Digitally-driven self-service enhances insurers’ customer experience

The connected world has given rise to digitally-aware customers who have heightened expectations of their service providers. This is where delivering on a digitally-rich experience becomes a competitive advantage for insurers. An integral element of the digitalisation of traditional customer engagement practices lies in the capability of delivering digital self-service. Annalie Terblanche, head of product at SilverBridge, examines how this self-service has become an enabler in this regard while reducing the costs typically associated with a traditional approach to customer service.

The study, ‘The Value of Customer Self-Service in the Digital Age’, has identified the three most important attributes companies need for improved customer experience. These are having faster response times, delivering consistency across channels, and having knowledgeable staff. Those organisations that fail to deliver on these expectations can potentially experience bad reviews on social networks and see an increase in customer churn.

“When combining these attributes that help shape the experience with the ability to empower customers to take charge in how they use a service, insurers can create a more personal engagement while also leveraging the technology tools at their disposal more effectively. Tying all this together is data analysis. By understanding what it is that customers want, delivering it through their preferred medium, and backing that up by employees who can deliver relevant insights, an insurer can deliver enhanced digital customer experiences,” she says.

Delivering on expectations

Of course, the concept of a self-service economy is hardly a new thing. First mentioned by Jonathan Gershuny in his book of the same name in 1978, its implementation has evolved over the years as technology has become more integrated into people’s way of life.

“Some argue that the move towards self-service harms the relationships companies have with their customers. For example, it is seen to fragment society into what one article calls atomised individuals – people isolated from the brands they buy from. However, if the pandemic has illustrated anything then it is the need to have modern digital services available to customers that enable them to transact with companies using digital tools. This is not about selling to customers in isolation but instead providing them with the personalised and unique experiences that they have come to expect from modern organisations,” she adds.

For its part, SilverBridge recently introduced a policyholder portal for one of its clients to enable them to deliver effective self-service to their customer base. This sees policy holders view and update their contact details, view the benefits, cover, and premium per policy, as well as generate policy schedules. The self-service further encompasses an electronic claims submissions process and the ability to seamlessly add supporting documents.

Not only does this provide a completely transparent process with the policyholder getting information at any time, but it has empowered customers to bypass the call centre for basic queries and action it on their own time.

An economic shift

Self-service is not only a more customer-friendly tactic for insurers to implement, it can also greatly reduce costs, both from claims and resources perspectives. For instance, by using an app to record video and take photographs of an accident, the customer can significantly expedite the claims process reducing the resources required from an insurer perspective. And by having chat bots available to deal with the most frequently asked customer questions, call centre agents can focus on resolving more complex queries.

“Digitalising the experience does not have to be a difficult process. Instead, insurers can leverage the insights they have on their customers and use self-service to make it more engaging and personal for the digital world,” she concludes.

About SilverBridge

With extensive experience in designing and implementing solutions for retail and corporate long-term insurers, including pensions and employee benefits, SilverBridge is one of the largest providers of specialised technology solutions to emerging markets. Its experience also includes the development of artificial intelligence and robotic process automation solutions not only for insurance, but also the banking and telecommunications industries.

The insurance journey of tomorrow

Disruption taking place through isolated digital innovations are a thing of the past. Instead, a complete digital policyholder journey is becoming the expectation within insurance. This can be attributed to how innovation has become commonplace for a business to stay ahead of the curve.

In the past, the challenge has been to convince stakeholders of the merits of digital transformation initiatives. However, the COVID-19 pandemic and resultant lockdown have contributed to an awareness that modernisation and digitalisation strategies can no longer be ignored. These are now an imperative if the insurer hopes to meet changing customer expectations accentuated by the pandemic.

In more mature markets, the policyholder wants an online experience that is quick and user-friendly. This consists of a range of customisable options with immediate (automated) decisioning from the insurer. In developing markets, there is a need for mobile straight through processing with cover options that require minimal explanation. Of course, this might sound straightforward from the outside, but herein lies a host of challenges for the incumbent insurer. This is more so the case if they are sitting with legacy software incapable of transforming the fulfilment process to cater for the needs of the modern policyholder.

Digital now

The question now centres on the technology and process roadmap required to service this digital client. How quickly one can either ‘rip and replace’ legacy technology with more agile technology, or integrate the old with the new?

To answer this, an insurer must examine the way their legacy systems are set up:

  • Does the architecture allow for easy integration with agile technology to re-use what you have?
  • Does your current service provider (or system) allow for the digital onboarding and contract fulfilment of the policyholder?
  • Are you having conversations about intelligent process automation to take the next step in creating a seamless policyholder journey?
  • What about true straight through processing from digital marketing to onboarding, and underwriting through to claim payments? Is it seamless, or does the digital process stop for the policyholder when onerous manual tasks need to be performed in the backend?

To generate business and keep existing customers, the experience of the policyholder is paramount. Whether it is a direct channel (i.e. policyholder self-service) or through a broker network; this is what generates business. Get that right, and the rest becomes optimisations to improve existing margins.

A clear and aggressive modernisation roadmap should be considered before trying to digitalise processes. If an insurer tries to digitalise with outdated legacy technology, it is akin to running a marathon barefoot. While it is possible to do so, there is little justification for going through such a painful process.

Balancing act

Combining the vision of the digital customer journey while still managing costs in these uncertain times must be a priority. But with changing customer expectations, insurers can ill afford not to examine ways to continue delivering more value. This might extend to evaluating the effectiveness of digital channels and leveraging agents in more dynamic ways. Data integration and analysis become vital tools in this regard. Not only will this help pave the way for using the likes of AI and robotic process automation, but it will also empower agents with better insights on who customers are as well as their immediate requirements.

Technology for its own sake has little value if not used to modernise systems in ways that make business sense. This is where a people and customer-centric mindset should take priority to pave the way for the technology change to come. One of the myths that still perpetuates the market is that modernisation is simply replacing the core platform with a best-in-class option.

The level of complexity required to fully embrace digitalisation efforts requires a more nuanced approach that sees the issuing of new policies from the digital environment, while maintaining existing ones on the legacy platform. This enables the insurer to migrate on its own terms instead of trying to rip and replace invaluable data built up over many decades of doing business.

Combining forces

Digital brings with it several business benefits that range from introducing a layer of resilience to changing market forces to deliver on the shift in customer behaviour. Modernising the insurance business can greatly assist it in responding in a more agile way to external market forces.

The onus is on insurers to start building internal confidence in modernisation projects. There must be a willingness to change and to affect that change in ways that can be measured. Putting in place a business case for any digital initiative becomes imperative to helping ensure its success. Those insurers who embrace digitalisation and modernisation will be the ones building a business for the future capable of meeting evolving customer requirements.

SilverBridge, Astute reinvent insurance claims

SilverBridge and Astute Financial Services Exchange have partnered to deliver a fully automated intelligent claims processing solution. It uses artificial intelligence (AI) modelling of insurer expert decision-making which enables claims to be processed in real-time while providing maximum risk oversight.

“Astute has a proven reputation within the insurance industry for delivering extremely valuable risk scoring metrics to assist with risk mitigation when onboarding customers or processing claims. For our part, SilverBridge has extensive experience in developing solutions for the insurance industry with expertise in automating and simplifying complex business processes as well as providing AI components to virtualise human decision-making,” says Patrick Ashton, managing executive at SilverBridge.

Bringing full automation to the claims process, which includes risk scoring and an intelligent decisioning, to assist insurers with straight-through processing (STP) of claims is seen as extremely valuable. The collaboration between the two organisations will result in improved risk processes and a better customer experience. Furthermore, it will dramatically improve efficiencies within the business processes of an insurer.

“The fast-paced evolution of technology-savvy customers increases the demand for insurers to improve responsiveness and service efficiencies, specifically when it comes to onboarding and paying out claims. Combining the Astute and Silverbridge core strengths provide insurers with an efficient single solution, turning data into wisdom, to proactively combat insurance fraud and deliver world-class service at the same time,” says Jacques Rossouw, Group CEO for Astute.

The solution includes direct integration into an insurer line of business system, Astute RMS scoring of the claim, and all parties associated with the claim. It features Department of Home Affairs VOPD (Verification of Personal Details) of relevant claim participants and SilverBridge AI models to create claim decisions as to whether to pay, decline, or refer claims.

“The AI modelling process virtualises expertise of the best decision-makers at an insurer thereby ensuring expert attention can be given to every claim processed within the organisation. These models are continually assessed to ensure they make the best decisions possible. They can quickly be retrained and redeployed in reaction to market changes with no impact on existing business processes,” says Ashton.

Initially, the solution is being rolled out to selected insurers on a proof of value (POV) basis. This is designed to ensure the value to the insurer within the business process is evident. The POV is designed to use production data for limited types of claims before rolling it out to support additional claim types.

“We have had positive initial engagements with insurers and identified many manual components within the claims process which create operational inefficiencies and have an impact on customer satisfaction levels. The improved risk mitigation of the solution will be invaluable for those risks within industry data that are not always accounted for. Automating the decisioning process will improve customer experience as there is no internal bottleneck waiting for human experts to manage the process,” adds Ashton.

While this solution will initially focus on the claims process, other opportunities where it can add value to business processes include customer onboarding or policy alterations where risk scoring frameworks and industry experience can add substantial value.

About Astute

The Financial Services Exchange – ASTUTE has been successfully hosting and managing industry platforms for the secure exchange of data within the financial services industry for two decades. Market analysis has shown that these platforms have provided significant value to both the Financial Services Provider (FSP) and their client, as the FSP is able to mitigate their risk and the client user experience increases with less friction throughout the customer journey.

Customer expectations require digitally-led insurance approach

As technology evolves, people are not only comfortable with a digital environment but have also embraced an always on mobile lifestyle. They now demand a seamless customer experience from their service providers across all engagement channels. This requires insurers to better accommodate customer need for immediacy, product choice, and personalisation. The customer experience now becomes a critical retention strategy, says Nelson Camara, Go-to-market Executive at SilverBridge.

As part of the strategy to address this, insurers must gain a better understanding of their customers. In this digital environment, the generic approaches of the past will not work. An Accenture report identified three groups of consumers (nomads, hunters, and quality seekers) that show different behaviours and preferences around how they want to interact with their insurers. Nomads are comfortable in shifting to an online approach, look for personalisation, and are less interested in agents. Hunters want value, access to experts, and are open to new offerings. Quality seekers believe integrity is critical to the insurer, they value high quality service, and feel it is important that the insurer acts in their best interests.

“This highlights the importance of adapting products and delivering a consistently relevant and convenient customer service as the means to respond to the new market dynamic. Having sight of customer behaviour and preferences will help provide the insurer with the framework of what is necessary to fulfil in these,” says Camara.

An IMF study published at the beginning of the month has found that Africa and Asia are leading the way in delivering digital services that cater for a broader cross-section of customers. Part of this means there should be a focus on increasing the number of touch points and engagement channels available to customers. This puts pressure on insurers to fulfil the omni-channel experience that customers are demanding.

“The traditional approach of pigeon-holing customers in specific product baskets are a thing of the past. They no longer want to be constrained by limited service options and a lack of control over their products. Instead, the modern insurer requires a strategy that accounts for an increased understanding of individual customer requirements based on the analysis of the data it has at its disposal,” says Camara.

Digital done differently

The recent lockdown many countries have been experiencing due the COVID-19 pandemic has further prompted the need to rethink digital approaches. Recent months have seen insurers needing to increase their digital penetration to continue servicing customers. Research has highlighted how there are plenty of opportunities for insurers to enhance the services and support they provide customers, employees, and communities in these times of crisis.

“With insurers focusing on the financial performance of the business, they must be aware of changing customer behaviour that is turning to digital platforms as the means to overcome the constraints of not being able to meet brokers face-to-face. By viewing themselves through the eyes of their customers, insurers will better be able to understand the change required. This will highlight the importance of increased control and flexibility for the customer as opposed to having it all contained at the insurer,” he says.

This is where customer journey orchestration plays a crucial role. This is the process of bringing the customer’s experience to life. Part of this entails leveraging the right digital tools that provide the link between the insights and the delivery of the insurance value proposition. From personalised communication based on cross-channel customer behaviour to identifying (and closing) customer service gaps are important aspects of this approach.

“The time has come for insurers to focus on client-centricity. They must now prepare to respond in more agile ways to the increasing expectations of their customers and deliver value through exceptional experiences in whatever form they take,” concludes Camara.