Bots set to multi-task in SA's insurance sector
Robotic process automation will make waves in the insurance market, offering cost savings, efficiencies and improved risk management.
Robotic process automation (RPA) is still relatively new to South Africa, with mainly the major banks moving to deploy it to manage certain repetitive and manual processes.
But RPA presents significant promise in many sectors where manual processes delay operations and add costs in a price-sensitive market.
The insurance industry is one sector that stands to achieve multiple gains from deploying RPA: through intelligent automation, they can achieve more streamlined processes, improved customer service, lower overheads and reduced risk.
RPA is akin to deploying an army of artificial intelligence workers, or bots, to automate processes both in customer-facing and internal functions. From managing invoices and onboarding new customers, to validating data, assessing risk and confirming the market value of insured items, RPA tools can replace human resources; delivering outputs faster and more accurately.
It takes over very mundane manual tasks, like downloading an e-mail attachment and copying it to a directory, or capturing data to a standardised template. By automating rules-based steps, companies can eliminate data entry and capture errors, and reduce the number of resources needed to complete these processes.
RPA is akin to deploying an army of artificial intelligence workers, or bots, to automate processes both in customer-facing and internal functions.
In customer onboarding alone, where the process could cost hundreds of rands per customer, RPA supports both manual and self-service onboarding, and can then automatically check for blacklisting, confirm the market value of insured items and redirect the customer data to the correct service and finance departments.
Streamlining claims processes
The core value behind RPA is realised through automating a process which follows logical, rule-based steps, as with a claims process. Once claim information is captured, there are defined steps that need to be followed in order to assess whether a claim is valid and the communication necessary between the insurer and the claimant, based on the information collated. By introducing automation in this step, the communication is streamlined, accurate and timeous.
Part of any claims process is the phase of estimating what the loss is. Traditionally, this is a manual process of the claimant and estimator/assessor having numerous discussions to come to agreement on the value of the loss. With RPA, this can be streamlined by having the bot access vendor applications to assess the replacement value of the loss, which then forms the basis of the claim. This has both a benefit from the insurer's side, where the process is shortened, and from the claimant's side, where the estimation is objectively decided on.
Imagine a claims process where the insurer receives an e-mail from a claimant with an attached claim form, images of the loss as well as proof of purchases of these items. The e-mail is scanned, attachments extracted and sent to the appropriate systems for either capturing or further processing with human intervention.
This is exactly what RPA achieves. The benefit being that a claim can start being assessed almost immediately since all relevant information for processing is automatically captured in the correct systems, without human error or delay.
Not only is RPA efficient at extracting data off forms, it also provides the additional benefit of validating data on forms and in some instances, correcting it. This mitigates problems with the claims process (due to incorrect data) further downstream. It also helps mitigate the risk of fraud.
RPA has the ability to log all actions and reconcile stages within a process down to a low granularity. This is particularly important in the payment phase of claims processing to ensure the correct amount is paid to the claimant. RPA prevents incorrect payments before they happen, instead of waiting for audit findings to report on this.
In future, robots will also be used widely in the real-time review of social media streams to assess claims severity and reduce fraud. RPA will also receive and route advanced telematics data (including video imagery) that will be instantaneously captured during car accidents and downloaded from the cloud.
CX, integration benefits of RPA
One of the less acclaimed benefits of RPA (productivity and cost-saving being the most popular) is customer experience. Driving self-service within digital organisations is a priority, and allowing a claimant to register, manage their portfolio or submit a claim through an RPA-enabled app on their mobile device is one example of self-service. Not only does intelligent self-service improve the customer experience, it also drives down costs significantly.
Integration with other enabling technologies is one of the most important features of any RPA technology. Whether it is invoking a bot through an API, or being able to pass data gathered from a claim form to a downstream data-centric process, RPA technologies will have to integrate into existing systems and new AI-powered systems to prove the true value they can offer.
Veemal Kalanjee is MD of Infoflow, part of the Knowledge Integration Dynamics (KID) group. He has an extensive background in data management sciences, having graduated from Potchefstroom University with an MSc in computer science. He subsequently worked at KID for seven years in various roles within the data management space. Kalanjee later moved to Informatica SA as a senior pre-sales consultant, and recently moved back to the KID Group as MD of Infoflow, which focuses on data management technologies, in particular, Informatica.