LET’S GET DIGITAL
In the wake of COVID-19, the insurance industry has embraced innovation and technology to benefit customers.
Innovation for the times: The rapid embrace of tech in the insurance industry
The insurance industry has been in operation for over 500 years and some might say the processes have changed little over the centuries. But the onslaught of the pandemic has seen the industry move quickly to adopt technology and embrace innovation to make its systems easier and more efficient.
Amid physical distancing and lockdowns, insurers and brokers pivoted with the changing work environment by implementing significant operational changes such as working from home and digitising its communication and collaboration activities. The “new normal” for the industry, like many others, has put tech up front and centre.
“At EBM we have teams working together and we meet one-on-one with clients, with most of our employees being office-based not working from home. With the COVID-19 restrictions we suddenly had to move more than 200 staff to remote working arrangements and shift face-to-face meetings to digital technology to ensure we could provide uninterrupted support for our clients,” said EBM CEO Ward Dedman.
“Most of our traditional ways of interacting were curtailed and the disruption meant digital interactions had to quickly become the focus. Setting up a distributed workforce with continuity of service was quite a feat, especially as our National IT&T Manager was overseas at the time!”
For insurers and brokers, COVID-19 did not mean less work, but a need to continue doing business – assessing risks, quoting and pricing new business, writing new policies, administering existing policies, renewing policies, handling client queries, processing and settling claims – to ensure businesses and individuals could manage risks and protect against losses during a time of economic upheaval.
Innovative Digital Channels
Prior to the pandemic, some in the industry were piloting innovative digital channels to improve the customer experience, implement sophisticated pricing and risk management systems, automate manual processes and create efficiencies and better workflows. COVID-19 saw the acceleration of this and unprecedented change is being adopted across the industry:
- digital claims processing
- automating processes
- virtual claims assessments using smart phones (including live streaming of damage)
- video collaboration tools to conduct risk surveys
- drones and imaging technology for inspections
- telehealth support for policyholders
- online marketing and transactions
- data technologies like predictive analytics for more accurate risk analysis and
- greater client access to services via text messages, push notifications on apps, social media, WebChat services, teleconferencing, and 24/7 support via web chatbots.
Importantly, these client-focussed, pro-innovation solutions have been readily accepted by customers, who increasingly expect that insurers’ products and services will work for them in a personalised, data-centric way.
While moving towards more digitisation and automation, many insurers are also looking towards greater customisation of products and services with flexible propositions to more seamlessly respond to customers’ changing needs. Tapping real-time data and applying data analytics and artificial intelligence across various functions, from underwriting and claims to marketing and distribution, is enabling insurers to make better, faster decisions on issues such as dynamic customer pricing.
Far from sounding the death knoll for human interaction, harnessing new technology is enabling processes to be completed quickly and efficiently through digital means, freeing up insurer’s and broker’s time to focus on those moments when clients need the human touch. During times of trauma or stress associated with a loss, it’s important for clients to engage with another person who can provide empathy, support and understanding. Technology is supporting this ability.
COVID-19 may have caused much disruption within the insurance industry and change was foisted upon many, but the innovations and technology adopted are set to expand and the industry’s digital transformation will ultimately benefit clients.