April 21, 2022

Navigating the Tech Swirl in Insurance as a Claims Leader with Lori Pon, ACG

The InsurTech landscape has several exciting emerging trends. In this massive sea of available tech and endless opportunities, how can claims leaders determine what innovations to bring to their organization?

As Director of Claim Strategy and Innovation at The Auto Club Group (ACG), the second-largest AAA club in North America, Lori Pon is responsible for understanding emerging InsurTech and figuring out if and how it will work for her organization. She recently sat down with Hi Marley to share best practices and insights for evaluating technology partners, implementing innovative solutions and driving change management.

What to Look for When Evaluating Tech Vendors

The first step to innovation is understanding your organization’s biggest pain point and then finding vendors that speak to solving that issue. “It’s really easy to engage in novelty projects that don’t have a concrete benefit,” said Pon. “It’s a lot of effort, and you don’t get a lot of returns. So, you need discipline in curating and deciding what you’re going to invest in, and that’s a real balance.”

An Insurance Focus

With so many technology options, it’s crucial to find a vendor that is conversant in the insurance industry, says Pon. However, it can be difficult to sift through potential vendors and know which ones truly understand the space and a carrier’s specific use case. “When it came to selecting Hi Marley as a partner, it was very clear the team understood insurance and how to deliver a great experience to our customers,” said Pon. “It was a huge differentiator.”

A Voice in the Roadmap

Pon also mentioned that another important thing she looks for when evaluating a technology vendor is their willingness to partner with her organization and share feedback that can influence the product roadmap. “Hi Marley has us at the table and listens to our ideas about what will move the needle for ACG. I think the partnership helps both of us get better.”

Rock Solid References

The insurance industry is tight-knit; everyone is connected, everyone shares ideas. Pon says don’t be afraid to turn to your network for recommendations. Claims leaders put weight into reference calls and what current customers have to say. Having connections in the industry and asking trusted contacts what they think can influence a carrier’s decision to move forward with a vendor.

Getting Buy-In for Innovation Investments 

Once a potential technology vendor is fully vetted, it’s necessary to make sure the solution resonates with end-users and its value is clearly articulated to the organization.

Over the years, Pon has developed a creative approach that helps key stakeholders understand the emerging tech. She creates one-pagers that outline the innovation opportunity, how it supports ACG’s strategic objectives and the benefits for the company, customers and end-user community. The goal is to explain, at a glance, what she wants to achieve with the technology, how it aligns to KPIs, the return on investment and how it will impact the business.

“They’re kind of like an elevator pitch to our C-suite, specifically our Chief Claim Officer and my direct manager,” said Pon. “Getting it all into one page is challenging. I thought initially, how am I going to do this? But I have to be disciplined about what will make that most impactful soundbite. Sometimes you only have ten minutes of your executive team’s time, and you better make every word count.”

Developing Thoughtful Change Management Strategies 

The one-pager builds the business case. The next step is working with internal stakeholders and the vendor to develop a project plan that sets clear expectations. At this time, it’s crucial to identify anyone who will be impacted and bring them into the conversation early on. According to Pon, being inclusive throughout the process creates a better chance for success, so it’s necessary to think about organizational change management and the cadence of changes from beginning to end.

Be Thorough, Inclusive and Flexible

ACG uses a Gantt that includes all of the different seeded projects; it offers a macro and micro perspective, down to the communities the proposed innovations will impact.

“Some projects we brought to ACG like Hi Marley or digital payments impacted the whole claims department. Others only impact a thin slice like auto physical damage or property,” said Pon. “That’s why we need visibility at the macro level to see if we need to pump the brakes. You have to have that organizational change management lens and the courage to step back and say, ‘this may be too much,’ and adjust the timing.”

Pon continued, “users can resist change, and we’ve seen it with some projects. Looking at macro and micro helps us make sure we’re planning for change in a way that’s digestible and won’t overwhelm users.”

Have Tools that Support Learning

ACG also has a group of team members who specialize in technical training, structural design and delivery. They create digital learning content that end-users can reference if they have a question. The content helps communicate new releases, explain updates and ultimately helps users navigate the change.

Collecting ongoing feedback is also crucial to successful implementations. ACG conducts short employee opinion surveys that include technology. The carrier also hosts demos and user feedback sessions to gain insights on the pros and cons of possible solutions.  

Evaluate User Acceptance

“Very early on in the implementation, we heavily partner with our business colleagues to help us with user acceptance testing,” said Pon. “We understand that many of the innovations’ success lies within how ready our team is for the change. We need the right approach to ensure our adjusters, customers and company see the value. So we must balance all those things, or hopes and aspirations with all this tech could fall short.”

Encouraging Adoption

Once new tools are implemented, ACG focuses on optimization and improving the use of the technology.

“We marry the CSAT data to use of tools like paying digitally and using texting to communicate,” said Pon. “And it’s crystal clear that when we use innovations that improve convenience and communications, the NPS on these claims is astronomically better.” With a clear correlation between these tools and customer satisfaction, internal adoption is crucial. Pon continued, “We look at how can we motivate and inspire performance and have our adjusters embrace change.”

Knowing that adoption is critical for driving business outcomes, ACG has implemented internal contests that reward early adopters and highly-engaged insurance professionals. The carrier also offers those users a platform to share first-hand how they’re using tools and the benefits they’ve experienced with their peers to further encourage adoption. Furthermore, ACG proactively looks at pockets of low usage across the organization and provides additional education, training and demos, which has resulted in increased adoption.

“We’re always learning. We want our adjustors to feel like this is a real accelerator for them and the customer. So, it’s more of an art and a science, but we’re continuing to try to chip away,” said Pon.

Hear What Lori Pon Looks for When Evaluating InsurTech Opportunities

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