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Digital Workforce- Empowered Workforce of the Insurer
Nishanth Nanu | June 19, 2020
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Digital Workforce – Who am I?

In this era of digitally disrupted economy, Insurance is one such industry which is seeing a huge spike in investment of both time and resources for the optimization of their processes via automation, which at the end of the day would enhance their customers experience in interacting with them. These initiatives are of paramount interest for the carrier to realize the following benefits:

  • Competitiveness
  • Reduction in operation cost
  • Minimization of errors
  • Quantitative and qualitative outputs
  • Optimal utilization of resources

Insurers have been achieving process optimization through re-design of their existing processes by removing the redundant tasks and making the processes leaner and meaner. All tasks in the process that are manually performed, mundane in nature, standardized and requires less exception handling are automated either using custom code or Robotic Process Automation (RPA) tools.  For more complex and scenarios with higher exception rates, cognitive computing coupled with RPA is turning into a solution.  Automating these tasks enables the skilled employees of the carrier to move away from lower impact tasks and spend their time on higher impact ones that add value to the customers and the brand of the carrier.

Though process automation are being adopted by the insurance industry for quite some time, the implementation of this digital work force has not been significant when looking at how the pandemic has impacted the existing business model.  During these tiring times there saw a huge spike in the number of claims, inquiries being registered to the insurers both in the life and non-life space.  A surge in these activities meant a huge spike in both the front and back office desks.  This reiterates that RPA can no longer be just task centric but should expand to more process centric automation and bring out the next-gen ‘digital workforce’ who can replicate the human tasks in a consistent and qualitative manner using the capabilities of RPA, cognitive computing, and advanced analytics.

# Digital workforce = ∑(RPA + Cognitive automation + Advanced analytics)

Digital workforce – Where do I fit in?

Implementing such digital workforce in insurance industry means identifying the process that can be automated and deliver value.  Gartner refers this to as hyper automation – ‘an approach in which organizations rapidly identify and automate as many business processes as possible. With RPA being core, hyper automation will bring complementing technology together and take automation beyond a task-centric focus´.

For the insurance industry, a digital workforce finds a perfect recruit to replicate the human intervention in some of these process areas:

  • Customer contact center
  • New business
  • Policy servicing
  • Claims handling

Customer contact centers

An inflow of request to an insurer via emails, text messages handled via chat bots can be classified using optical character recognition, natural language processing, advance analytics and coupled with RPA, responding to these interactions can be fully automated. Only requests that require specialized human intervention, can be directed to the respective process flow.

Robots can be implemented in supporting the contact center agent in handling requests relating to generating a quote, registering a claim, gathering customer information from various isolated systems, and presenting it to the agent enabling him to provide a more personalized service to the customer reaching out.

“Allstate has implemented ‘Amelia’ an AI powered customer service agent that is trained on 50 unique insurance topics and regulations related to all 50 states, which supports the Allstate’s customer service agents in their day-to-day interactions with their customers.  The employees can quickly chat with Amelia to get concise answers about complicated insurance questions from customers. This also enables employees to be ready to work much sooner by cutting down training time. Amelia handles more than 250,000 conversations each month and is used by more than 75% of Allstate call center employees. Paired with other AI programs like automation and big data, Amelia has helped Allstate reduce its talk times and increase its first call resolution rates.”

Source:forbes.com/sites/blakemorgan/2018/08/07/using-ai-for-customer-experience-at-allstate/#6a1ec1b99d84

The time lapse from the prospect obtaining a quote for a product, deciding on the product, submission of the proposal, underwriting of the proposal, issuing the policy document, and registering the data in legacy policy administration can be automated end-to-end by a combination of digital services and digital workforce.

The initial steps of prospect obtaining a quote for a product can be made available digitally via online interactions.  Once the prospect agrees for the quote and submits his proposal along with the mandate for debiting the premium, the digital work force can be set into action to validate the proposal and underwrite the risk based on a set of business rules backed with AI.  Accepted proposals can be automatically administered in the legacy systems of the insurer, digitally signed off, and mailing the policy document to the insurer.  This whole journey of the customer from being a prospect to a policy holder can be seamlessly handled through automation, thereby reducing the whole processing time from weeks to minutes.

The highly skilled human workforce can be involved to handle the proposals on sub-standard lives or when the complexity of the risk to be covered is high.

“First Title provides a discount to their customers on purchase of Residential and commercial indemnity products online.  Quotes are made available instantly and policy is issued within seconds.”

Source: https://www.firsttitle.co.uk/

Policy servicing

Customer interactions with the insurer for transactions like change of address, nomination, assignment, change of bank details, and submission of proof of life are few areas where the process are repetitive and are subject to standardized process flows not involving any complex decision making.  This is one another area where the digital work force can be used to validate and authenticate the request and once approved have the changes administered in the back end system.

Claims handling

This is one specific process which is very important in a customer’s journey, were in he finally starts seeing the value for the product he has purchased.  Experience of the customer in this part of the journey plays a prominent role in rating the brand image of the insurer.  In the paper – ‘Claims workforce of the Future: 2030’ by PwC, the First notice of loss (FNOL) are being increasingly automated.  By 2030 the prediction is to have the majority of FNOLs automated with better data being captured up-front, thereby automating the claims handlers role based on bots running on pre-defined rules and coupled with cognitive computing. Claims handlers intervention can be focused to more complex claims and improving the customer experience in this part of the journey.

Carriers like Lemonade brings technology into action the moment the customer submits the claim.  The submitted claims are run through a dozens of anti-fraud algorithms and once approved set the motion of claim payment to the customer. Lemonade takes the pride for having settled claims in a record time of 3 seconds.

The above mentioned areas for process automation are only inclusive and not an exhaustive list of all possibilities in the processes of an insurer. 

Digital workforce – Road ahead

To tide over the storm of technological advancement, reducing interest rates, inflating work force cost, rising attrition, handle the stiff competition arising from startups and to meet the enhanced customer expectation, insurers need to pro-actively identify the various touch points of the customer and deploy the new-gen digital workforce that can continue servicing the customer irrespective of any social, political or environmental changes. The concept of hyper automation needs to be implemented by the insurer to identify the processes that can be a candidate for automation and designing robust process automation using the flavor of RPA, cognitive computing, and advanced analytics for the ones identified. Placing these digital workers in both the front and back end operations, makes the insurer differentiate himself from his competitor with respect to enhancement in customer experience, prevent fraud, deliver error free transactions, reduce operational cost of the carrier and stay assured that the insurers functions continue to roll on even during turbulent times like the pandemic faced now.