The Weekly Wrapup is an analysis of the week's insurance tech news from the editors of Digital Insurance.

Speed is of the essence as the insurance industry is buffeted by digital disruption. Carriers are making valiant efforts to take the time out of their customer acquisition and service processes, from the point of acquisition, via data-driven and supplemented underwriting, to the claims process, where mobile first notice of loss capabilities are being rolled out.

But speed isn't just about getting from point A to point B in the process faster. After all, some things do take an unavoidable amount of time, whether it's extra review of an application or settlement of a claim. It's related to the latter where the industry is learning some of the nuanced impacts of digital disruption.

In J.D. Power & Associates latest 2018 U.S. Property Claims Satisfaction Study, the market-research firm found that it wasn't the insurers that were the fastest at settling claims that recieved the highest scores. Rather, it was those companies that were clear and accessible throughout the process and communicated effectively with their customers that fared best.

"The time it took to settle a claim is the single lowest-rated attribute in the study, with 1 in 7 respondents indicating that the claim took longer than expected," J.D. Power found. "However, when time frames are properly managed, even groups that experience the longest time-to-settlement still rate their experience above the industry average."

It stands to reason that customers understand that auto and home repair estimates can take some time to process. But in a world of 24/7 connectivity, they don't want to be held hanging. For insurers, that could conjure up visions of heavily staffed call centers and e-mail queues stretching miles (or terabytes). But these communications expectations can be managed digitally as well. Intelligent virtual assistants -- think Amazon's Alexa or Apple's Siri -- and other chatbots are on their way to save the day.

That's the view of a new report out of EY's insurance unit, "Customer experience of the future: How intelligent virtual assistants and chatbots can enhance service interactions." According to the report, "The insurance industry’s use of automated communications has lagged compared to other sectors. Thus, insurers have many opportunities to use IVAs and chatbots for immediate improvements across the entire insurance value chain."

IVAs can work in concert with other transformational technologies that insurers already are leveraging, the paper continues. For example, when combined with telematics, insurers can respond when policyholders engage with automated messages and alerts.

"Those insurers that leverage data from connected sensors and the Internet of Things will be able to make their IVAs smarter and faster" EY says. "Similarly, the returns on investment in customer portals and self-service toolsets will be enhanced by the use of chatbots and IVAs, because more customers will be able to use the tools more often and more conveniently."

Customer experience is often listed among the most popular drivers of digital transformation efforts by insurance companies. But that experience means more than just providing access to the same old value chain through different channels. The advancement of AI and machine-learning technologies means that in the future, the channels will be able to communicate on their own. That will hopefully have powerful downstream effects on customers' views of their risk-management partners.

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