Automation and new technology is something every insurer, underwriter and brokerage is looking at in a major way, and the claims space in particular has been the subject of a lot of insurtech attention. But along with tech comes difficulties, and, for a sector like insurance, those difficulties arise out of everything from HR concerns, to the sheer variety of complex areas that insurance operates in.
According to Craig Furness, managing director of Gallagher Bassett NZ, approaching automation in insurance is a much more complicated process than many anticipate – and that’s because insurance itself is, inevitably, a complicated sector. He says automation should be approached from the perspective of the insurance niche that you work in, as each area will – rightly – handle its claims in a very different way.
“I think we do ourselves a disservice if we talk about how to apply automation or technology to claims, because claims is a process with many different parts,” Furness explained.
“How you approach an application of loss compared to how you approach a complex conversation around the indemnity or the cyber space – those are two completely different things.”
“As an industry, we need to ensure that we understand how we recognise the different component parts of that customer experience,” he said. “Then, we need to recognise which parts we can then invest into making easier.”
Furness highlighted some of Gallagher Bassett’s own recent innovations, and the way it uses technology to minimise certain claim-time risks – the risk of doctors not following the right clinical pathways, for example, which has previously been an issue for New Zealand insurance schemes like the ACC.
“A big part of what Gallagher Bassett does is the management of various compensation claims globally, and there’s a big piece of work being done around using technology and data to get medical professionals the information that they need to work out the right clinical pathways for each claimant,” Furness said.
“If you apply that same thinking to any of the areas you work in, whether that’s material damage, liability, etc., you can use technology as a tool to assist your supply chain and your providers, make the right decisions and do the right things for the claim.
“We’re certainly seeing a lot of effort going into that kind of service.”
Stephen Potter, chief underwriter at AIA, says that the new automation environment will open up more personalised conversations with customers – and that will change the way insurance staff are trained from day one.
“If I take all the processes that are really easy to automate and automate them, I’m left with the ability to make a human judgement in any given situation, and an ability to communicate that judgement,” Potter said.
“So how I train my staff and what I teach is going to be completely different tomorrow to what it was yesterday.”
“At AIA, we’re already working on what next year’s training calendar looks like,” he continued.
“Embedded in that is a thought process that asks: “if we’re left with human judgement and communication, how do we need to train our staff differently to what we do today?”
Potter noted that communication skills have been taking something of a back seat with the advent of technology, but the automation process may easily bring them back into the spotlight and make them a central requirement to working in insurance.
“The art of communication, both verbal and written, does seem to be almost a dying thing,” he said. “When I look at some of the emails I read and some of the conversations I listen to, I think “how is that going to work if you have a customer in front of you?”
“We can leave the data analytics to the technology that is going to do a much better job than a human. But there needs to be a lot more effort put into the communication side of things.”