In today’s world, the first pillar for success in insurance deals with accessibility and availability – enabling access anywhere, anytime, anyhow. Tools like mobile devices, Wi-Fi, cloud storage, big data and the Internet of Things (IoT) have completely reshaped the way we work and fueled our demand for always-on technology. This has meant that companies need to adapt the way they do business in order to deliver.
So long, 9-to-5
The 9-to-5 workday has been replaced by an always-on mentality, thanks to the ability to tap into technology anytime from anywhere. This shift is something we’ve seen over the past two decades, beginning with the advent of email in the early 1990s.
A business person in the United States is no longer limited to a few hours of the day to connect with a colleague in France, for example. He could simply send an email and anticipate receiving a quick response. This has helped dispersed teams collaborate better, despite geographic borders and varying time zones.
Connectivity has come a long way in the past 15 years. Mobile devices and Wi-Fi have only fueled the always-on mentality further. Cloud storage gives us access to files and documents remotely, while teleconferencing and messaging platforms help us collaborate seamlessly, and constantly.
Implications for insurance
The insurance industry is no exception. Customers expect to be able to file or check the status of a claim 24/7. Especially in more personal lines of the market, people buy and transact around the clock.
For the insurance industry, which has been considered a laggard in technology adoption, this always-on mindset presents new opportunities and challenges. Not only must insurers adopt technology and a culture that allows them to be always-on, they have no choice but to be technology driven.
This requires more than simply having an employee available to answer calls around the clock. It involves the personalization of solutions, making information accessible but bullet-proof in security, and most importantly, beginning to implement emerging technologies to stay ahead of competitors.
Accessibility with some restraints
For insurers to adapt to this 24/7 “work day,” they must reevaluate not only the expectations of the customer, but also analyze who the user is and who needs access to what and when. Insurers need to be prepared for customers, not just employees, to access information and be equipped to answer those requests, regardless of where they originate from.
Insurers today must:
1) Run a global business while making it feel customized to a specific market.
Insurance is becoming increasingly global, and companies need to have applications that simultaneously allow for standardization globally and customization within local markets. Previously, we’ve seen applications that work well on a global level but don’t fit the needs at a local level. Alternatively, an application is perfect for a local market but isn’t able to be standardized to work for an overall global business. We’re beginning to see applications that have the flexibility to serve both global and local needs, which will be crucial as the demand for accessibility and availability only increases. These types of applications, good-humoredly referred to as “glocal,” are helping standardize business around the world while still making users feel like it is tailored to their market.
2) Allow easy access to data while ensuring it remains entirely secure
The insurance industry needs to consider the user of an application. The circle of users has widened to brokers, risk management departments, lawyers, loss adjustors, etc. and your applications need to allow for this third-party access without putting the data at risk. Data and information must be properly partitioned and segmented within the system to ensure the right people are viewing the right information and that confidential information remains exactly that.
On the horizon
IoT and big data are poised to have an enormous impact on the insurance industry, especially in terms of accessibility and availability.
For example, take an unmanned marine vessel that has a malfunction. Instead of it taking weeks for someone to discover and report the malfunction, an IoT system can alert the company right away – helping them avoid excess damage and lost money.
Through IoT, details of the vessel’s status are constantly accessible and available, eliminating uncertainty and the need for manual checks. This will drive down insurance premiums for customers with monitoring systems in place in the future because it will provide an extra safeguard against potential damages.
Big data, too, is only beginning to show its potential in the commercial insurance space. It’s helping to better manage risk and in turn better rate the risks companies are taking. It can help us predict weather patterns, for example, which gives insurers stronger insights on how to protect property and crops, which in turn provides more accurate insurance premiums. It’s also making previously unknown insights available to insurers to help them make more informed business decisions.
Advancements in technology and higher adoption rates of new solutions have shifted the way we do business by increasing our expectations for accessibility and availability. The market demands more access and more readily available information, and companies need to keep up or risk churn at the hands of their always-on competitors.
Richard Clark is the Head of Business Development for Xuber. Richard has been a key player in the insurance software business since 1997. Connect with him on Twitter.