What’s driving your digital claims transformation program: COVID? Competition? Or cost? Whatever the answer, we could be in danger of leaving the customer out of the equation in the rush to digitize and automate insurance processes.

This is the warning ringing out from a recent research report from IT analyst Forrester, which found that consumers don’t trust ‘black box’ digital claims processes and would much rather speak to a human being. You heard that right.

Throwing technology at the problem
It has implications for insurers who have invested significantly in digitizing claims processes to alleviate the cost of call centers and replace manual processes with automated ones. That was the prevailing advice to insurers from the big consultancy and tech firms who have argued that greater digitization leads to improved efficiency and better customer service.

It’s also food for thought for organizations that are rapidly introducing piecemeal tech features to solve a problem, such as chatbots, online customer self-service and photo apps, but from a technology – rather than a human – perspective.

While these additional services can certainly bring efficiencies to the claims handling process, it is vital to give your customer service agents, loss adjusters and claims managers what they need to provide the human touch.

It could be time to take a more user-centric approach, reimagine the customer journey and find out what customers want.

Reaching out
While insurers have been busy adding self-service features for elements such as first notice of loss, the adjustment process, and payment, Forrester found that 56% of survey respondents prefer to work with a person rather than use digital self-service tools.

Customers may well file a claim online using self-service, only to follow up straight away with a phone call to confirm that the process has worked. This undermines the point of the digital enhancements, which are meant to lessen the load on claims and contact center resources, says Forrester. And it also means the features are not necessarily saving the business money but doubling up on customer touchpoints.

Even the most tech-savvy customers call to follow up. Mainly because they want somebody to explain what is going on behind the scenes regarding the insurer’s decision-making and process, said Ellen Carney, Forrester principal analyst, who co-wrote the report.

The human touch
Claimants crave the human touch, Forrester notes, and this should prompt a rethink.

This isn’t an argument against claims process automation or AI features that speed up claims assessment, such as natural language document screening and virtual assistants, or data analytics that improve risk, fraud and post-claims reviews.

However, the kinds of capabilities you may need to prioritize your investment in are the ones that enable your people to be more effective in delivering an empathetic experience and being more human. These could be where you make your efficiencies, speed up your processes, and build trust and relationships that are profitable in the long term.

A user-centric approach
The end-to-end claims process is larger and more complex than the part the customer sees. This is a key reason why customers choose to call the insurer as well as communicating online. However, it’s not enough just to streamline and automate those internal processes. Insurers need to take a user-focused approach and prioritize and identify the areas that need investment.

The goal may be to bring greater transparency to opaque internal systems or to dramatically improve and humanize the elements of the claims process that matter to the customer. You can then build the other parts of your services around the IT intervention in a way that supports and enhances the whole process.

For many insurers, the E2E process is held over multiple systems, with no single point where they can add value to customer interactions. So, to enhance and free up staff to focus on the ‘golden moments’ of the process will mean investing significantly in systems and processes in multiple areas.

There is an alternative, however, and that is to design the E2E process by centering it on the user and aligning your business to respond quickly to changes in customer needs.

1. Move fast, fix things
Amazon founder Jeff Bezos talks about a Day 1 philosophy which is that the organization should always have an entrepreneurial, startup mindset. This enables it to make high-quality, high-velocity decisions. It also provides the flexibility to avoid a one-size-fits-all decision-making process, and the ability to pivot quickly.

“You need to be good at quickly recognizing and correcting bad decisions. If you’re good at course correcting, being wrong may be less costly than you think, whereas being slow is going to be expensive for sure,” Bezos advises.

2. Incorporate design thinking 
A more human-centric, responsive and personalized approach could involve incorporating Design Thinking from the start, where you firstly empathize with the user and research their requirements; then define their needs and problems, create ideas, prototype your solutions, and finally try them out. This could make the difference between presenting your customers with an opaque black box claims system, and one that is more interactive, transparent and customer-centric.

3. Adopt an agile approach 
It could also involve building in flexibility from the start of a technology change program. Defining a new process upfront and then trying to build it into everyday operations rarely works, and the customer needs are ever-changing. What works today may change in a year. Your approach must be able to respond to future change, and for this you need an approach with agile thinking at its core. This is as much about a mindset and approach as it is about development techniques and technologies.

Technology should always be a means to an end, rather than an end in itself. Let’s humanize the insurance claims process and take the industry to a new level of customer-centricity.