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Property and casualty and life insurers have built greater flexibility into their operating models as part of their digital strategies. That agility is enabling them to more effectively weather the initial stages of the COVID-19 pandemic. They have acted to protect the health and safety of their employees, maintain business and service continuity and extend themselves digitally into global workforce virtual enablement.

With no certainty about what the COVID-19 endgame will be, insurers must continue to exercise these strengths across products, claims and the value chain. As they do, it will be important to catalog what can be improved, possibly in the shorter term as well as after the pandemic is brought to heel. Doing so will give insurers additional flexibility to deal with whatever scenarios unfold in the future. Here are the key areas to monitor and address:

Product view

  • Identify additional opportunities to enhance the customer experience. Policyholders expect digital experiences with responsive service; many insurers are delivering those today. Large insurers have built strong capabilities for digitizing claims intake, policy processing and claims triage. Responding to COVID-19 can reveal where insurers could expand those capabilities and deconstruct additional data and process silos to enhance the customer experience and mitigate business continuity risks.

  • Prepare for increased online policy shopping. Deploying chatbots can help manage volume and maintain quality of interactions; customer sentiment analysis and artificial intelligence (AI)-assisted conversations can augment service representative performance.

  • Reexamine product mix and product coverages. In the new normal, associates may choose to work at home even after the pandemic has receded, so driving might become less of an underwriting factor. Homeowners may need special coverage for work-at-home capabilities. Small business pandemic and viral contagion policy exclusions may need to be added or edited. New products could include cyber-risk riders, homeowners and umbrella coverage enhancements. Life product underwriting and actuarial guidelines for post-pandemic effects would be updated.

  • Ramp up life insurance underwriting. After COVID-19, customers who did not think they needed life insurance likely will enter that market, while whole life policies might also be purchased as bond substitutes. The industry has not factored pandemics into its pricing before and must consider that variable as it meets new demand.

    Takeaway: Continue with virtual delivery and deploy more of these services, faster. For example, increase abilities to interact with policyholders digitally via collaboration platforms and video; offer more self-service options; increase use of AI for underwriting. Business operations must also improve through implementation of automation to streamline processes and reduce costs. These actions will help companies manage expenses closely this year, when revenue shortfalls are likely.

Claims view

  • Prepare for current and post-pandemic shifts in volume. With policyholders posing coverage questions that far outpace service capabilities. Right now, expect fewer auto claims and more business interruption and life insurance and disability claims. In the near term, workers compensation claims will increase. Property and casualty claims will continue — COVID-19 will not diminish the risk of tornadoes, floods or hurricanes. Carriers must deploy additional remote capability and automation to provide the greatest customer satisfaction at the moment of truth: when a claim is filed in the midst of a pandemic.

    Takeaway: Insurers should digitize coverage validation and use automated chatbots, mobile chat and enhanced video to augment service challenges. Also consider driving social media campaigns to help policyholders get information via video education or short YouTube video snippets via a specialized channel. The key is to ensure a high-quality experience using digital tools such as automation, remote capabilities with AI, and digital engagement tools. Close holes in continuity plans while reducing cost and improving service levels during business as usual.

Value chain view

  • Evaluate long-term effects of the rapid disintermediation and compression of the industry value chain. For example, carriers will need to find the balance between the value proposition of personal, agent-delivered services and that of the imperative to digitize and automate. Use the global scale of third-party providers, AWS and Microsoft cloud, and process augmentation service providers to help meet the new-normal challenge.

  • Rethink the wisdom of captive models. A natural reaction to global disruption would be to insource, but control without capacity is not a remedy. Companies must be able to scale their response. The global pandemic experience is teaching that global, distributed continuity and backup resources are key.

  • Investigate how to source and/or automate still-manual processes. Easily overlooked processes such as printing, mail, bills and payments can disrupt continuity efforts.

  • Accelerate cloud deployment for virtual desktop infrastructure connectivity into major application portfolios. Companies not running policy, billing and claims in the cloud (software as a service or platform as a service) should consider enabling a hybrid cloud solution to address connectivity for the extended value chain, including agents, physicians and other carriers.

    Takeaway: Continue efforts to become even more agile and resilient, developing multiple alternative continuity plans so mitigating the disruption next time is easier.

Serving policyholders well during this crisis requires insurers to draw on the full potential of their existing digital capabilities across products, claims and the value chain. Lessons learned now should be applied as soon as practically possible to maintain performance and policyholder satisfaction while preparing the company for the demands and opportunities of the world after COVID-19.

The advice in this article was provided by Ben Bengtson, Senior Vice President, Insurance; Michael Clifton, Senior Vice President, InsurTech Lead; Chris Blatchley, Consulting Leader and Chief Digital Officer, Insurance; and Michael Wilson, Head of Product and Solutions Marketing, Insurance.

For more information about managing business continuity during the pandemic, visit our COVID-19 response page.