Insurers need to make things personal

The COVID-19 pandemic has disrupted the face-to-face engagement process many insurers (and their customers) have become accustomed to. Events of the past 12 months have accelerated digitalisation and modernisation initiatives to ensure organisations can maintain operational effectiveness with the potential to grow in a more connected environment. The personalised, omnichannel customer journey has become a critical part of the potential for this success.

An international survey has found that 54% of customers now prefer direct or digital channels, up from 38% before the crisis. The ability to self-service their requests and be more in control of their own policy management (to an extent) mean end-users now want insurers to deliver on a more digital-centric engagement model. For their part, insurers must recognise that traditional ways of interacting with customers have evolved to entail more than just face-to-face, email, and telephone calls.

Instead, it is about integrating these with the likes of social media, chat bots, and other elements to deliver a more consistent, unifying customer experience. It is no longer good enough just to offer a variety of channels for customers to reach the insurer on. These channels must ‘talk to’ one another to deliver a level of consistency that is still a challenge for many insurers. The technology has now evolved sufficiently to enable this to happen. But it does require the will to change from a boardroom level down all the way through to the first entry point into the organisation.

Combining communication

Linking physical and digital channels in the new normal must be fundamental to help drive operational success. Call centres and brokers will always be a key part of the value chain. However, this is now enhanced with additional engagement points designed to best serve individual customer needs. And by linking the data generated through these channels, the likes of agents, brokers, and even the executives themselves can gain a better understanding of specific customer needs.

Combining this communication can unlock previously untapped growth potential. So, while attracting new customers will always be part of business strategy, upselling to existing clients with products and services better geared to their immediate requirements must not be neglected. An omnichannel delivery model helps to enable this more effectively.

In such a data-rich environment, upskilling agents to use digital tools more effectively will be vital. Insurers must understand the importance of being able to effectively meet the omnichannel demand from customers. And having an empowered employee base with the skills necessary to do this forms a vital component. Another aspect is the ability to integrate data across existing and newer systems while potentially injecting them with the likes of artificial intelligence, machine learning, and even robotic process automation to introduce new layers of customer insights and automation, thereby enhancing the end user experience.

All told, being responsive to an omnichannel customer journey will be one of the cornerstones on which a more modern, agile insurer for the digital world is built.

Insurance compliance brings growth opportunities

Insurers should view the changing regulatory environment as an opportunity to redouble their focus on innovation, introducing more product flexibility, and enhancing customer experience with a data-driven understanding of their unique requirements. This will see an enabling transformative shift that will redefine the industry for a digitally-led landscape.

Regulatory technology is emerging that uses sophisticated analytics, data integration, intelligent process automation, machine learning, and other emerging technologies to help drive the modernisation of the insurance compliance function. It encompasses the monitoring of sales, claims, and complaints processes that include identifying fraud and treating the customer fairly while adhering to regulatory requirements. Using these solutions empowers insurers to automate many of the administrative-intensive tasks around meeting regulatory standards giving them more freedom to focus on product development and strategic growth.

Understanding the process

Knowing how to manage the modernisation and digitalisation processes needed for this new environment will become a critical factor to successfully transition to a cloud-driven operation that balances adherence to compliance with improvements in customer experience through more tailored engagements. In fact, those insurers able to use data and analytics to not only improve their core operations are also able to introduce new business models better suited to the demanding, real-time expectations of end-users and regulatory bodies.

Insurers who have implemented advanced analytics solutions to manage and administrate compliance are outperforming their competition, So, while it might be difficult to look beyond the complexities typically associated with remaining compliant, attention is now on customer experience and using technology to transform engagements with policy holders, brokers, and financial advisors to benefit them in their daily lives. By modernising risk, compliance, and governance processes, insurers can pursue their core mission while building a robust and resilient risk management framework that enables regulatory reporting and anticipates future regulatory changes.

Reputation management

Insurers, like any other organisation in the financial services sector, can ill afford to be non-compliant. The financial and reputational risks are significant. Modernised regulatory technology is therefore essential to manage both internal systemic processes as well as employees to put the foundation in place that an insurer complies with all relevant policies and regulatory principles.

A robust, digitally-enabled compliance management system provides an insurer with a competitive advantage that can elevate the business with a differentiated product offering. Because this will help streamline existing processes, less time is needed on compliance monitoring while enabling the insurer to create workflows that support scalability in a corporate responsible manner.

Innovation and new technologies can therefore combine to positively enhance the insurance value proposition without being limited by traditional compliance efforts. Having the flexibility to adapt and scale according to growth requirements while automating much of the regulatory environment will position insurers strongly as we further embrace today’s digital environment.

Microsoft Teams integration for SilverBridge Exergy policy admin solution

The increasing digitalisation of business processes combined with the normalisation of a distributed work environment have contributed to the tripling of Microsoft Teams adoption. As companies across the globe, including insurers, embrace this platform to improve collaboration between staff regardless of their geographic location, Silverbridge identified an opportunity to provide a more convenient way for users of their enterprise policy administration suite, Exergy, to action assigned tasks via Teams.

“This integration delivers incredible value to the ‘occasional Exergy users’, typically part of an approval or review workflow, by enabling them to simply click on a work item in Teams and get routed directly to the right component in the SilverBridge platform. Not only does this save time, but it delivers a frictionless experience for those employees who might not be intimately familiar with the enhanced functionality that Exergy delivers,” says Annalie Terblanche, Head of Product at SilverBridge.

As a Microsoft Managed Partner, SilverBridge was able to work closely with Microsoft experts to ensure the integration enables both organisations to deliver additional value to their respective clients. This is just another example of where the two companies are exploring the potential opportunities collaborating can create to address specific customer requirements in a digitally-led environment. In this instance, the multinational technology company’s focus on Teams and expanding its value proposition will see SilverBridge add additional value to users and improve the customer experience on both Teams and Exergy.

“As a Microsoft partner we have access to products and expertise that provided us with insights into how best to approach the integration process. Initially, we had a brainstorming session with a Microsoft specialist to generate ideas and to explore potential opportunities for integrating Exergy with Teams. Given the access we have to Microsoft’s comprehensive training material, the integration process was a relatively straightforward one,” adds Terblanche.

“According to our Work Reworked study, almost nine out of ten leaders at large enterprises in South Africa expect they will permanently adopt a more hybrid way of working. Senior executives see this as an opportunity to maintain the productivity gains they have experienced while, at the same time, improving employee satisfaction. Partners, such as SilverBridge, are responding accordingly by building and integrating technologies that drive efficiency, save time, and improve the customer experience. This agility and innovation are accelerating digital transformation and helping our customers to reimagine a new world of work and become more digitally resilient,” says Lionel Moyal, Commercial Partners Director at Microsoft South Africa.

All SilverBridge Exergy workflows can now be pushed via the Teams platform. As such, the integration becomes a nice enabler for the company to add even more value to its Exergy customers. For instance, scheme quotes are typically done via a spreadsheet and go through several iterations. Imports can now be done directly via the Teams interface and insurers can store the history of the quotes.

“Microsoft is continually expanding its Teams ecosystem including the platform’s functionality and supported applications and even though Exergy has already benefitted from leveraging Microsoft PowerBI, the integration with Teams paves the way for further improvement of the end-user experience through integrations with other products in the Microsoft stable. Our current focus, however, is on Teams. It is simple to learn and easy to use, and many people are already familiar with it. While we will be demonstrating the integration to existing and potential new clients via digital roadshows, we anticipate significant interest considering the rate at which Teams has been adopted in the workplace” says Terblanche.

The evolution towards continuous underwriting

One of the next-generation practices that insurers are looking to adopt to further differentiate themselves and add value to the customer experience is that of continuous underwriting. Essentially, this equips them with the means to collect meaningful data from a variety of sources before, during, and after the risk evaluation timeframe. It therefore becomes an enabler to proactively manage relevant and predictive insights to better deliver services to the end user.

McKinsey writes that migrating to continuous underwriting will evolve in four phases which will increase personalisation and customer engagement. Many are currently in the first phase where insurers are focusing on automating the underwriting process to improve efficiency gains and reduce inconsistencies. Phase two sees the move to accelerated underwriting made possible through digitally-submitted applications. Up next will be the focus on micro-segmentation and personalisation for individualised offers resulting from insights generated from comprehensive data sets. Finally, insurers will deliver continuous underwriting with dynamic adjustments based on customer behaviour.

Continuous underwriting will result in new pricing models with the potential for ‘premium’ options available to those end users willing to share the most personal data about themselves. This will enable an insurer to introduce bonus programmes for meeting set targets (comparative to some of the health rewards systems available today) with more flexible fees available as a result.

Future-proof tech

Continuous underwriting leverages technology such as automation, artificial intelligence, and sophisticated algorithms to extract insights from the vast amount of unstructured data available to insurers in real-time.

Not only will these insights eliminate any potential surprises for insurers (and their customers) when it comes to new policies as well as renewals, but also uncover insurance cross-selling opportunities and help manage their risk management requirements. Take the ongoing lockdown restrictions on the sale of alcohol as an example. By dynamically adjusting premiums and coverage for liquor outlets unable to sell alcohol, insurers can deliver a more targeted customer experience from a small business perspective.

Think of the continuous underwriting process as the combination of intelligent automation, sophisticated rules engines, and data gathering to deliver real-time updates to the process without requiring human intervention. And thanks to how artificial intelligence has evolved, the quality of the process is on par with that of human experts who ‘inject’ their insights into the automated tools available to insurers. However, it delivers this more consistently than what would have been possible if insurers were only reliant on human resources.

A new normal

The full impact of continuous underwriting on the insurance industry will only truly be felt once it is more widely adopted. And yet, the increased operational speed will help meet rapidly evolving customer experience expectations as insurers become more capable of adjusting in real-time to environmental variables.

By adopting this continual process and using digitally-driven systems, insurers can also remove much of the traditional human bias that occurred in the way underwriting was done previously. It is now about taking the data and embedding it with the real-time insights necessary for a superior customer experience.