In Aon's 2019 Global Risk Management report, the inability to innovate or satisfy customer expectations was listed as the #9 risk facing companies worldwide. A year later, the COVID-19 pandemic and associated global lock-downs intensified the need for new infrastructure technologies to drive operating efficiencies and provide customer services.

"Normal operating procedures and service networks have been revamped, and everything counts for a new way of functioning, and service delivery looks likely to remain even after COVID-19 receives a vaccine. Client requirements and aspirations have been fundamentally modified in this process, and the expectations of their service providers and product providers are stronger than ever before. The new autonomy and 'instant satisfaction' of digital platforms are set to last. This has major consequences for the insurance industry and how advice, risk products, and insurance claims are processed and managed.

Claims automation

The environment that Aon South Africa continues to highlight is claims automation – discovering fresh and creative ways to gather all the influential data behind claims history from various insurance files and to compile all of it in one unified claims archive, interpret and educate the forward-looking risk plan of the client.

"Aon has been on a long journey using technologies to make a positive difference in the life of the client's insurance company. One of the main areas of focus is on claims processing and automation, taking what was previously a world-wide paper-driven and admin-intensive operation, which is not free from human error, and digitizing both current and historical claims data to deliver quicker, easier and knowledgeable claims for our clients," explains Rene van Schalkwyk, Claims Unit Head of Aon South Africa.

The insurance claims ecosystem has been ripe for transformation for years. It has a reputation for being inefficient and paper-driven, frequently plagued by legacy structures siloed by company processes, but mainly by the usual customer service communication channels. With this as a starting point, Aon's team set out to create a claims automation tool that could not only process the existing volumes of data and claims but also compile and sort volumes of historical claims data. This not only provides clients with more effective claims enforcement but also with detailed claims assessments in real-time, which can be used to advise their risk strategies and forward reduction steps. The kind of analytical capabilities that can be extracted from this is of tremendous benefit to both large and small companies.

Data capturing

"A substantial part of claims processing consists of data capture, which must then be updated to the claims management system, much like a spreadsheet. It is time-intensive, extremely repetitive and susceptible to human error in the capture process. Because you automate these facets of the argument, you eliminate the possibility for error, increase the accuracy and therefore the validity of the evidence, resulting in better and faster performance. The effect on claims management teams is characterized by the opportunity to concentrate their attention on value-added factors that make a difference for customers, to have much more customized support and most of all, to exploit information stemming from reliable claims data to educate clients about patterns in their claims history that need action," Rene notes.

As far as 'worldly and redundant' arguments are concerned, Aon continues to investigate and invest in infrastructure that benefits clients and employees. For example, Robotic Process Automation (RPA), generally referred to as a 'robot,' is a technology that enables one to program computer software or a 'robot' to simulate and implement human interface processes within digital environments to conduct a business process. RPA can perform tasks in minutes, something that has traditionally taken hours to accomplish with manual interventions.

"The impact this has on competitiveness and what this entails for consumer service is vast. Where claims handlers are prone to get bogged down with manual, time-consuming and tedious procedures, they can now refocus their time on more critical aspects, such as claims advocacy on complicated or difficult claims, and clients get a much quicker resolution of claims," says Rene.

Managing perceptions

One of the main obstacles in technological acceptance is people's views on the role of technology and the possible challenges it presents. Clients are also unwilling to communicate with a computer or bot since they also want human contact. On the other end of the continuum, workers have questions about workplace stability and the threat technology faces.

"I disagree that being technologically agile and enabled is a substitution for human instincts and touch – it's not a substitute for one another. In reality, the reverse is true – Aon claims that technology allows our employees to spend more time with our customers, learn their market, their problems and their needs to ensure that we deliver the best guidance and best of Aon to our clients in order to serve them better. This ensures that both customers and staff get quality results quicker and with less room for error. Think of the situation where a customer with a windscreen claim will have to file a claim manually, then have a quotation ordeal, then go back to their accountant to gather all the details, send it to the insurers and then get the claim filed and accepted, and then have the service provider assigned to make a substitute. This will happen smoothly, speeding up the process and getting all the boring sorted back and forth in minutes.

Data and analytics capabilities

Another primary advantage of the claim automation process was the efficient data and analytics capabilities that Aon now offers to consumers by providing reliable claims data in one unified, smart digital archive.

Aon South Africa has effectively combined claims history and administration through global insurers, overlaying this with its data processing tools to create a single consolidated, digitally delivered claims infrastructure with customer interpretations and feedback. This versatility is a game-changer for Aon when it comes to customer risk assessment and reduction techniques.
"We use data and analytics to inform our customer risk strategy, to offer feedback and accessible information that covers facets of insurance policy, claims experience and benchmarking against industry peers. In light of risk, the most critical investment field for Aon is state-of-the-art data and analytics that offer information to help our clients take action. Our claims dashboards allow all of our client's claims to be integrated across disparate insurers and periods – underpin perspectives that help mitigate risk and exploit growth opportunities.

"Imagine what this sort of claims data entails for risk managers and insurance managers, CFOs and business owners – think of a fleet operator as one example that is now able to pick up the bulk of claims made by a particular area, a truck, a driver's team or a day for related accidents. We can easily evaluate claims data and review relevant patterns and claims that need attention and prevention that would otherwise go ignored if claims data were analyzed manually and disparately. We are now in a position to better assist the customer in balancing the overall cost of risk, reducing the cost of facilitating renewal pricing as well as the prestige and viability of the firm," says Rene.

"If there is one good factor that has arisen from the pandemic, it is the tremendous benefit of putting digital systems in place and the role it plays in freeing up the time that teams expend on mundane activities. In an environment where consumer service can make or break their level of satisfaction and engagement, being technologically activated and automated is an absolute necessity," concludes Rene.