Graham Newman, European Product Marketing Manager, FINEOS
The insurance industry is needs to think radically differently about the way it communicates with its clients, peers and suppliers because its operating model contrasts unfavourably with other business sectors.
Communication is obviously a vital component of any service industry, but the standard of communications and service we experience is changing rapidly and business sectors that don’t keep pace are in danger from rising competition from new quarters unburdened by the weight of tradition and custom.
When the claims market looks to define effective claims management they tend to focus on process. However, communication is in many ways more important than the process. The issue for the industry is that in every walk of life the level of communication and the way communication is carried out has changed dramatically. We cannot escape the fact that our business life is driven by our personal experiences and in our personal lives we are far more demanding and our expectations are being met in ever more inventive ways. We take our expectations with us into work and it can be very frustrating when our business experience seems slow and rigid when compared to the simplicity and speed we are used to as consumers.
Much of the change is driven by technology. New technology is itself disruptive, we now take radios for granted but it took 38 years for 50 million users to have one. Television took 13, the iPod just 3 and Smartphones a mere 12 months. Channels of communication are now open all the time; people with Smartphones and tablets are using them to maintain constant communication with a range of services, and perhaps for the first time – certainly as never before, the tool is also a toy. These devices are unusual in being used for both work and entertainment; people are used to switching seamlessly between these two fields and being in constant contact with work.
Leading the World
It is interesting to note that Britain leads the world in e-commerce. Yes, Britain has more e-commerce than even America or Japan or South Korea! We should remember that each of these devices is a platform for claims and insurance business interaction. All of these new devices can – and will – be used for insurance business; and the models of communication they give birth to will be used as the basis for interaction in commercial insurance.
If insurers in London do not make this happen for their clients, then someone else will. When you are thinking about what you want to happen in the technology that supports insurance I can’t put it better than Alan Kay, the great American computer scientist who said, “The best way to predict the future is to invent it”.
Innovation is central to the use and application of technology for improving customer service and communications.
What should characterise good communication within the claims sphere? Communication must be appropriate, it needs to add value; making noise for the sake of it is just filler and business people will soon see through that. It should be seen as adding value to all in the chain and naturally it has to be timely. Simply doing more of it is not sufficient. What does a Risk Manager need when their board questions them on the state of a large, outstanding claim? They need clarity, to be fully informed on what is going on with their claim. They demand transparency, honesty and they want to know when decisions are made and if not why.
Communication is a two-way process. It can never be about just pushing information out, however well-intentioned and slick as that is just broadcasting and fails a fundamental need. Insurers have to build communication models that eschew the straightforward, process-driven notion that everything will happen in a progressive, predictable way because, as claims professionals know only too well, they frequently don’t. Access must be opened up; you don’t always know when communication is required and when other stakeholders in the process need something. All parties should be able to initiate communication, inputting details and getting answers when the need arises. The key to this lies in collaboration.
Successful collaboration removes the barriers to interaction, eliminating the bottlenecks inherent in process flow. The model is non-linear and should be embraced; this can be a difficult concept but, like ‘fuzzy logic’ allows communication to occur in a natural way.
To make the best use of the newly emerging communications models commercial insurers will have to learn from the best of the consumer services. Insurers will soon have access to more data than they’ve ever dreamed of and will have to create suitable ways of marshalling it, making decisions on what to do with it – on how to improve the service for each individual in the process. The simple lesson from the consumer world is to think in terms of millions of markets of one – using technology to create the communication from which each participant in the value chain will benefit.
At FINEOS we have created claims systems for insurers in the bodily injury sector that bear similarities to interactive, social media web sites, where the claimant, claims handler and registered medical professionals involved in the rehabilitation can post information and questions and contribute to moving the claim onwards in a fast and positive manner. By opening up access and encouraging collaboration each participant in the process feels they matter and can operate at speeds that suit them. It is also more secure than email.
While the London market is a very different claims environment there is a growing view that stakeholders are frustrated by a lack of control.
The levels of e-commerce enjoyed in Britain make an inspiring case for fast, personalised, appropriate communication – to anywhere the participant happens to be. The London Market should be looking to exploit this to gain competitive advantage over other global centres; and if it doesn’t then the danger is always that someone else will.
Clients expect to access the information they require at a time when they want to. They demand transparency, honesty and clear communication. Claims departments need to embrace new technology and the lessons from the wider business community to deliver it.
*Article Appeared in Insurance Day, Jan 2014