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Understanding complexities of digital distribution, self-service in insurance

By Annalie Terblanche, COO at SilverBridge, part of Alula Technologies

Johannesburg, 10 Jul 2023

The insurance industry is well-known for its reliance on legacy systems and in-person processes. However, a shift is taking place that is being fuelled by digital distribution and self-service models as insurers look to become more forward-thinking when it comes to modernisation and digitalisation.

As more insurers move towards digital distribution, the customer landscape is changing. Today, it is all about the immediacy and convenience rule. Customers want to purchase policies, file claims and manage their accounts with a few taps on their smartphones. This shift to digital has required insurers to re-evaluate their operational models and prioritise expanding on their digital capabilities while looking towards a more omni-channel customer experience where people engage using the platforms they are most comfortable with.

Those insurers who have already embraced digital distribution have been able to experience enhanced customer engagement, more cost-effective operations and greater scalability to cloud-based environments. Of course, there are also considerations around data security, regulatory compliance and system integrations to keep in mind.

Helping insurers meet this increasing client demand for self-service and convenience, artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning (ML) are increasingly becoming essential. These advanced technologies enable insurers to provide personalised, interactive experiences. Not only can customers now troubleshoot problems and handle policy changes they can also process claims independently from engaging with an agent, any time of day.

Overcoming obstacles with Alula

One of the most significant challenges traditional insurers are facing in this dynamic market is to migrate offline processes to cloud-based environments. This is particularly relevant for processes such as obtaining physical signatures and medical underwriting.

But there are options available to insurers to overcome this. For instance, Alula Technologies provides insurers with the ability to automate underwriting of new policies, resulting in more efficient risk management and innovative product design. From a digital distribution perspective, this introduces improved efficiencies, lower costs, an enhanced customer experience and personalised policies to name just a few benefits. Automating the underwriting process is a key step for modern insurers to become more customer-centric to deliver more innovative and customised solutions.

Furthermore, Alula Technologies has extended this into a claims automation solution that uses AI modelling to replicate the insurance expert’s decision-making, enabling claims to be processed in real-time, while providing the necessary risk oversight. Throughout this, insurers can have the peace of mind that their new processes are secure, compliant with regulatory standards and user-friendly.

Enabling remote sales

Today, insurers must reimagine their product offerings to mimic the effectiveness of in-person, advice-based relationships. In part, this necessitates the simplification of insurance products to make them easily understandable and accessible to customers online.

Interactive tools such as chatbots and virtual advisors can be employed to guide customers through the product selection process. AI can be harnessed to personalise product recommendations based on individual customer profiles. A good example of this is the Alula Technologies Health Score, which forms part of the HealthCloud platform for life and health insurance companies. The Health Score can be used to deliver a level of personalisation previously unimaginable. HealthCloud connects to an entire ecosystem of health and wellness data, solving data interoperability and providing a unified view of a consumer’s individual health profile.

The Health Score is already used by insurance and healthcare providers that have directly integrated with the HealthCloud platform. It provides a dynamic evaluation of an individual's health status. These scores are derived through proprietary algorithms considering an integrated analysis of insurer data, Electronic Health Records, medication usage, pathology results, remote diagnostic devices, wearables and facial scanning (rPPG), offering insurers a comprehensive view of a policyholder's health profile. With the associated insights provided by the Health Score, an insurer can recommend specific solutions more tailored to an individual customer’s needs. This facilitates greater upselling and reduces churn thanks to more relevant offerings to an individual.

Insurers are investing heavily in equipping their sales teams with the necessary digital skills and tools for remote distribution. This includes training in digital communication tools, online sales techniques and customer relationship management software.

The shift towards remote distribution has proven to be beneficial in several ways. It has resulted in a wider reach to enable insurers to connect with customers beyond geographical boundaries. This provides end-users with the ability to take ownership of the buying process. For instance, using online tools to onboard themselves as opposed to being reliant on agents. Additionally, it has also resulted in improvements to productivity as sales representatives can manage more client interactions in a day. Using advanced tools, these agents are more digitally enabled and have more options available to them to deliver improved service to end-users.

All about change

The shift towards an increasingly digitalised environment that includes digital distribution, self-service, intelligent claims processing and underwriting is a transformative journey, not a destination. Yes, this can be complex and challenging for insurers. But it all comes down to being focused on embracing technology and digitalisation to more effectively navigate this continually evolving landscape. 

For Alula Technologies, it is about providing innovative solutions that position insurers better as they look to overcome the challenges of the future. By being willing to embrace digitalisation, leveraging richer data analysis and focusing on a service offering built around a richer customer experience, insurers can harness new opportunities to usher in a new chapter delivering enhanced customer engagement and business growth.

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* Article first published on itweb.africa

Alula

The Alula Technologies Group provides business critical solutions to Life and Health insurance and Pensions companies. Our solutions modernise policy administration, digitalise policyholder and channel engagement, and intelligently automate key insurance business processes. We also integrate first and third-party data, including health and wellness data, to drive more efficient operations, improved policyholder experiences, and a better understanding and management of risk.

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