More than 20 insurer IT leaders and staff members joined us last week in Hartford for our latest Regional Roundtable. These meetings are designed to offer networking opportunities for insurers as well as a chance to discuss common challenges and solutions.

Among the major themes of the conversation were:

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Customer experience is about more than the user interface.

When most insurers think about customer experience (CX), they focus on self-service applications, like the a mobile or web portal user interface. But overall experience is a broader issue, defined by how quickly transactions are processed and the overall experience of interacting with the carrier. Emerging technologies like RPA are part of this discussion — they can help by automating or simplifying low-value tasks, which allows customer service reps to focus on higher-value tasks that ensure customers are happy and cared for. Discussions emphasized that this is not all about technology: organizational incentives have to encourage a focus on customer engagement rather than, say, short call handling times.

To add value, IT strategy must be part of the overall business strategy.

As with many industries, insurers are moving toward increased use of Agile development, but organizational agility is a more important issue. Technology organizations are often trying to prepare for the swift changes the future may bring, but this matters little if other business units are not focused on the ability to adapt. The required shift in skills and mindset requires understanding and buy-in from the most senior levels on the value of shifting to and Agile mindset throughout the enterprise.

Carriers are starting to use artificial intelligence (AI), but it is difficult to find vendors who understand the business.

AI has the potential to accelerate claims processing, detect fraud, reduce costs, and more, but there are stumbling blocks on the way from turning that potential into reality. Several carriers expressed frustration with vendors that did not understand insurance. One noted that “the biggest problem is not finding data scientists, but finding people who understand the business.” One approach is to attempt to build such data capabilities in house, even though this takes longer. This naturally leads to a further issue: finding the right people within an organization.

Some companies have experimented with internal social networks that could provide skills data on employees to supplement the information held by HR, but these have generally failed to gain traction due to a lack of incentives to participate. One insurer provided a unique way around this problem: They had a skills database for workers to volunteer services to outside parties. Since many of the skills their employees listed for volunteering were the same as the skills needed in house, they were able to draw on that database for their own purposes as well. Insurers without such a resource could set up an internal social network, but there has to be an incentive for employees to use it and enter their skills into it.

The same theme thus emerged in nearly every topic discussed: Technology is only as good as the use you make of it. Organizational structures and incentives are at least as important.

These events provide for a great opportunity for exchange of ideas and experiences. They also allow us to put research into context where it can be operationalized by carriers who are facing a range of challenges. Novarica’s next Regional Roundtable will be held in Des Moines, Iowa on June 6, 2018 (details to follow). For more on upcoming Novarica events, visit https://novarica.com/events/.

This blog entry was reprinted with permission from Novarica.

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