Q&A with Christopher Frankland: InsurTech Partnerships and the Path to Improved Customer Experience

Digital Transformation - February 26 2020

Christopher Frankland is the founder of InsurTech360 and Intelligent Automation Advisor at Element Blue. Customer and digital experience obsessed, Chris is a trusted mentor and advisor to InsurTech startups that are transforming the insurance business. He is an expert on the implementation of insurance solutions that incorporate chatbots, robotic process automation, blockchain and cognitive technology. Chris is a regular mentor with the Global Insurance Accelerator program, Hartford InsurTech Hub and OnRamp, as well as a frequent speaker at industry events. He is also author of the forthcoming book The Automation Journey: The Path to Intelligent Automation due out this fall. We caught up with Chris to ask a few questions about Insurer-InsurTech partnerships and the path to intelligent automation and digital transformation.

Chris, you’ve argued that insurance companies looking to provide a richer customer experience need to review their processes through the eyes of the customer. Can you provide some real-world examples of how existing workflows cause friction and headaches for insurers, brokers, agents and, ultimately, customers?

Absolutely. There has been a lot of talk over the past few years within the Insurance industry of disruption and how InsurTechs will revolutionize how customers buy and manage insurance. When you look at some of the key differentiators there, a number of common characteristics start to emerge. Trust, transparency, and convenience are three of the key drivers that, for me, InsurTechs bring to the table. When you think about what goes into enabling those core characteristics of the future of insurance, additional trends start to emerge. Data becomes a key driver for greater accuracy around risk and making sure customers are provided with the right amount of coverage.

Intelligent Automation, and what I call Integrated Automation, are key drivers for helping to establish a frictionless and seamless customer experience. Another key component that I think is often overlooked in a world that is becoming increasingly focused around technology is digging far deeper into what the customer wants and expects from their Insurance Journey. What does that journey look like and how can companies make sure that what they are creating with the amount of cool tech at their disposal actually solves a customer need and delivers an experience that customers want?

Design Thinking, Customer Journey Mapping, Lean Process Engineering – these are all core capabilities that companies need to invest time and effort in to make sure they are asking the right questions and solving the right problems. When you look at some of the companies out there who are doing truly innovative work, the common denominator is the customer always comes first. When you look at Amazon, for example, some of the most innovative work is around simply creating a streamlined approach to customer service.

Multi-channel support, with seamless integration between chatbot and a human agent, combined with a holistic 360 view of the customer delivers a customer journey that is devoid of the typical type of friction encountered when making a claim, for example.

You’ve expressed the belief that, in order to reinvent the customer and insurance experience, four levers need to work in tandem – people, process, technology, and data. What will it take for insurance companies to successfully integrate these elements? 

I have spoken in the past about what InsurTechs bring to the table and for me it starts with addressing what I call the two F's that permeate across the industry – the Fragmented environment and a customer experience polarized by Friction. We have all experienced friction within our own insurance experience and journey. 

The insurance purchasing process has long been fragmented and out of alignment with customer needs. The lack of alignment around what the customer thinks they are insured for, what the customer is insured for and ultimately what the customer should be insured for creates misalignment and generates customer friction across the rest of the insurance value chain. This typically comes to light at the point of claim, when lack of alignment between the insured and insurer negatively impacts the customer and claim experience. The fact is, 'noise' that is generated throughout the insurance lifecycle bubbles up to the end customer and creates friction and damages the customer experience.

The question then becomes, how do we minimize the noise and reduce the friction? The answer is not an exact science and, in fact, is dependent on many factors, a careful interplay between people, process, technology and data.

People: How and where do we leverage people effectively and efficiently across the value chain? Where can we automate and where do we rely on the human touch?

Process: Complex legacy processes have gone untouched for years. Insurance has become slow, fragmented and out of touch with the needs of the modern customer. The pain of dealing with legacy systems and processes has a knock-on effect throughout the insurance value chain.

Technology: Where and how to implement technology-first solutions across the insurance lifecycle is something that has enormous potential, but at the same time carries enormous risk if leveraged at the wrong time and place.

What is the glue that binds all of this together? Data. However, we need to do a better job and collecting, cleaning and storing data in a way that makes it effective.

Data for data’s sake is useless without a compelling story to go with it.

For the incumbent, the answer is multi-faceted. To truly embrace a digital strategy that combines people, process, technology and data, a company needs to think innovation first and develop a deep understanding of their existing landscape – from a system, process, culture and data point of view.

Established insurance carriers and brokers are increasingly partnering with small, nimble startups to achieve their digital transformation goals. Based on your matchmaking experience pairing up InsurTech startups with enterprise insurers, what are the secrets to a successful partnership? 

Great question. I think there are many differentiating factors that can impact the relationship between the incumbent and the InsurTech. Much like the dynamics that come in to play with human relationships, there needs to be a common goal that the two parties are hoping to reach. For incumbents, that goal might be an improved or transformed customer experience through the integration of cutting-edge technology. For the InsurTech, the goal might be the same, but through scale and the ability to reach a large number of customers quickly. Two different needs, but with the same goal in mind.

I also think that for incumbents to be able to partner effectively, there needs to be a commitment to innovation, experimentation, and an understanding that failing fast is actually a positive thing.

It is a huge mind-shift for many organizations, but there are a number of carriers out there who are doing some really amazing work in this space and are starting to embrace the message that the whole is greater than the sum of its parts.

Large insurance companies and InsurTech startups are strange bedfellows. Chisel AI’s CEO Ron Glozman has described it as “a little like David and Goliath deciding to set aside their differences, lay down the sword and slingshot, and go out for beers together.” How can insurers and InsurTechs navigate the clash of organizational cultures?

I love that quote! I think it has taken quite a lot of pain and heartache for both sides to meet in the middle. The proliferation of events across the InsurTech ecosystem has certainly helped to encourage dialog and has provided plenty of opportunity to “go out for beers together.” When I think back to my early days within the InsurTech industry, something I now measure by that iconic first InsureTech Connect event in Las Vegas, there was a common perception that InsurTech was here to disrupt Insurance – a fragmented, damaged and antiquated industry that was in dire need of help. Fast forward four years, and the conversation has shifted somewhat towards a message of collaboration, hope, and the idea that, yes, whilst there is still a lot to be fixed within the industry, there is, at its core, a community of insurance professionals who are equally passionate about the industry and want to work together. This strong community is working collectively as a whole to help change the narrative and public perception of insurance from one that sees it as dishonest and broken, where the customer comes last, to one that is customer-focused, customer-friendly, and transparent.

What do you see as the next big breakthrough in insurtech that carriers and brokers need to prepare for?

I think one of the biggest breakthroughs that we are seeing right now is the ferocious drive towards technology driven solutions. Companies who are not prepared internally, both from a cultural or technology-driven perspective, are at enormous risk of being left behind in the race. We spoke earlier about the challenges that a lot of incumbents are currently facing from a legacy system and integrated solutions point of view, and the answers are complex.

Cloud computing, the API economy and Robotic Process Automation (RPA) have provided an opportunity for incumbents to circumnavigate some of those challenges by adding additional layers of abstraction, and externalize some of those systems to third parties, but in the long term, the ability to innovate and be truly agile will be very difficult without a complete system and process review across the entire insurance lifecycle.

InsurTechs who are able to quickly and accurately interpret data and design customer-focused solutions from the ground up will have an opportunity to tap into a market share of younger customers, who will have completely different and far more aggressive expectations of what a seamless and frictionless customer experience ought to look like.

Take out your crystal ball: What do you think the insurance industry will look like in 10 years?

I think we will continue to see a shift towards a seamless and frictionless insurance experience. What does this mean? The continued maturation and proliferation of IoT devices across the insurance industry will see enormous amounts of data being consumed. Auto, Property & Casualty, Life & Health, all sectors across the insurance industry will be impacted in some way.

From a customer point of view, on-demand and episodic insurance will become more readily available, with much closer alignment and integration across more service focused verticals – travel for example. I am incredibly excited about the potential of Blockchain and Parametric Insurance to deliver social impact on a global scale. There are already some really interesting initiatives in this space. Oxfam International & Etherisc partnered in 2019 to make automatic pay-outs to Sri Lankan farmers, who were experiencing losses due to severe weather events.

The solutions are certainly not perfect at this moment in time, but with a continued willingness to innovate and experiment, I think there is enormous hope that in the future, technology like Blockchain and Intelligent Automation will help transform and simplify the insurance experience around the world – for the many and not the few. The United Nations – Blockchain for Impact Global Summit is one such initiative that is doing a fantastic job at uniting people around this cause.


profile photo chris f

As the founder of InsurTech360.com and deeply immersed in the world of InsurTech and Intelligent Automation, Christopher Frankland focuses on innovative solutions that leverage people, process, technology and analytics to redefine and elevate the customer experience across Health, Banking and Insurance. Customer and Digital Experience obsessed, Christopher works within the intelligent automation space, with a focus around integrated solutions that incorporate Chatbots, Robotic Process Automation, Blockchain and Cognitive technology. Christopher is a speaker at a number of different events, including the Digital Insurance Summit, Intelligent Automation Week, InsurTech Rising International and the Silicon Valley Insurance Accelerator based in Palo Alto, InsurTech's first open innovation lab. Christopher is also an Advisory Board member with Insurance Innovators. He was recently added as a Mentor to the Global Insurance Accelerator, an Insurance Startup Accelerator in Des Moines, Iowa and Hartford InsurTech Hub, an Insurance Startup Accelerator in Hartford, Connecticut, as well as OnRamp Gener8tor, an Insurance Accelerator in Minneapolis, Minnesota.

 

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