September 6, 2017
Why Do We Still Use So Much Paper?
by David Squibb
Moving from paper forms to electronic smart forms reduces internal inefficiencies while improving relationships with policyholders.
Customer experience (CX) has become the lifeblood of nearly every industry in the world. Carriers that once sidelined it in favor of other internal aspects of their business have come to realize that positive and expedient customer interaction is integral to maintaining customer relationships and building new ones. While there are a myriad of ways to accomplish this, a simple yet often underrated way to overhaul CX is to move from paper forms to electronic smart forms. Not simply a cosmetic improvement, it is extremely effective at both reducing internal inefficiencies and improving relationships with policyholders.
See also: Why Customer Experience Is Key
Consumers — especially millennials — have become accustomed to real-time, above-and-beyond customer service from companies like Amazon and Apple. They prefer to do business with organizations that provide a comparable or superior experience, and insurance is no exception. New entrants like Lemonade attract a millennial consumer base because of their transparency and straightforward communication. A significant part of that is standardizing and digitizing forms so that they don’t become a burden on either the carrier or the consumer, especially with regard to claims.
What are the biggest benefits to moving from legacy forms to new templates or web-based smart forms? We break them down here:
Smart Forms Eliminate Costly Errors: Insurers face a major problem in that most mistakes are human errors. Handwriting can be hard to read from both colleagues and policyholders. This leads to misinformation that could have severe implications months, or even years, down the line if a claim happens. Another issue is missing information and supplemental forms that are required based on previous responses that never get filled out. Additionally, errors frequently occur on physical forms because consumers aren’t pointed to their mistakes until the forms are already submitted. Insurance forms are often complex and confusing and are difficult to fill out correctly without proper guidance. Oftentimes, there are certain non-obvious questions that only apply to specific applicants.
These errors can result in wasted time and resources for carriers who need to decipher illegible handwriting, correct errors or request missing information before submitting the form. One carrier we spoke with said that errors are so common that it takes two to three weeks to get through a process that requires 30 minutes once automated. This delay can be deadly when it comes to new business acquisition, as consumers do not want to wait that long. A digital form can alleviate the problem immediately by guiding the customer through the completion process, such as indicating where information needs to be entered, prompting for additional information based on previous responses or catching unsigned documents.
For example, GroupHEALTH Benefits Solutions, a health benefits solution provider, saw a significant improvement when it switched from paper to smart forms. Their original paper-based method was error-prone, and employees had to take considerable time to research and resolve missing or conflicting information. The provider realized it could improve enrollee experiences and save money by implementing digital transformation techniques such as automation and intelligence through smart forms. Once the implementation took place, there was a near-immediate ROI. The new online enrollment process ended up reducing errors, which in turn helped the company focus on providing excellent CX.
Confusing Forms Can Lead to Customer Drop-Off: While errors on paper forms can waste significant time and resources for a carrier, the forms can also leave customers angry, frustrated and willing to give their business to a competitor. According to Ernst & Young’s Global Insurance Consumer Survey of 24,000 people in 30 countries, 40% of customers left an insurer in the past 18 months. The most interesting finding was that respondents in North America placed “ease of doing business with an insurer” (60%) as more important even than “value for money” (53%) – especially in P&C insurance. Respondents said that, because there were often not many opportunities for carriers to interact with their customers, each touch point became critical to their view of the company.
Consider then, the importance of forms, which are the primary source of collecting data between carriers and policyholders. Smart forms create a system that allows only the correct information to display once a question is answered, whittling information down to only what that specific customer needs to know and fill out. At GroupHEALTH, as an example, enrollees would mistakenly assume their company plans included coverage not offered by their employers. This confusion led to customers filling out unnecessary forms and back-and-forth that ate up time and resources and increased frustration levels. After the switch to smart forms, however, the system would automatically prompt enrollees to supply missing information, noticed inconsistencies and flagged missing information. It was a runaway success, with GroupHEALTH estimating that, in just the first two months, it reduced the cost to manage enrollments by 20% to 25% — just from switching to an online-based method.
See also: Key to Digitizing Customer Experience
Digital Forms Help Employees, Too: When there are fewer errors, customers are happier (of course), but so are employees. For every mistake on a manual form, an employee must take time to correct it, send it back and re-process it. This cuts time from providing an excellent customer experience, replacing it with tedious correction work. When an online-based forms procedure is implemented, employees are able to spend more time on sales and customer service, rather than dealing with the mundane tasks associated with keeping track of forms and fixing incorrect ones. Online forms offer real-time customer access to policy details, billing, claims and beneficiary information. All of these are as important to the employees as to the customers because they create an environment of efficiency and transparency.
Making changes at the ground level with digital documents may seem like a small step toward providing exceptional customer service in a sea of emerging technologies, but it’s also necessary to the health of a carrier’s bottom line.