The coronavirus pandemic has given insurance companies an unexpected opportunity to try out some fully virtual or heavily tech-driven claims processes. It has pushed traditional insurance carriers beyond the “old way” of inspecting claims and has triggered a wave of innovation in what has long been considered a slow-moving industry.
When the pandemic is finally behind us, it’s imperative that the industry continues on this path towards digitalization. Gwen Olson, enterprise claims strategy AVP at American Family (AmFam) – a tech-savvy firm prior to the pandemic - commented: “I don’t think we’re really ever going to return to the way it was. I think COVID accelerated our adoption of new technologies and new ways of adjusting claims and doing our work. We probably need to accept that the way we’re working today, with remote teams and online collaboration, is going to be closer to our future normal than the ways of the past.”
AmFam was well-poised to offer end-to-end digital solutions from the offset of the public health crisis. Claimants can notify the insurer of a loss online, via digital FNOL, through a chatbot, by calling the customer care center, or by directly reporting to their AmFam agent. Throughout the pandemic, the more digital solutions have proven their worth, but no matter how an insured initiates the process, the claims team has the same visibility into the information, Olson explained.
In May 2020, AmFam announced a partnership with Hi Marley, a software provider offering the first AI-enabled conversation platform specifically designed for the insurance industry. Using Hi Marley’s software, AmFam introduced two-way intelligent text messaging to manage and resolve auto insurance claims, something that Olson said has resulted in efficiency gains for both customers and AmFam adjusters.
“We’re early in the launch […] but what I can tell you is that we’ve had early signs of faster cycle times,” said Olson at a Reuters Future of Insurance event. “Customer feedback has been very positive, and our adjusters have had really high adoption since day one. They continue to tell us they don’t want it ever to be taken away, and also noted just how much easier it is to connect and reach out.”
When investing in technology and innovation, like that provided by Hi Marley, AmFam practices what’s known as “safe development.” Olson explained that the firm brings together product managers, product owners, IT leaders and scrum teams to work closely on finding the right solutions that meet an aligned goal.
“When we center our goals around the customer, sure we want high survey scores - everybody does - we want that great feedback, but we also recognize that we have financial accountabilities and claims, and those are to the customers who have a claim, but it’s also to the customers who don’t,” said Olson. “Our cost-per-claim is really a driver of every customer’s premium, and we owe it to them to be as diligent as we can in how we spend this money. The new technologies that we adopt really need to make us more efficient and lower this cost per claim.”
When asked how AmFam manages to find the right balance between technology and the human touch in the claims process, Olson replied: “This can be tough because technology is moving at such a rapid pace, and, frankly, we want it all, and we want the best of the best. But we stay close to our customers and our adjusters for feedback, which really helps us prioritize the work that we absolutely need to do. And because there’s so much on our plates, we’re also really thoughtful in who we partner with outside of the company, because we need to be able to quickly collaborate and deliver value.”