By Kate Gingras
Do you think that an insurance company would underwrite the same clients if a claims handler were making underwriting decisions? Do you think an underwriter would accept or reject more claims than an adjuster faced with the same type of claim?
Each individual in the insurance value chain makes decisions based upon information within their direct line of site. Historically, insurance companies have enabled this myopic decision-making process by using systems that have provided singularly focused information. In essence, they have constructed walls around people, processes and technology based on specific products or functions associated with a product. Better process management can facilitate a more social and collaborative environment by expanding the purview of all resources that will ultimately lead to superior customer service.
According to Accenture’s Technology Vision 2014 for Insurance, industry leaders “are implementing the newest big-data tools, investing in advanced analytics applications and purchasing the latest data visualization software. Yet the reality is that these easily become one-off data fixes that contribute to data silos rather than provide an end-to-end data solution.”
The key to success, Accenture concludes, will be managing data “like any core product – in the context of a supply chain.”
As the report suggests (and we all know to be fact), companies that talk about “customer-centric” approaches are typically only referring to activity within silos.
Our industry has put blinders on when it comes to customers. For example, a life insurance company may offer life insurance, annuities, group benefits and retirement services. Yet, a customer who owns each of these products will reside in the separate systems that support each product or the customer relationship management (CRM) system that supports the product. Customer information is typically not available across the enterprise nor is the capability to collaborate across silos in order to obtain a wider perspective on the customer. Viewing the industry through the customer lens, silos are a significant problem. Our customers often have to deal with as many different representatives as there are lines of business. This leads to a poor customer experience and operational inefficiencies.
The limitation in vision is equally pervasive from the company side. Agents use one system, underwriters another, claims a third. All of these software and data systems are themselves their own silos. The combination of these different systems and silos makes the customer experience a negative one and adds to operational inefficiency.
Consider the impact of tunnel vision on top line growth. Most agents are focused on selling a particular product rather than looking across a customer portfolio and up-selling or cross-selling additional needed products.
Even if the agent had a portfolio view, the limitation in sharing data may frustrate the customer experience. For example, copies of birth certificates may be collected for one product yet would need to be collected for every other product because of system access limitations. This long and arduous customer experience in the sales process could frustrate a portfolio-based sales campaign.
This problem is exacerbated even more by the typical mobile applications in use within the industry. Most of these applications are not collaborative and are too specific to the silos that use them. This can create “micro-silos,” where even users in vertical lines of business do not have all the information they need.
Why should a company process the same information all over again for every possible line of business? Why not enter the information once, and share it across activities? We need a network of assistance enabled by technology, without regard to where silos begin and end.
Today’s application platforms actually can accomplish that – combining process automation with social frameworks for collaboration and data sharing across the enterprise. This creates an overlay that can deliver a commonality of experience and break down divisional nuances. Because these platforms can create full-featured applications that work natively on mobile devices, the same information can be available to anyone that touches the customer, whether on site or in the field, with access to data and records that’s comprehensive and secure.
As an industry, we need to work toward a seamless, fluid enterprise that focuses on work horizontally, not on vertical systems of data management. This leads to an enterprise view of the customer, which makes for quicker, better and more efficient presentation of product offerings to customers.
The Accenture report I cited at the beginning of this article notes that “few insurance companies have mastered the concepts at the foundation of modern data management – ideas such as the mobility and portability of data.” I agree.
We will never solve our current challenges to customer-centricity unless our processes can be completely automated, taking down the walls that close off data. When we do, we’ll finally be able to drive strategic decisions across the organization, not just one narrow sliver at a time.
Kate Gingras is the Global Insurance Business Leader for Appian. She can be reached at [email protected].