By Nathan Conz, Insurance & Technology
Up until now, many property and casualty insurers have been able to get by with disjointed and haphazard mobile claims technology. However, the ever-increasing customer demand for service and recent technological advances may require those insurers to change course. Carriers looking to create competitive advantage should develop enterprise mobility strategies soon, experts say."The 18- to 35-year-olds expect to get service whenever they want. They don't expect to have to chase things down. That demand is going to be huge in the next several years," says Karen Pauli, a senior insurance analyst for TowerGroup (Needham, Mass.).
Pauli authored a recent TowerGroup report entitled Mobile Solutions for US Property & Casualty Claims: Life in the Fast Lane. She calls the report a "call to arms" for insurers to develop more-comprehensive mobility plans to satiate growing customer demand and create efficiencies in the field.
An enterprise mobile claims strategy -- a combination of global positioning systems (GPSs), mobile check-writing capabilities, estimating software and other technologies -- can help shorten the claims cycle by allowing adjusters to handle claims on-site, reducing costs while increasing customer service.
"Being able to create a very cost-efficient claims process, and being able to do that in a very seamless fashion for the customer, is a huge competitive advantage. I mean, that's gigantic," Pauli says.
Despite those advantages, Pauli says that no carrier has a comprehensive mobile claims system in place. The insurers that come closest, she says, are those with advanced catastrophe response vehicles or mobile claims vans.
"The exact same applications that a claims adjuster would have back in the office, they have in the van. The goal is to be able to get those same types of applications in a mobile fashion, on smaller devices," Pauli says.
Such a goal is now closer to becoming a reality, as small form factor tablet PCs become more mainstream. "Mobile claims technology has been around, but the way that it has been around is what has changed," says Adam Kornak, Microsoft's enterprise mobility strategy manager for financial services. Small form factor tablet PCs and ultra-mobile devices are less cumbersome than laptop computers. The new devices are small enough to fit in your pocket, but big enough to do a claim on an electronic form.
"Those particular devices are a great blend of functionality and size," Pauli says. "The new ultra-mobiles, which are halfway between a PC and a handheld device, solve a lot of problems that have existed in the market relating to short battery life, difficulty reading in bright daylight and so on."
Further, claims software on laptops, more often than not, is the same as it is on desktop computers. "You're just taking the same application with you, which doesn't necessarily improve the business process," Kornak says. "New applications have been developed that can take advantage of these converged form factors [on smaller tablet PCs], so there are fewer fields to fill in."
The next step, Pauli says, is incorporating predictive analytics into the mobile claims process. Many experienced claims workers are set to retire in the next ten years, TowerGroup's Pauli explains, and their expertise (such as recognizing cases of fraud) will be difficult to replace.
"You're replacing people with 35 years of claims experience with people who have two. With predictive analytics, you take claim data and then push information out to that inexperienced claims adjuster."
Lingering legacy systems issues may be one reason why insurers have been slow to adopt enterprise mobile strategies. As carriers fix those legacy problems, they'll be able to more aggressively address mobile claims technology. It's possible, though, that they don't have to wait.
"There's a great deal of complexity with legacy claims systems, sometimes more than you really want to deal with. But part of that is just perception," says Microsoft's Kornak. "Most of these [mobile] applications don't require a great deal of redevelopment on the back-end, claims-management side. Instead of claims agents using a piece of paper, they're using an electronic form."