There is no sweeping solution as consumers get more sophisticated and insurance systems struggle to keep pace with rapid market changes. The COVID-19 pandemic served as a catalyst for insurance companies to prioritize investments in new technologies and strengthen business continuity plans to maintain organizational productivity and keep employees connected and engaged. Wherever these changes and solutions land on the digital transformation continuum, most insurers can benefit from addressing technology to operate efficiently in the new normal and be better prepared when the next regional or global business interruption occurs.