This article is a companion to, “Digital Collaboration in Insurance”, a primer on collaboration tools and their benefits, the trends driving their adoption, and their potential impact on the insurance industry.
In this article, we share the results of a four-part survey conducted by The Digital Insurer and PGi on the actual usage of digital collaboration tools in insurance. We also share examples of how collaboration tools are being embedded in specific business processes, helping insurance executives think more strategically about the deployment of these new technologies.
Digital change agents
The insurance industry, by its own admission, is not often described as being on the cutting edge of the digital revolution.
In a recent Deloitte study, 78% of insurance executives cited legacy systems as the main barrier to digital transformation. The old is preventing the new.
Bound by regulatory constraints and conservative organisational cultures, a prudent approach to technology is warranted. This is especially true in core areas such as policy administration, claims, and billing, where legacy systems, though rigid in terms of capabilities and increasingly expensive to maintain, are still extremely cost effective on a per-transaction basis. Data security is also crucially important and many of the new distributed technologies raise new risks as they make data stored on corporate networks more accessible than ever. Insurers, keen on the value of trust to their brand, and aware of the major reputational damage caused by a data breach, necessarily default to closed versus open technical architectures.
One hot area of technology adoption in insurance, however, is digital collaboration.
Dramatically different from traditional collaboration, it connects a broader network of participants through digital devices, open source data and cloud technology. Online collaboration software helps to share knowledge, manage information and contribute user-generated content to communities of people regardless of time or place.
Examples of digital collaboration include:
- On-line meetings, video conferencing and webinars
- Co-authoring documents, spreadsheets and presentations
- Smart calendaring on mobile devices
- Cloud-based file sharing and online project management platforms
Digital collaboration tools are increasingly popular with insurers because they increase organisational agility and productivity, facilitate decision-making, and accelerate idea generation and time-to-market. They also, in certain uses such as screen-sharing between agents and customers during the application process, remove ambiguity helping mitigate risk.
These innovative solutions also cater to younger customers and knowledge workers, many of whom are comfortable using media rich collaboration software and e-video chat apps such as FaceTime, Skype, and Google Hangouts on a daily basis. This key group demand greater freedom in managing how, when and where they buy and work, and businesses are adopting to meet these expectations.
Consumer trends driving evolution of the enterprise
Research from NPD In-Stat(1) forecasts the total number of active video calling users will surpass 380 million in 2015, a six-fold-plus increase from 63 million in 2010, consuming 550 billion minutes, a monumental increase from 141 million minutes in 2010. Of note, Asia Pacific is the largest market for consumer video calling by a significant margin, and this is expected to continue as the region leads in video-calling enabled device shipments. According to Statista(2), Asia accounted for nearly half of global smartphone shipments in 2014 (607.8 million of the 1.23 billion total).
According to Gartner(3), at the enterprise level, by 2018, 50% of team coordination and communication will occur via mobile group collaboration apps, and more than 20% of enterprise social communications will lack any text.
The growth of video-telephony use and voice over IP (VoIP) apps at the consumer level (e.g., Skype, FaceTime, Tango, Hangouts, Fring) is undoubtedly driving adoption of collaboration tools at the enterprise level. Knowledge workers are ‘pulling’ these tools into the workplace and according to a recent Frost & Sullivan survey, 80% of survey respondents admitted to using non-approved SaaS applications in the workplace(4). With this demand comes a need for business grade features such as data security, system and infrastructure stability and audio / video quality which is provided by enterprise-grade solutions. (e.g., WebEx, iMeet, Citrix, Box).
Digital collaboration in insurance: survey results
The goal of our survey, conducted in four parts during the first half of 2015 with subscribers of The Digital Insurer, was to take an insurance-specific look at the use of mobile and digital collaboration tools on four levels:
- Personal / individual
- Embedded / automated (in the sales process)
- Corporate (carrier level)
The first leg of our survey focused on the daily tasks of insurance knowledge workers and executives and the use of mobile technologies to get work done. We asked 100 insurance industry managers, consultants and c-level executives (57% Asia, 43% rest of the world):
- What activities constitute your typical workday?
- How many mobile devices do you own and use regularly?
- How do you utilise these devices in your work?
The results showed that communications make up a bulk of the respondents’ daily activities, whether it be face-to-face or online. Respondents are likely to own multiple mobile devices and are in a position to take advantage of the benefits provided by online collaboration. Some of the key findings include:
- 80% of respondents said meetings, in and out of the office, form the core of their daily activities
- 73% of respondents own and regularly use three mobile devices: a phone/smartphone, tablet, and laptop
- 58% of respondents said they use 50-100% of their mobile devices for work purposes, specific uses outlined below:
Part two of our survey focused on the use of collaboration tools by agents and advisers. We asked 202 insurance industry managers, consultants and c-level executives (40% Asia, 60% rest of the world) about the use of video conferencing and digital tools by agents and advisers to:
- Sell and service customers on a remote basis
- Manage and share documents, calendars, and reminders from any mobile device
- Manage agent-team meetings, 1:1 meetings, and conduct field reviews on a remote basis
The interest in digital collaboration tools at the agent and adviser level is running quite high with, the positives outscoring the negatives 84% to 16%, suggesting the opportunity exists to enhance and improve productivity at this level. Other findings include:
- 84% of respondents were either very interested or somewhat interested in the use of digital collaboration tools to serve customers on a remote basis; less than 3% were not interested at all
- 97% of respondents said agents and advisers should definitely use or consider using digital collaboration tools to share documents, calendars and reminders from mobile devices; less than 2% were not interested or won’t use
- 82% of respondents were either very interested or somewhat interested in the use of digital collaboration tools by agency team leaders to conduct team meetings, 1:1 reviews, and field coaching
The third segment of our survey asked 233 insurance knowledge workers and executives (49% Asia, 51% rest of the world) about the use of digital collaboration tools in the insurance sales process with customers and potential buyers. Specific capabilities targeted were:
- Mobile-enabled call-back service when surfing online
- The use of intelligent ‘avatars’ to provide advice online, and
- Mobile-enabled video call services by insurance agents
The largely positive responses towards the use of video indicates that customers are looking for a more personal and immediate approach to customer service. Web-based collaboration tools – such as webcam enabled meetings – can provide a more engaging and personal experience for the customers and this is supported by the survey findings:
- 62% of respondents are either very much or moderately in favor of video call back
- 69% of respondents see very much or moderate value in intelligent avatars providing advice online
- 72% are at least moderately in favor of mobile-enabled video call services at the agent level
In part four of our survey we canvassed 174 insurance carrier knowledge workers and executives (Asia 47%, 53% rest of world) with the following questions:
- Does your company use video/web conferencing for internal and external meetings?
- Does your company use online collaboration tools to allow teams to share documents, calendars and reminders?
- What benefits does your company realise from online conferencing and collaboration?
The findings highlight that insurance companies are willing to embrace conferencing and collaboration technologies, with a majority either already using it or planning to introduce it. They are also looking beyond the cost savings it provides, instead recognising the value it adds across internal and external stakeholders, as shown in the survey results:
- 77% of respondents use video/web conferencing for internal and external meetings; another 7% are planning to introduce it
- 69% of respondents use online collaboration tools to allow teams to share documents, calendars and reminders; another 14% are planning to introduce it
- 28% of respondents cited cost savings as the main benefit of digital conferencing and collaboration tools. As indicated below, carriers are looking to digital collaboration tools for more than simple cost-out.
Insurers are embracing digital collaboration tools at a far greater rate than digital technologies in general: A remarkable 80% of respondents did not see themselves as digital leaders according to a recent EY survey (‘Insurance in a digital world: the time is now’). What our survey revealed is that the insurance industry is not only open to digital collaboration tools, but are also integrating them into their organisation and recognising the value they add at a customer, staff and corporate level. As one survey respondent put it,”if digital transformation is the end, digital collaboration tools are, as much as anything, the means for generating ideas, executing strategies, and connecting with customers on their terms.”
Multi-device capabilities are critical: Reaching and supporting customers across multiple devices is a top priority for insurers. Cloud-based collaboration tools bring multi-device capabilities without significant investments in infrastructure and integration and allows insurance companies to stay in touch with staff and customers at their convenience.
Screen-to-screen is growing in popularity: Agencies and MGAs in particular are embracing video conferencing to sell and support customers. Screen-to-screen interactions add value and provide a more personal experience over the straight phone call.
Cost-out isn’t everything: We expected cost-savings to dominate as the top desired benefit of digital collaboration, but ‘transformed customer experience’ made a very strong showing in Asia, and ‘cross-collaboration across business units’ actually beat cost-savings outside of Asia. Insurers are using these tools to create value, not just reduce meeting-related line items.
Digital collaboration in insurance: Use-Cases
Throwing collaboration tools at the workforce is usually not sufficient to drive collaboration. The tools are best deployed in context, to a specific group of users aimed at solving a particular business problem.
In what ways are insurers utilising collaboration tools to improve business outcomes? Here are six examples:
1. Agent to Customer (Sales): Understanding insurance documents is inherently difficult and cumbersome for most clients. Carriers and agents increasingly use web-conferencing to explain especially complex products, replacing the phone call as the standard mode of communication. While the bulk of today’s web-conferencing takes place between agents and existing customers, explaining things like new coverages, carrier/policy comparisons or renewals, there are also opportunities from a Sales point of view to shorten the cycle of the customer acquisition process. While it is still early stages, it is getting a lot of attention for its potential to fuel growth outside existing geographic boundaries at minimal cost.
2. Claims: File sharing of photos and video is exploding in popularity with carriers and MGAs to reduce claims expense (as well as identify claims fraud). More carriers are deploying click-to-video claims applications for policyholder submission of proof of loss. Esurance, the direct-to-consumer arm of Allstate, recently began offering video appraisal, which enables consumers to video chat in real-time with an Esurance appraiser to get their claim estimate on the spot.
3. Agent to Customer (Application / Underwriting): Primarily agents on complex risks utilise screen-sharing to ensure accuracy in the application process. Side-by-side conversations with customers, with shared access to on-screen information and mutual agreement on inputs, helps reduce errors and omissions exposure. AIG, State Farm, and USAA recently received permission in the U.S. to use video drones to collect aerial images on risks. The incorporation of these images into the underwriting process will ensure proper understanding and rating of risks.
4. Marketing / Brand Management: Global brand management is a delicate balance of creativity and control. What’s the most effective way to connect and align teams around the world? Virtual Identity, a digital collaboration framework with user and rights administration, monitoring, object management and file conversion, is used by Allianz to manage creativity within a structured context, ensuring uniformity across the Allianz family of brands in 70 countries.
5. Improved workforce flexibility: 79% of knowledge workers work outside of their office at least one day a week(5). In order for insurance companies to attract and retain top talent, especially those located far from urban centers, digital collaboration tools help offer workplace flexibility, without sacrificing control, productivity or security. When you consider the sheer number of parties to an insurance transaction – customers, distributors, home office underwriters and actuaries, internal subject matter experts, external subject matter experts, an array of field workers (e.g.premium auditors, claims adjustors, risk management engineers and inspectors) – a carrier’s ability to identify, acquire, and connect top talent is paramount to driving superior business results.
6. Management: The adoption of collaboration tools in most insurance organisations happens sporadically, with different tools often selected by region or line-of-business. There is value in standardisation. Standardisation not only increases the volume (and value) of the network, it also provides cross-organisational data which would otherwise be difficult to come by in an increasingly distributed environment. For example, U.S. insurer Nationwide created SPOT, an internal collaboration platform, to facilitate work tasks and knowledge sharing across the enterprise. By adding a sentiment analysis engine, Nationwide’s executive team is able to track internal sentiment from 400,000 annual employee posts.
More than any other factor, success in the digital insurance realm is about enabling companies to better engage its customers and employees in a productive and meaningful way. Digital collaboration is key to making this possible.
Where experience and research shows that the insurance industry is slow to adopt new and innovative technologies due to barriers such as legacy systems, data security risks and conservative organisational cultures, online collaboration solutions stand out as a platform insurers are willingly embracing.
Few such barriers exist in the adoption of digital collaboration tools as many offerings are accessible as a service, via the cloud, requiring minimal configuration and / or integration with existing systems. Many of the tools, with consumer roots, are also user-friendly and intuitive, and this convenience is driving heavy adoption in insurance, with penetration rates, as our survey suggests, topping 70%.
Digital collaboration is more than just digitising old ways of doing things; it makes new ways of doing things possible. Collaboration technologies do more than help people work together; they create new ways for people to connect, share ideas and ultimately, get things done.
- Global Telework Survey, PGi, 2015, http://blog.pgi.com/2015/06/nine-stats-about-global-shifts-in-telework-trends/