How Automation Fosters Lovable Customer Experiences
Policyholders want a convenient, efficient and accurate claims experience with regular communication and status updates. While automating certain functions can help achieve this, there’s a misconception that automation means a tradeoff with customer service. How can insurers use automation to streamline processes and create a lovable policyholder experience?
According to Jason Bidinger, Claims Process Leader at Westfield Insurance, it doesn’t have to be a tradeoff. Insurance providers can do both. In this Q&A, Jason sat down with Hi Marley Senior Customer Success Manager Julia Manghis to discuss this challenge and share how Westfield is achieving a balance between automation and improving the customer experience.
What does end-to-end automation mean at Westfield?
End-to-end automation at Westfield is kind of a concept. We are striving to provide a frictionless customer experience while, at the same time, streamlining our processes for our Westfield claims professionals. And we continue to work towards the concept of that golden nugget “no-touch claim.” But while we think about the no-touch claim, we also know there are elements of claims that might be low-touch or high-touch. Ultimately, it’s about the right touch at the right time.
And when thinking about low-touch, high-touch, no-touch claims, what specifically is Westfield doing to automate?
We’ve spent a lot of time working on the building blocks or foundational capabilities over the last several years. We started back in 2012 working on the implementation of a new core claim system. That’s the hub of our wheel. And we continue building out the spokes of those capabilities, like fraud modeling, digital payments solutions, e-signature capabilities of the electronic claim file and more. We recently kicked off a large effort around the digital first notice of loss (FNOL). And these efforts aren’t just in claims, they’re going on around many of our other business units here at Westfield.
This automation allows your adjusters to be more efficient and productive. What are those tasks that you’re looking to eliminate?
As a carrier, the most important asset we have is our people. It’s crucial that our team focus on the claims that involve critical decision-making, where they can use their minds and expertise. We want to automate processes that improve efficiency and consistency, reduce processing times and eliminate repetitive, mundane, day-to-day tasks so our people can concentrate on value-added activities. A couple of examples include automated documents; essentially, business rules are set up to send automated emails or mail if necessary. We also automated tasks around our payment process. If you think of things like workers comp and payments that need to be made on a weekly basis, instead of an adjuster going in every week and keying in that payment, we set up an automated process. We certainly see the benefits.
Can you tell us about the automation around text messaging and the results you have seen?
Our claims texting program makes it easier for our team to create cases, kicking off the process at FNOL, instead of post-FNOL. After automating our process for case creation and a few other things, we saw the number of eligible claims with texting involved grow from 10 to 40 percent. The automation had a substantial impact.
Can you share a real-life experience of how Westfield uses automation to reduce costs while improving the customer experience?
Text messaging gives the customer an opportunity to communicate in a way that they’re familiar with; it’s how they want to communicate today, beyond the insurance transaction. Everyone is texting. Westfield recognized the benefit of automating this process. We took a manual process like case creation and made it very simple. It’s a click of a button, as opposed to re-entering manual data. We also focused on the end of the conversation. The texting transcript is automatically returned to the claim file when the conversation is complete, taking this process from a manual download to our claims professionals not even having to worry about that transcript and how it will get back to their claim. As far as cost goes, I look at the reduced cost as reduced compliance risk. In the past, we may have had adjusters—and I’m sure other carriers have had this issue, too—texting from their work phone. And there’s a question of “does that conversation make its way back?” In a perfect world, we would like to think that that’s true. But by automating the transcript process, we’ve basically eliminated that risk. And we’re not concerned about lingering text conversations outside of our file anymore. So that’s been a good thing.
Claims automation is only as good as the data provided to you and how you use it. How does Westfield use data to support automation and the strategy of bringing automation to your adjusters?
When it comes to texting data, there is a lot of information at our fingertips that allows us to be proactive rather than reactive. We can quickly see things like our customers’ opt-in rates, which have been at 72 to 75 percent since the beginning of 2021. If we monitor that and notice a dip in that rate, we can look to our adjusters and see if we are presenting texting to our customers appropriately, etc. Additionally, things like surveys are now automated. At first, we manually pushed out surveys. There was the ability to be a little more selective on when we wanted to push those surveys out, which maybe gave us a little bit of a false sense of security. With the automation of surveys, we’re getting the true view of how the claims process is going. Also, traditionally, our typical customer survey response rate was around 15 percent. With the automation of the texting survey, we have around a 40+ percent return rate, which gives us great, real-time feedback for the claims professional. We’re also digging into other available information around customer sentiment, which other parts of our organization have. I think it’d be interesting to dig into customer sentiment around the texting process and then understand how to use that to better inform our staff and possibly provide additional training around service.
For claims leaders creating an automation strategy, what are the three main steps they should consider?
- Every organization is different, but from my experience at Westfield, people are our most important asset. It’s important to consider the impact on the team; are you gaining efficiencies through automation? Or are you creating additional effort and expense, maybe even expense elsewhere? Focus on the impact on your people first.
- Then, what’s the effect on the customer? That’s why we’re here anyway: to service our customers, take that risk and pay claims. Are you simplifying the process for the customer to communicate with your organization? To receive a payment? To resolve their claim? Or are you creating a more frustrating experience? If we automate something internally for our team but make it much more difficult for the customer to do business with us, I don’t think we’re really accomplishing our goals. We don’t want to make a more frustrating experience. But, as we learn new processes and technology and handle change management, both internally and with the customer, you can run into challenges. Still, I don’t think that should necessarily deter the effort. Work through those experiences as long as the end goal is to make it a more seamless, frictionless experience.
- Lastly, look at your vision and strategy. Is there a clear vision and strategy? Sometimes it takes trying a lot of different things. But it’s important to begin with the end in mind. Where do you envision your organization or claims team at the end of the journey? It may be more of a continuous journey. As you continue to transform, there can be detours along the way. But, if you establish a plan and stay focused, there can be a lot of value added to your organization and ultimately, the customer.
For more information on striking a balance between automation with enhancing customer service, read “The Human Component of Claims Transformation” by Robert Bowers, National Claims and Customer Service Leader at Westfield Insurance.
Jason Bidinger has worked with Westfield Insurance Company for 24 years, starting as a multi-line Claim Representative before leading various claims operational teams in the Property, Auto and GL lines of business. After spending time with Westfield’s Claims Quality Assurance team, Jason joined the Claims Strategy team as a Process Leader with a focus on Westfield’s Guidewire ClaimCenter implementation in 2012. He also served as a functional leader on the Casualty Claims team, responsible for injury/GL claims for Westfield’s southern and western states. Jason has since returned to the Claims Strategy team as the Property Process Leader, responsible for claims technology and vendor relationships.
This Q&A was adapted from the presentation “Westfield’s Story – How Automation Fosters Lovable Customer Experiences” at Connected Claims USA 2021. Watch the full presentation here.