Claims and Technology: the Professional Evolves
Little did I know when I began my career in insurance, I’d transition into executive roles in the insurance industry that would focus on claims and a deeper reliance upon “tech.” Certainly, my law degree/claims licenses, claims knowledge, interpersonal skills, and organizational capabilities are important and appreciated. Yet, the day to day discussions about risk with prospects, risk managers, business executives, colleagues, and friends, invoke discussions regarding metrics, innovation, and analytics; and how we are using those to optimize results for stakeholders. At a recent claims event, the write up said the following: “some of this year's topics include data analytics, the future of technology, and solutions for the talent crisis.” That was spot on.
Upon graduating law school about 30 years ago, I was hired to practice at a top law firm. We had the best in technology. I was given a “brick” mobile phone, a PC with 1MB of RAM and a 40MB hard drive with a 3.5” and a5” floppy disc slot, and even a Bernoulli box for storage (a 1985 review suggested it was faster than an IBM PC XT hard drive). The screens were green and the secretarial pool helped with sending telexes.
Until around 1999, returning calls to claimants, attorneys, or clients within 48 hours was standard. Many of us dutifully tracked billing in increments of .25 in a notebook and walked it down the hall for monthly submission. In the event of an emergency, we were reachable by beeper, pager or Blackberry. When the firm travel agent booked business trips the paper tickets were accompanied by a reminder that the portable phone in the plane was for emergency use only. People talked about the movie “The Matrix” but not about client “metrics” and the “need for speed” was a “Top Gun” reference not generally a claims department discussion.
Discussions Now - Innovate or Die
While sub-rosa surveillance is still being performed to ascertain the real extent of injuries, social media platforms, such as Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and the like, when properly accessed, provide a wealth of intelligence. The ability to obtain cell phone/text/video footage, or data from a fit bit or thumb reader at a fitness center, is providing the claim resolution manager and SIU professionals with an enhanced ability to investigate claims.
Returning calls within the same business day are expected and desk phone numbers forward to cell phones for ‘round the clock availability. Customer satisfaction and feedback is real time as some measure dropped call rates and average handling time while we also now see twitter posts, receive website feedback and experience online shopping for competitive quotes.
Coordinating body shop schedules with that of the insured and appraiser is transitioning to the quality of the photo sent to the claim resolution manager via “the app” and their smart phone’s camera. Fewer checks are being generated (thus less related supplies/personnel/postage) as the use of EFTs and pre-loaded debit cards are increasing with claimants, insureds, doctors, body shops, contractors, law firms and others expecting payments at a faster pace. Drones, able to reach geographically challenging areas, speed insurance inspections during catastrophic events. Injured workers can use a smartphone app to select a physician, check on their appointments and track their indemnity checks. Time often translates to money – time/money wasted is obviously not good but time/money recovered or optimized drops right to the bottom line and yields higher customer satisfaction and loyalty.
Discussions about handling first notice of loss in an offshore call center are evolving to the advent of self-reporting apps and real-time claim number generation. Fast track claims may eventually move to instantaneous resolution based upon formulas, metrics, and patterns. InsurTech products are getting more prevalent. One can secure an automobile policy on-line with certain premiums based upon driving behavior following a few weeks of monitoring and grading. Valuables can be insured real time while on vacation. Renters and homeowners policies are instantaneous. Renters and homeowners policies are provided to the buyer immediately.
Data captured by claims professionals provides underwriters and risk managers with feedback regarding time and location of accidents, speed prior to and at the time of the accident, and areas more susceptible to weather-related losses. This exchange of information results in better decisions and safeguards us in the future through the implementation of sound loss control measures.
Looking into the future, while the need for great and talented claims professionals will not disappear, I do think the definitions will continue to evolve. Understanding policy language; having a plan of action; establishing reserves; retaining competent counsel and experts; and resolving the matter timely are all critical. We have metrics and dashboards around each of those areas. We use this knowledge to establish a reasonable reserve; to compare and evaluate the outcomes achieved by counsel and the resolution manager; to predict jurisdictional challenges, allowing risk managers and underwriters to accurately price programs and to control the total cost of risk … now that will differentiate the good claims professional from the great one.
We use powerful technology to enhance human potential while knowing that nothing will ever beat the human spirit and instinct. At my organization, we know the power of both people and technology makes for a potent combination. Whether you are a young person joining this industry or a seasoned veteran, demonstrate that you care as you leverage the facts. While navigating claims is our daily experience, you may be working with someone who has no personal experience with claims, on the job injuries, or is assisting an injured loved one.
Guide them through the process with technology support. Guard their interests and care about their needs, concerns and financial challenges. Go beyond, by meeting and exceeding their expectations. Differentiate yourself and demonstrate that your insight and expertise, supplemented by technology, data analytics, and metrics, will result in the matter being resolved. With this our amazing careers will evolve and not disappear.