Automation is great, except when it isn’t. Examples of the dark side include endless button pressing in automated phone trees that often conclude by yelling the word “operator” into the phone, and receiving form letters or emails containing incorrect, basic information. It’s no wonder the Aspect Customer Experience Index states that “nearly a third of consumers would rather clean a toilet than talk to customer service.”
Yet automation, when done well, remains a central tactic TPAs can deploy to gain competitive advantages in efficiency, accuracy, and resource allocation. When mismanaged, however, it can lead to impersonal service and damaged client relationships. The key to successful automation is to take advantage of technology’s benefits without losing the “human-centric” element. Kristin Smaby explores this concept in Being human is good business.
“In an era when companies see online support as a way to shield themselves from ‘costly’ interactions with their customers, it’s time to consider an entirely different approach: building human-centric customer service through great people and clever technology. So, get to know your customers. Humanize them. Humanize yourself. It’s worth it.”
In this three-part series we’ll examine how strategically balancing the human/automation mix can deliver a competitive advantage through:
- Improving customer service
- Enhancing employee retention/recruitment
- Boosting performance KPIs
Addressing these three initiatives from a human-centric perspective allows your organization to meet the personalized service expectations your clients demand, while gaining the productivity boosts smart automation delivers.
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In what is already a competitive landscape, 2018 saw a record number (626) of mergers and acquisitions among insurance brokers. According to Business Insurance reporting, more than half of these deals involved P&C brokers and agents.
At the same time, Earnst & Young’s US and Americas non-life insurance outlook 2019 points out that a “gradual shift toward direct sales can be seen in personal and small commercial lines.” While the report holds that the proliferation of D2C channels that reduce dependency on brokers is unlikely to have a significant impact on large commercial lines in the near future, the trend can and should be taken as a sign of things to come.
“One of the biggest keys to success in this environment is differentiating your agency from others that offer similar services,” writes Mike Lover in the PropertyCasualty 360° article Want to make your customer service truly stand out? Answer these questions.
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One of the Claims Journal’s most popular articles of 2018 covered the Altus report that investigated the possibility of Amazon entering the claims management sector. The fact that Amazon tried to poach employees from Lemonade and recruit for a new product manager position certainly provided enough circumstantial evidence to fire up the rumor mill.
The report highlights some of the advantages Amazon brings to the table. The customer-facing infrastructure — from Alexa and Echo devices to an online juggernaut offering an expansive consumer marketplace and digital media center — is unlike anything currently in the insurance space. In addition, Amazon Home Services, which offers on-demand repairs and potential assistance with installing large replacement goods; its array of supported smart home devices; and its direct access to customer purchase history make the company poised to completely transform the claims management process.
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There is a great deal of buzz surrounding the rapid adoption of Robotic Process Automation (RPA) technology. According to a Gartner study, by 2020 90% of large and midsize organizations will have at least one process supported by RPA. Gartner also estimates, however, that 1 in 5 of organizations that try RPA will have replaced it with another technology during that time frame. How can the same technology be both adopted and abandoned so quickly?
The answer is revealed when examining the inherent benefits and drawbacks of RPA technology. As a form of automation, it holds the potential to boost productivity that yields the equivalent of additional 24/7 workers at a fraction of the cost of human resources. Several fundamental flaws in the approach, however, may prevent organizations from ever realizing those gains, and could even make some situations worse.
How RPA works
RPA software allows non-technical users to automate tasks by creating simple “bots” that can log in to systems, retrieve information, and perform basic tasks. So long as the tasks are clearly defined, highly repeatable, and primarily rule-based, RPA bots can be trained to do that work.
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Risk management information system (RMIS) solutions have come a long way in the three decades since their introduction. As they improve, Michelle Kerr reports in a Risk & Insurance article, “[T]he way risk managers use them — and the way they influence the practice of risk management — continues to evolve.” This evolution has led many to rethink their concept of what the systems can do. “They’re looking at the broader picture of how RMIS can be used to transform their organizations,” Kerr notes.
Increased flexibility and the extended capabilities of cloud-based RMIS solutions are now expanding into areas far removed from typical risk management. The ability to quickly create challenge-solving solutions that leverage the power of a highly configurable RMIS can allow all parts of an organization to innovate. In the Kerr article, Brian Van Allsburg, vice president risk management with Compass Group puts it this way, “The question really — the sky’s the limit — what can we do with this system that would make us unique?”
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“Suppose each time you ran low on an item in your kitchen—olive oil, bananas, napkins—your instinctive response was to drop everything and race to the store. How much time would you lose? How much money would you squander on gas? What would happen to your productivity?”
That’s the hypothetical scenario that Ron Friedman, a psychologist and author of The Best Place to Work: The Art and Science of Creating an Extraordinary Workplace, introduces in a Harvard Business Review article examining the “cognitive price” of interrupting a task that requires dedicated focus.
“We all recognize the inefficiency of this approach,” writes Friedman. “And yet surprisingly, we often work in ways that are equally wasteful.” … read more
As shared-risk pools strive to provide better service and increase the value for their members, the importance of streamlining insurance operations is critical. Not only do pools need to provide the level of services that members demand, but they need to do it in a sustainable way that allows staff resources to maximize the time they spend providing high-value services. As Forrester Research recently published, today’s organizations must apply “digital thinking across everything you do — how you win, serve, and retain customers”.
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The competitive pressures facing brokers are unrelenting. In Zywave’s 2017 Broker Services Survey, conducted last summer with over 600 respondents, the results paint a stark picture of the competitive marketplace. Nearly 1 in 5 respondents changed brokers over the past three years. Approximately 70% indicate they would abandon their current broker for communication or service related issues. In fact, the top three stated reasons that would make respondents leave a broker were all communication related. In contrast, leaving for a broker who can lower premiums ranked a distant 6th place. Today’s broker has to compete on communication, or suffer the defection of clients to those who do.
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As organizations, risk management pools are created to serve and benefit their members. When members are actively engaged with the pool, not only is this primary mission being fulfilled, but the organization also gains the opportunity to provide higher value services that can help members make strategic decisions and drive down costs. Paper-based and labor-intensive processes, legacy systems that struggle with modern requirements, and data stored in disparate, unconnected applications all run counter to this effort. Origami Risk, however, provides several features that allow pools to fully engage with their membership and deliver actionable, strategic data that can impact members’ bottom line. … read more
A major 2016 Workers’ Compensation benchmark study found that one of the largest differentiators of high-performers versus all other groups was the use of Evidence Based Medicine (EBM) guidelines. Users of EBM data were more than 4X more likely to be top performers than those who did not. The same study included a survey asking “What are the greatest obstacles to achieving desired claim outcomes?” Respondents ranked “Psychosocial/comorbidities” as the number one issue. … read more