A Human Touch is Key to Building an Effective Touchless Claims Environment

By Clayton Matthews | June 14, 2024

In today’s fast-paced, digital world, the insurance industry is undergoing a rapid transformation, and the way insurance claims are being managed is no exception.

The touchless claims experience is proving to be an elusive goal for some, a lofty aspiration for others and boardroom chatter for the rest. It begs the question: How can our industry transform while providing exceptional customer care? The answer is that maintaining a customer-centric approach in a TCE is essential to ensure a positive and empathetic experience for policyholders. And that is only the beginning.

The explosion of augmented automation is in lockstep with the explosion of generative AI and its rapid integration into our daily lives. Moore’s Law implies that computers, machines that run on computers and computing power all become smaller, faster and cheaper with time as processes become more efficient and components smaller and faster. This usually means the early adopters of any technology pay a premium for that product or service. It also creates an environment of the “haves” and the “have-nots.”

Typically, companies that were early to adopt the technology gained a competitive advantage in their marketplace. However, the technology necessary to automate and transform the claims environment is only becoming more available and more affordable every day. As the influential science fiction author William Gibson once remarked, “the future is already here – it’s just not very evenly distributed yet.” To effectively implement a customer-centric approach in your organizational claim processes, it is essential to first understand that the TCE is already here.

Clayton Matthews

Face-to-face interactions in insurance transactions are becoming less frequent as more tools like virtual meetings, the ability to sign documents and the ability to send and deposit funds electronically prove that customers will embrace change in how they conduct business.

Clear, consistent communication throughout the environment change is essential. This includes educating the consumer with easily understood instructions on how to navigate the claims process; providing correct timelines on what to expect and instructing them on what to do if help is needed. These tools will empower our customers to embrace change while building trust, confidence and loyalty to the brand.

TCEs aim to minimize human intervention while empowering policyholders with self-service options. Those options should be accompanied by accessible support channels customers want to use. For example, etiquette experts note the rules for contact have changed. Younger Millennials, Gen Z and Gen Alpha consider it rude to call someone without first texting them to confirm whether they are available. Even worse is leaving a voicemail. Elder Millennials, Gen X, and Boomers prefer a phone call to handle important business or to deal with an issue.

Now, think of your claims environments today and then tomorrow. Are you building an offering for what the consumer wants or are you building what worked before? Offering easy-to-use online portals, speech-to-text, chatbots or virtual assistants can empower policyholders to handle their claims independently and seamlessly – even when the situation arises when the square “solution” peg won’t fit in the round “issue” hole. Augmented AI will empower policyholders with self-service tools that can enhance their overall experience.

We work in a time when the availability of data and analytics has revolutionized the way we measure success. The processes and claims environments must keep pace with technology or else an insurer can become antiquated and unable to compete in the marketplace. However, don’t lose sight of the point of view of a customer who may only have a claim once every 10 years. Chances are, they have not kept up with the changes in process and technology since 2014. Regularly gathering feedback from policyholders about their experiences can help find areas for improvement and ensure a consistent culture of customer-centricity and continuous improvement.

The world is changing, but the human condition is not. Kindness and empathy will never go out of style: A simple, kind gesture; a sympathetic ear; allowing a customer a moment to tell their story. People want to feel connected, valued and acknowledged. Empathy in the claims process is often overlooked but can be the differentiator in the customer experience. Genuine empathy comes from a place of compassion for others and the will to do what is right.

When building a customer-centric framework, it is critical to understand how and why a customer feels a certain way, even if you can’t relate to their circumstance. Understanding their “why” can help you develop the “how.” Your customers can expose a problem to solve you didn’t know existed which can drive change, innovation, new ideas and new opportunities to enhance the claims experience. Paraphrasing Warren Buffet, it is when the tide goes out that we see who is swimming naked.

The future is now. Generative AI will have the power to augment and enhance the experience by finding key indicators and markers offering those nuanced clues that a customer is experiencing issues. That transformative power will allow us to continue to deliver service in a world of increasing volume and an aging insurance workforce. We are all fighting for the same finite human resources. Our path forward is to embrace technological advancement. Touchless claims environments can do just that.

Maintaining a customer-centric approach in an augmented environment is critical for future success. By emphasizing communication, empowering policyholders, using data, providing personalized support, and building a culture of continuous improvement, insurers can ensure a seamless and customer-focused claims experience that drives down loss adjustment expenses while improving accuracy and customer satisfaction. The key to success in the ever-changing claims landscape is to keep the customer at the center of our focus while evolving through technology.

Matthews leads the claims department at Oakbridge Insurance LLC, providing loss reporting, research, advisory and advocacy services to internal and external clients. He has more than three decades of experience.

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