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Blog: Technology - right or wrong for claims (or both)?


Insurers building the new claims portal must be careful not to force clients down a path they don’t wish to go argues Minster Law director of claims Marcus Taylor, who points to public concerns over technology as a major obstacle to overcome

A recent survey carried out by Consumer Intelligence found that, of 2000 people sampled, 50% thought technology will change our lives for the better in future, while the rest were either not sure or thought it would change for the worse. So far, so unsurprising.

But the 50:50 split in opinion usefully illustrates that the reputation of technology is still under scrutiny. It is true that technology has hugely enhanced convenience, cost, connectivity and information. Now, if we want to book a holiday, we can do so in three minutes. If we want to pay for groceries, we can tap our bank card on a machine. If we want to turn the lights on at home, or play music, we can ‘ask Alexa.’

If the benefits of technology are self-evident, then why the scepticism? What about the 50% of naysayers? Perhaps it’s got something to do with the increasing power of the tech companies. A new book by Yuval Harari called 21 lessons for the 21st Century warns that data analytics will enable tech giants to know us better than our own mothers, unleashing a wave of bots to sell us stuff, from politicians to ideologies and cars to holidays.

“Bots could identify our deepest fears, hatreds and cravings and use those inner leverages against us,” Harari writes, although, chillingly, it would all seem perfectly natural because the sales patter will chime so exactly with our feelings, emotions and desires.

Repressive regimes could use biometrics to know what we’re thinking, and make sure that dissenters (even if dissent was in the mind) can be punished. Far fetched?

Already, health insurance companies encourage their customers to use machines such as Fitbit to measure their lifestyle, offering incentives for what they deem to be good practice.  Cambridge Analytica claimed to have been able to use Facebook data to pinpoint individual voters and target highly specific messages at them during the European Union referendum in 2016.

Technology is also promising to be better at doing our jobs than we are. Millions of professional jobs, in law, accounting, medicine and commerce are predicted to disappear in the next decade thanks to artificial intelligence and machine learning, so we need to understand how our lives must adapt to make sure that we have continue to have purpose and fulfillment. Has any government even scratched the surface of how to effectively manage this change?

So perhaps it’s not surprising that a large section of society is nervous about the technology ‘endgame,’ And, in our sector, this throws up questions about the efficacy of customer technology ‘solutions’ such as the proposed small claims portal. If half of the population are nervous about technology, a wholly self-serviced small claims portal may be doomed to fail.  

At Minster Law, we are investing in technology to deliver better services to our clients, including an online claims journey, but crucially, our technology sits alongside human intervention if clients need help.

So far, client feedback has been positive, and our blend of technology and people supports the survey’s findings that online-only is not, at the moment, right for everyone. Insurers building the portal must be careful not to force clients down a path they don’t wish to go.

A recent Association of British Insurers survey, which said that 70% of us would be prepared to manage their claim online, is more bullish about an online future, but that still leaves 30% of people opposed. With around 600 000 motor accident claims each year, that’s roughly 200 000 citizens who would prefer their access to justice to be supported by human beings.  

The Consumer Intelligence survey noted, for example, that older age groups were generally more concerned about a technology-led future than millennials, but also females and C2DE socio-economic groups. We need to respect all sides as we push forward into such new territory and ensure that technology, whether for making injury claims or voting in a general election, is used wisely and respects both our rights and our personal preferences.

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