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By: Denise Johnson
A March 2017 LexisNexis whitepaper on the future of claims technology defined touchless claims as “a process or workflow that is similar to Virtual Handling except no claims adjuster or insurance carrier employee is involved in the claims process at all. Technology is used to report the claim, capture damage or invoices, run a system audit and communicate with the customer electronically. If the claim meets approved criteria, the claim is automatically paid without human intervention.”
The benefits of touchless claims are usually tied to first party auto claims, where self-reporting can be easily undertaken.
But with disaster claims handling in full swing, Jeffrey Saye, service line leader of Insurance Claims at Genpact, said the idea of touchless claims can complement standard claims processes, including those involving catastrophe losses.
He explained that customers have been the driving factor in changing the way insurers interact with them.
“It’s really a shift from measuring customer satisfaction to measuring customer experience because the ‘what I want, when I want, how I want it, and what I, where I want it’ really doesn’t line up with old service models,” said Saye.
The touchless process is one way that insurers have been able to reimagine claims handling to meet the expectations of the customer, he added.
“It’s really looking at ‘okay, what sort of digital tools are available where we can actively engage the customer and give them the experience that they’re looking for,’” he said.
From a claims reporting standpoint, customer engagement can occur via self-reporting portals, apps and even through chat options, like Alexa.
“It means there’s nobody there that actually has to determine whether there’s coverage or not because there’s a link between the claim system and the policy management system allowing automated policy coverage confirmation,” said Saye.
Using an auto claim as an example, he said claimants can take and upload photos to an insurer app. Currently, an inside appraiser or adjuster will write an estimate based on the loss and issue payment.
“All that happens with the customer not necessarily having to be engaged with anybody, but there’s a little engagement on the back end behind the scenes from an appraiser,” he explained. “Once that happens, there’s an entirely different way that the claim goes where we can automatically engage supply chain partners, whether it’s for a repair or for a rental car.”
At that point, control reverts to the customer, Saye said.
Though the process can be used for some aspects of the losses associated with the California wildfires, there’s still a need for direct engagement, he said. That’s because after a disaster, victims need a more direct line of communication to deal with the traumatic event.
“You’re almost shifting away from a touchless experience and let me give you the reason why. There, we’re keeping the customer central in all our decision-making. We want to put a process around them to ensure that they’re taken care of and they get the engagement that they want and that they need,” said Saye. “When people go through that and lose those things it is very hard for you to put in a process that says ‘Look, we’re going to put in a process here that has no interaction.’”
Some carriers did that, sending a request to policyholders asking them to complete a contents list on their own. That, said Saye, created great anxiety among customers.
Saye’s team chose to supplement their touchless claims process by aligning resources that either met directly with policyholders or spoke with them over the phone and guided them as they created an inventory. If they started with the living room, the policyholder would be given cues to assist in recalling lost contents.
“It really helped them feel like they had an advocate and a partner walking them through this process because the expectation from the customer in that event, was not ‘let’s get this thing done quickly’. It was, ‘I just had an event and I really need you to show up and help me out Mr. Insurance Company’,” Saye said. “At the end of the day we had reduced cycle time and we really became an advocate with the customer, and our clients actually had a higher satisfaction even through those wildfire claims because their customers felt like they had somebody that showed up.”
He explained there are two different paths a claim could go – the touchless experience for smaller claims where digital tools can be leveraged by insurers and the personalized way that requires staff to engage and continue to play an active role in the claims process and claim settlement.
“Even in both of those scenarios, the most important thing is the customer and how they’re being treated and what their expectations are,” said Saye.
Another aspect of processing claims in the aftermath of disasters is being able to adapt to the situation at hand.
When loss information was returned to the claims department, he said they had dedicated teams just for the event that reached out and worked directly with policyholders.
“It really solidifies that bond between the carrier and the customer,” Saye said.
He offered another example of how the touchless process aided Hurricane Irma claims. They had one inspection platform that allowed customers the self-service option of taking their own photos. In addition, drones and a crowd-sourced network were also used to take and upload digital photos of losses. Inside adjusters would then write estimates and issue payments.
“That’s how we were able to leverage some of the touchless aspects even in those storms,” said Saye. “Because what we found out last year…was that because there were those two massive storms right at the same time a month or so apart, it really sucked up the resources that were available to go in and actually do the inspections on the damaged property.”
While current digital technology is exciting, Saye said the future looks even more promising.
“There’s a lot that people continue to talk about that’s actually coming. The emerging technologies are out there. The self-driving cars that’ll self-report claims,that may even be able to self-report the damage and tell you ‘This is how much damage is caused by the accident’. Computer vision – where you’re writing estimates based on the photos that come in and artificial intelligence and how is that driving the claims process forward,” said Saye. “Those are all great things that are really on the forefront and… they’re going to change the way that claims are going to be handled.”
It’s important that insurers aren’t blinded by technology, he added.
“The insurers that embrace technology are going to prosper because the tech really just enables us to meet the customer expectations better than we can if we didn’t have it,” Saye said. “I think the important thing that the insurance companies realize is that the customer is still at the center and they aren’t mesmerized by all of the technologies that are surrounding it.”