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Spotlight: Personalisation - Why self-service claims put the power into the hands of the policyholder 


Whether it is legacy infrastructure or culture, things that were once considered barriers to the adoption of self-service claims are being torn down. Valerie Hart explores the progress insurers have made since the Covid-19 pandemic began.

Historically, the claims process has often been slow and difficult. However, as insurers push through their digitalisation programmes, the emphasis is on giving policyholders more control when notifying and following up claims through digital means. Since the pandemic many insurers have expanded their range of digital tools to make the claims process easier and more transparent.

The process of digitising and automating claims is a journey many large insurers were already on, but the pandemic accelerated it as everybody was forced online.

Jessie Burrows, managing director for claims at Direct Line, says: “We had already provided some basic digital options for our customers before the pandemic; however, we have accelerated delivery of some of our plans to create more customer choice for managing their claim. Customers can now register 95% of all claim types online, and for simple motor and home claims, these can be processed without the need for customers to call us at all.”

 “Our customers can notify us about a claim 24/7 at a time that suits them. We know everyone has different life and work commitments and it was important we offered services that worked for them.”

Customer convenience is also at the heart of Aviva’s development. “We recognise our customers want greater control and transparency. We provide our customers with the ability to notify their claim, book and track their repair – all online – giving them greater control at a time that suits them best,” comments Aviva’s Neil Ashley, head of claims transformation.

Pandemic impact

The pandemic has sped up acceptance of this new digital world.

“What has stood out for me is seeing those customers who perhaps had never seen themselves using a digital journey doing so. I don’t think there’s many of us who imagined everyone comfortably using technology to order drinks and food in a restaurant a couple of years ago,” comments Burrows.

The pandemic has also forced what has been a very traditional industry into changing their culture.

“For me the barrier has not been one of legacy infrastructure – although that causes a level of complexity – but one of attitude. This is where the pandemic has helped by fundamentally shifting our industry to create more innovative experimental organisations. Holding on to that kind of culture is going to be very important going forward,” says Amy Brettell, Zurich’s head of customer, UK claims.

Insurers had to come up with new solutions amid the disruption caused by Covid-19 such as notification apps and facilities for uploading customers’ own images and documents.

For instance, faced with a surge in business interruption claims at the start of the pandemic, Allianz Insurance launched its Notify App in April 2020. On the app, fleet managers and drivers can report their own claims quickly.

Alleviating pressure

“This was not just to alleviate pressure on our phone lines, but also to deal with motor claims as quickly as possible for those whose livelihoods depended on it. The idea was to get essential workers back on the road as quickly as possible,” explains Margaret Scott, head of claims strategy and customer experience at Allianz Insurance .

At the same time, Allianz launched a Claims Hub, allowing customers and brokers to notify claims, upload supporting documents and images, and track their claim’s progress.

To strengthen this self-serve alternative, Allianz fast-tracked the development of its Live Chat functionality, launching it in November 2020. Live Chat connects a broker to a handler in around 12 seconds with the average handling time five minutes faster, claims Allianz.

“With Live Chat the customer/broker and claims handler can exchange information more quickly, as well as share documents securely. In a way, Live Chat combines the interactivity of a phone call with the upload function of an email or digital platform,” explains Scott.

Enhancements are continually being added to the Claims Hub. For instance, Allianz is introducing present position trackers that give live status updates on five key aspects of motor claims: policy cover, liability, vehicle, third-party and recovery. With one click, brokers will be able to find out if a claim has been validated or if it requires further information, who has accepted liability and when, how the vehicle repairs are progressing, whether a third-party claim has been settled, denied or redirected, and if recovery is being pursued.

Meanwhile, Direct Line is introducing a damage evaluation calculator which it says provides its claims teams with the engineering expertise to accurately assess if a car can be repaired or not at a click of a few buttons. It has complemented that with its own AI image recognition algorithms which have been trained on over one million images, helping it to cut the total loss cycle time in half, with the majority now settled within seven days.

Direct Line also has a home valuation tool allowing it to quickly establish the extent of the damage to a customer’s home and appoint the relevant builder from its home repair network.

In the commercial space, Brettell says: “When we built our self-serve reporting tools for commercial entities we recognised early on the need for a flexible approach. Therefore, we can deliver a custom-built co-branded solution for our commercial customers and broking partners within a day for free. This is quite unique in the market, explaining why since the start of this year we’ve quadrupled the number of commercial customers and/or broker partners that have adopted one of our custom-built portals.”

AI as a game changer

Technology, notably artificial intelligence, has been a gamechanger, leading to industry-first solutions for straight-through processing and faster settlement speeds.

For example, Zurich has partnered with Sprout AI to develop an automated policy checking system that it claims reduces settlement times from multiple days to just a few hours, even with six-figure claims.

The AI proprietary engine can replicate a handler with 100 years of experience and a reading speed of 10,000 words per microsecond. Claims can be triaged and processed within hours with above 98% accuracy on policy checking, according to Zurich. This not only exceeds human accuracy rates, but also improves the transparency of decision-making to consumers by including features such as a check against the extensive Ombudsman’s database.

Elsewhere, Axa also uses a number of AI systems, most recently launching Buildings Enhanced Triage Steering Intelligence Engine.

“This tool increases the speed and accuracy of claims resolution by capturing essential data points and simplifying the claims triaging process and improving customer experience as fewer questions need to be asked and the potential for rework, delays and further costs are reduced,” says Vicki Joshi, Axa UK & Ireland’s customer and brand director.

Melanie Kill, claims transformation director at Axa UK, adds: “Our new Straight Through electronic Processing solution provides an end-to-end online experience for customers who can now make seamless multi-channel journeys when making a motor claim. They can notify and track a claim online and, for certain types of claims, they will also be automatically directed to Axa’s suppliers, who will help them with the repair or replacement of their vehicle depending on the type of damage.”

She says that this has significantly shortened and simplified the claims journey, resulting in very positive feedback from their customers. “In one example, a customer had a call from our repairer to book in their car within just seven minutes of entering their claim. A different customer was contacted by our salvage partner to collect their car for Total Loss within 27 minutes of digitally registering their claim.”

Burrows concurs: “As we’ve introduced more effective digital processes and automation, we have seen improved resolution times and net promoter scores. For example, with the introduction of our damage evaluation calculator in our motor repair centres we’ve cut the total loss cycle time in half, with the majority now settled within seven days.”

Vulnerable customers

Digitalisation has opened up channels for people who want to use them. “For somebody who is vulnerable and might find it difficult to talk, they might have a speech impediment or language difficulties for instance, having digital channels for them is a big win,” says Vicki Heslop, Covéa Insurance head of customer experience.

Heslop adds that there are also customers who don’t just want to interact with a machine: “Early on in the pandemic we found a lot of customers wanted to chat and have a voice at the end of the phone. We have to be aware that this might not change.”

Brettell agrees: “We need to be really careful that as we build our technology and systems to remember that at the point of claim there can be a level of vulnerability in everybody. Therefore, we must ensure an empathetic human option is still there for customers who need it.”

“We recognise the psychological and emotional toll that making a claim can take on people, which can last long after the physical impacts have been resolved.  So, last year we launched ‘Zurich Support Services’ providing claimants and their immediate families with access to five free counselling sessions. This has helped those who have suffered aggravated burglary, car accidents or who have been displaced from their homes due to flooding.” 

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