When people talk about innovation in the claims process I immediately think about our clients and their customers – and also about our staff, because innovation undoubtedly means different things to different people.
Claims specialists are generally viewed as rather backward when it comes to technology, partly because many of them come from traditional backgrounds and partly because the claims culture in this country has been resolute about checks and balances – and rightly so. But there’s no doubt in my mind that we need to use technology to respond much more efficiently to the needs of our clients and their customers who deserve our help.
An SME with a business interruption claim is primarily concerned with getting the business back on track as quickly as possible. The homeowner whose family is driven out by flood doesn’t want to spend months in temporary accommodation. Yet layers of compliance and paperwork inevitably result in our customers viewing the insurance market as lacking in urgency and empathy. Undoubtedly technology alongside customer service skills could play a big part in dispelling this frustration.
Investing in a claims platform that integrates all claims data gives massive insight into the customer experience but also the ability to feed seamlessly into insurers’ own systems. It helps manage claims, make decisions more quickly and identify fraud patterns. And all that information can be used to develop claim strategies with insurers.
When the claims platform meshes with smart technology, you can receive data just once, without the need to re-enter it, and analyse it on the spot.
The vanguard of technology
The motor claims market has been in the vanguard of video technology empowering claims handlers to make virtually real-time decisions. Similar applications have been developed for property damage. But online video evidence provided by policyholders is not a silver bullet solution in itself. It works only if backed up by expert handlers who can interpret the evidence and respond to each individual case. It must also work alongside the broad toolkit of options available to claims handlers and insurers, supporting customer choice.
There are many other examples of technology helping to cut claims times. Drones are now regularly used to assess property damage in areas of difficult access and this can easily save a week in the overall process.
Similarly smartphone technology makes it possible to agree instant variations on works with the chosen contractor through video data capture. On-the-spot approval avoids any interruption in the repair process.
The future for the implementation of technology in the claims arena undoubtedly lies with connectivity. The information about a delayed flight can be relayed instantly and the appropriate sum paid directly into the insured traveller’s bank account without the need for a physical claim. The current approach to claims validation does not stand a chance unless we evolve.
The connected home where all risks are diagnosed or the smart car that can pinpoint the events leading up to an accident are no longer the imaginings of science fiction. And they are bound to impact strongly on claims culture sooner than predicted. But there are technical and legal hoops to go through before this happens. We must guard strongly against throwing the baby out with the bath water.
There are already apps written by insurers that effectively rip up the claims process in the case of relatively simple losses. And, of course, there is much talk of sophisticated new entrants, including Google, showing a big interest in this market.
But in my view, while investing in a modern and transparent claims process is key to improving client retention, the customer experience requires more than that. Understanding the needs of our customers and combating the increased threat of fraud will mean thatclaims must remain a skilled people industry.
MD Property, Davies Group