December 04, 2013

Today's insurance providers face a number of challenges, including fierce competition and rising customer expectations. In fact, two-thirds of U.S. adults believe a company's efforts to value their time is the most important part of how good customer service is rendered.

Think back to the last time you submitted an auto insurance claim. It's likely that the only thing on your mind was getting your car repaired. Before that happens, you must endure a lengthy process to get the proper documentation needed to file a claim, including obtaining the police report, claims forms and contact information for any witnesses to the accident. Claims resolutions can be tedious and can often result in customer frustration. In order for insurers to provide an optimal customer experience, it's imperative to deliver claims settlements as quickly and efficiently as possible.

[Insurers and agents have to face the reality of changing customer demands for service in all aspects of the business, including sales and claims: Distribution Disruption Defies Insurers, Agents]

Below are three recommended strategies that insurance companies can adopt in order to provide swift claims settlements:

1. Mobilize the Information

Insurance providers have an opportunity to accelerate claims resolutions by catering to customer preferences and investing in digital delivery capabilities. For example, a customer may prefer to receive a hard copy of their monthly statement in the mail and their insurance policy via email. However, in the event of an accident, they may opt to submit their claim via smartphone in order to initiate the claims process as quickly as possible. This isn't surprising, considering about half of all U.S. adults now have a mobile connection to the web through either a smartphone or tablet.

Some insurance providers are already preparing to meet these challenges, with 60 percent of insurers planning to add new mobile capabilities for policyholders and agents in 2013. As the industry shifts to become more mobile, providers must enact policies and provide devices and solutions that keep them from being left behind. Installing a cloud-based document management system is one major change that can activate a wide range of mobile solutions. This increased use of mobile devices can offer insurance providers and claim adjusters an opportunity to communicate with consumers anytime and anywhere. Using mobile apps or SMS text to send or receive important information, such as authorization letters or reminder notifications, will add convenience for customers and decrease response times.

2. Update Information on the Cloud

When an accident occurs, the policyholder must reach out to their insurance provider before the claim is assigned to an adjuster. The adjuster is then tasked with verifying that coverage applies to the particular claim, evaluating damages, interviewing the claimant and witnesses, and consulting with experts before negotiating to settle the claim. Depending on the nature of the claim, the adjuster may need to work directly with examiners to ensure that the claims process was correctly managed or with a claims investigator in the event of a suspicious claim.

Claims resolutions can take months -- and in the rarest of cases, years -- considering that the number of parties involved in the claims process varies by the severity and nature of the claim. The ability to share documents and avoid mishaps in version control is important to reduce error and confusion, which can often be time-consuming.

In 2012, 57 percent of insurers cited the need to create digital claims profiles in order to improve customer service and meet customer expectations. Creating a digital claim profile in the cloud allows adjusters and examiners to edit information simultaneously, simplify the process of sharing information and address the issue of maintaining version control with optional auditing capabilities and change notifications. The same investment in cloud technology that increases a company's mobile presence can be used to reduce confusion and error in the claims process.

3. Securely Access Data In and Out of the Office

Accidents are unexpected, and in order to provide policyholders with the best level of service, claims adjusters and examiners must be available to work from a host of different locations. At the same time, ensuring that customer data remains secured is always top of mind. This year alone, business reported that security threats have cost them nearly $5.4 million per incident. It is imperative that carriers have the ability to provide their teams with access to policyholder files and documents from any location without fear of files being compromised. By storing data in the cloud, agents, adjusters and examiners can securely access documents whether they're in the office or face-to-face with a customer, and as a result, expedite the claims process.

If a claim requires the onsite presence of an insurance professional, investment in mobility, the cloud and security will pay dividends. When an accident occurs, it's important that claims professionals are able to organize all supporting information and documents in order to properly evaluate insurance claims. In the event of an erroneous claim, it is common practice for an examiner to oversee and ensure that the adjuster has handled the claim in accordance with the insurer's guidelines. By utilizing the cloud, insurance agents and should properly document each phase of the claims process in real time and allow insurers, examiners and adjusters to view the documents as soon as they are updated. By doing so, the time spent retrieving files will be dramatically reduced.

As the insurance landscape continues to grow, insurers face the challenge of increasing customer expectations. Insurance companies have the opportunity to help claims professionals expedite the claims process and meet these expectations by investing in cloud technology and enhanced IT solutions.

Aaron Weiss is Director of Marketing, LaserJet and Enterprise Solutions, HP.