The life insurance industry has experienced a period of significant change over the last few years, unparalleled in recent memory. However, that same change has created a unique opportunity for life insurers to innovate in the ways we deliver experiences for our customers, as we continue to invest in evolving our businesses and processes.
Nowhere has that been more apparent than in the way we are working to transform the claims experience, which is at the heart of a customer’s life insurance experience. It is fundamentally important that we get it right.
At a time when a customer is already dealing with the challenges associated with a trauma, the prospect of then having to lodge a claim with a life insurer can be daunting. The stories that are often told about people’s experiences with life insurance claims don’t reflect the many thousands of positive tales of help, support and hope that we see through our claims work every year.
CUSTOMERS’ SHIFTING EXPECTATIONS
Consumers are experiencing a transformation of their own at the moment – with the majority of lives moving towards virtual experiences, and the increased demand for instant gratification, consumers are losing patience for traditional processes.
Combined with many consumers’ increasing financial and contractual literacy, this has meant the expectations consumers have of financial service providers have never been greater and that is certainly the case in life insurance.
The opportunity this presents for life insurers is to embrace the challenge of evolving the customer experience and, in particular, the claims handling process to continue meeting the shifting expectations customers have of their service experiences more generally.
To do that successfully, the industry needs to embrace innovation and digitisation, but also to carefully consider how to employ technology to enhance customer experience across every stage of the journey.
Claims was traditionally viewed as a more administrative-processing function by life insurers. In the modern world, however, the claims function has come out of the back office and into a front-line service function, making claims consultants some of the most important people in the industry. Now more than ever, the claims experience must be streamlined and leverage the digital transformation that we are seeing in all aspects of life to make every interaction easier for the customer.
But just as importantly, the experience needs to recognise that each customer is unique; no one else has the same life story or the same medical journey. It is deeply personal, and when customers want to tell their story or share their concerns with another human, we must ensure that claims consultants are well equipped to listen and feel empowered to support them.
We have been looking at how we can draw on digital transformation to empower customers in different ways at different points of the process but that does not mean every single process needs to be completely digitised.
MEETING CUSTOMER NEEDS
Getting digital transformation right means finding the right balance between leveraging digitisation to streamline the customer’s claims experience, while at the same time ensuring the human empathy component remains part of the process.
Knowledge is power so when customers are looking to engage on more of a transactional basis, they expect to be able to get the information they need, when they need it, and in the way they want it with minimal friction. That is where digitisation plays its first key role – in enabling these aspects of the experience to be addressed through automated systems.
This could be through the use of a digital service or an app that allows customers to track the status of their claim, upload documents and clearly understand what information requirements are still outstanding. For our Claims Assist service, we found this led to faster submission of requirements, lower inbound calls and increased satisfaction ratings.
But when customers want to discuss something more personal or complex about their situation, and how that might impact their claim, they are expecting their insurer to deeply understand them, their claim, their circumstance and consider how their insurer can adapt its service to match that situation.
At the end of the day, most claimants will want to talk to a real person at some point in their claims journey and will want to know that another human has critically considered their circumstances and developed a personalised response, because there is nothing more personal to anybody than their own health, their own outlook and their financial situation.
There is a gap for the insurance industry to look at the role that digitisation and technology can play in enhancing human connections and enabling them where they may not previously have been possible. But, at the same time, the quality and capability of claims consultant is greatly important.
FREEING UP CLAIMS CONSULTANTS
Getting that balance right, and leveraging technology to remove much of the administrative work from the claims consultant’s role, allows them to focus their efforts on the most important aspect of their job – supporting claimants during what is often the most difficult time in their life.
Today’s claims consultants are expected to wear many different hats as they assess a claim. Not only are they required to be proficient across a range of medical, financial, legal and product concepts, they must also have exceptional relationship skills.
They need to be able to talk to customers about their circumstances and concerns, explain the claims process to them and what they need to do in way that recognises the unique emotional needs of each customer and then implement solutions to respond to these.
Ensuring claims consultants can continue to develop these skills by providing them with the right training and coaching, and ensuring they have access to support so they can look after their own wellbeing, continue to be areas of strong focus.
A PERSON-CENTRIC APPROACH
One way to do this is through psychology-based training including motivational interviewing techniques and person-centred communication skills, designed to ensure claims consultants are equipped to deeply understand a claimant’s situation and work constructively and collaboratively with them as they progress their claim.
A recent example of this was a customer who a claims consultant recognised was frequently calling to seek an update on their claim, motivated by a high degree of anxiety around missing an update. The claims consultant committed to calling that customer every day at a set time, setting a clear expectation with the customer and alleviating their concerns by providing them with confidence in the status of their claim.
Another investment we have made in equipping our claims consultants has seen us change the way we train team members who are new to both our industry and the role.
Where historically, new recruits spent a number of weeks in the “classroom” developing and honing their skills before working with their colleagues, we now spend four to six months training these new claims consultants before they are introduced to an operational role, to ensure they have the right level of skills and knowledge to deliver the best experience for our customers, in recognition of the multiple skills that a claims consultant must develop.
The fundamental thing that customers want from their insurer is for their claim to be determined and paid as quickly as possible. We understand this, but we also understand that the experience in getting there is critically important during what is invariably a difficult time already.
Realising the potential to really accelerate the evolution and transformation of that experience through digital and technology, in a way that makes sense for our customers, is where the insurance industry must continue to focus.
Jenny Oliver is chief claims officer at TAL.