It is all about connection and people – both internal teams and customers.
That was the clear message at a recent InsurTech webinar where a great panel from the New Zealand insurance market discussed the need for resilience, new operating models and automation in the world of insurance – and how their companies have adapted and plan to continue to evolve moving forward.
On the panel were Katrina Church from Insurance People, Dave Mason from IAG, Robert Old from Fidelity Life, Data Robot's Colin Priest, Quanton's Adam Taylor and Lisa Marusich of UiPath.
Covid has been a world-changing event. Businesses have had to rapidly implement changes to survive, but what do they have to do to thrive?
That was a clear message from all the panelist. Without fail their companies are keen to use automation to free up staff so there can be more time spent directly with customers.
We’re in a time when everyone feels confused and scared – and that’s a time when you really need to free up your staff to connect more with customers.
Insurance is a sector that is ripe for automation, which can take away some of the administrative processes and get staff engaged and in front of customers. This is especially important during crisis and in the aftermath when people most need support.
Case in point: Insurance People. They’ve implemented a robot to help handle anniversary letters, something which the company has around 2.5 staff doing. The robot can handle 700 letters in three days - twice what the human team can do in the same period.
Insurance People is now looking at how they can expand automation and redirect staff to create connections, rather than handle paperwork.
Katrina Church noted she has one person spending all their time on arrears management and not getting the time to pick up the phone to check if the client is ok or perhaps needs some assistance. It’s all about those connections and having conversations with customers and automating the administration processes helps to enable that.
Compliance requirements within the insurance sector are also increasing. Automating to reduce the compliance burden on staff can help put them back in front of customers where they can add real business and customer value.
The move to pull off shored tasks back to New Zealand is also bringing big changes for many businesses.
Many of the companies experienced disruptions to their call and operation centres as countries including India and the Philippines, where these centres were based, went into lockdowns.
Work was rapidly pulled back to New Zealand, putting additional pressure on local staff at a time when for many, call volumes soared as customers sought advice, assistance - and just simple reassurance.
For some the solution lies in enhancing their conversational AI platform and expanding their automation usage to cope with the influx of work.
Agile has been a battle cry for a while now. The need to pivot quickly to take advantage of rapidly changing markets and adapt to real world events is crucial.
Data Robot’s Colin Priest noted that the uncertainty around Covid has brought with it demand for rapid short-term solutions.
People are seeking immediate solutions, including a lot more intelligent automation. While many have rules-based automation, they’ve found they need to be even more digital and some of that requires more complex decision making and predictive analysis using artificial intelligence.
Ui Path’s Lisa Marusich noted that cost control and productivity are key demands for many customers. “If you are in Robotic Process Automation you are a prize employee at the moment because everyone is looking to you to solve issues, and solve them quickly,” she said. “That’s led to more engagement with implementation partners as companies rush to control costs and increase productivity quickly”.
Quanton’s Adam Taylor has seen that many businesses are looking to do more with their existing teams and intelligent automation is the key enabler. It has also allowed businesses to rapidly digitise customer application processes and stitch this into an end to end automated process rapidly.
Covid has been a stressful time for all, but many of the panelist reported that they’ve seen an increased engagement from their own teams.
One challenge for Quanton itself, and for many of their customers, was keeping in touch with staff from a health and wellbeing perspective - checking in regularly to ensure they were ok while working from home.
Automation provided an optimal way of handling that challenge and it developed a piece of technology which automatically emailed staff every day to check in with them, while also creating a report for leadership teams, including flagging any areas of concern so that managers were given a ‘heads up’ ahead of their team meetings and one-on-ones.
IAG was another company that had to quickly adapt during Covid. By having a MyFlex programme already established, they were able to quickly mobilise their workforce to work remotely as they already had the technology and systems in place to do so.
The conversation during the COVID-19 March shutdown quickly became about how they supported their people who were being required to work remotely during a crisis, rather than choosing to flex their work location as it suited them, acknowledging that these were extraordinary times and many of their people had various challenges to consider within their household such as supporting children at home.
Dave Mason noted that from an internal resilience perspective it brought about new challenges. The company implemented a range of support measures while encouraging regular check-ins between people leaders and their teams. Communication was key so they set people up with new collaboration technology to enable open lines of communication.
What they found throughout this period was that a lot of people could work from wherever and still feel incredibly connected to the business.
One challenge raised by several panelist was that of getting visibility of workflow and work in progress when you workforce is dispersed. There’s a risk of losing visibility and transparency in where work is sitting and overall productivity.
Many businesses rapidly moved to a remote working model and now they are looking at ways to optimise this new way of working to ensure they have high performing teams and good levels of customer service.
Adam Taylor from Quanton notes that this is an area where service orchestration and workflow productivity tools are increasingly being adopted.
We’ve known it for a long time, but Covid really has pushed home the message that digital is the way forward. From rapid deployment of digital mail solutions to electronic forms and signatures.
People are really looking at their businesses and the operating models and questioning what digital means for their model. How can they deploy Intelligent Automation, Robotic Process Automation, Conversational AI, Service Orchestration, Smart Forms, Digital Signatures or a range of other technologies to improve customer experience while building agility and resilience to ensure preparedness should this happen again?
For those in the panel, automation has become part of the strategic direction of the business. They are using it to not only work through tough times, but to drive better customer experiences and forge stronger businesses, creating a future way of working that is resilient and fit for the ‘new normal’.