Insurance post-COVID: automation is back in fashion

Insurance post-COVID: automation is back in fashion | Insurance Business

Insurance post-COVID: automation is back in fashion

COVID-19 has forced the insurance sector into making some sweeping changes to its communication lines, and insurers and brokerages have been taking another look at something they had been cautiously approaching before the pandemic hit - automation.

The massive swell in enquiries over the first weeks of lockdown meant insurers were directing as many customers as possible towards online channels - something many customers may have experienced for the first time. Adam Taylor, FinTechNZ member and general manager at automation company Quanton, says the insurance sector has come a long way since the days of Christchurch and Kaikoura - however, it still needs to think about how it will handle its claims, policies and communication processes in the future, and how it can avoid being disrupted if another event forces its staff out of their offices.

“If we look at resilience and agility, and if we look back at what happened during the Canterbury and Kaikoura earthquakes, the sector has come an awfully long way towards building resilience and managing huge influxes of claim volumes,” Taylor said.

Read more: Automation in insurance: the advantages and the struggles

“The foundations of where it needed to go have been set for quite a while, and now it’s just about how it adapts to this new operating model.”

“We can’t go back to where we were, so it’s about expanding on what we’ve done and asking how we can manage the customer experience differently,” he explained.

“People are now really looking at their operating models and discussing what a digital model would look like, and how they can transition to a new way of working. It’s given us a reason to say that things need to be done differently, and to think about what we can do to avoid this situation happening again.”

Katrina Church, adviser at brokerage Insurance People, says that for her business, the virtual model of operating had been in place since the beginning of the year - however, the pandemic highlighted the importance of delegating repetitive administration tasks to automation, and freeing up staff to develop meaningful communication with clients.

“COVID has really shown us the importance of connection, so we’re thinking of how we can connect with our clients in a way that makes them feel safe,” Church said.

“The world has changed for them, but I hadn’t personally sat in front of a client since January.”

Prior to the pandemic, Church was conducting client meetings entirely over the phone or through videoconferencing, and most policy applications could be done online. She says Insurance People’s future projects will focus on developing existing automation, and on redirecting as many staff as possible towards relationship building.

Read more: Why automation in insurance is a complicated process

“I don’t need to be in front of clients to deliver the best advice, but what I do need to do is be connected with them,” she explained.

“All our projects are around that client experience, and about delivering it quicker. We’re thinking about how we can automate certain roles and free up staff members to actually talk to clients.”

“We currently have a robot that’s been developed alongside Quanton, and that does all our anniversary letters for us,” Church explained.

“We had two and a half staff seconded to do that project, and we were 2,000 behind when we hit COVID - but the robot did 700 of them in three days. Two and a half people were able to do 350 manually. So now we’re thinking about how we can expand that robot to be able to do these things faster, and then redirect our staff towards actually creating connections rather than doing paperwork.”

Church says that, ultimately, getting caught up in paperwork can hinder the level of advice a brokerage is offering a client.

“The fire & general renewal process is so long and cumbersome, but we’d forgotten to actually pick up the phone and check that the renewal is still fit for purpose and meeting expectations,” she said.

“All our projects now will be very focused on how to get that job done, but quicker - and then redeploy our staff to actually be able to talk to people.”