2/19/2010

Getting the Pieces Together

Unified communications integrates phone, fax, e-mail, texts, Web—all the ways you trade info internally and externally.

By Jennifer L. Wilson

Many will shrug shoulders and laugh off the idea that the telephone will drive the future of the claims process. And they may be right as it relates to the phone itself, but how about as it relates to overall communications and processes? As society becomes obsessed with the (over)sharing of information, it becomes even more apparent that, whether spoken or written, how we share and receive information is the focal point of daily life. While the need and desire for sharing may not be new, the advances in communication technology enable it.

For the past few decades, technology has allowed us to transform the way we communicate. The progress has in some cases minimized the use of the phone and broadened alternative means like e-mails, instant messaging, video conferencing, and social networking. This natural evolution has led to an increasing interest in overall communications and the management of those interactions, or unified communications.

When talking about unified communications, we are speaking of the technology and solutions that provide us with Internet Protocol telephony, online communications, fax, e-mail, video chat, presence management, and instant messaging. These different tools have created the need to consolidate and manage the various types of communications. Even greater benefits can be achieved through integration with other applications and services.

Communication as the Central Point
The idea of consolidating and easily tracking information and content as it relates to communications is the same idea that has driven the success of mobile devices—one single place to make phone calls, chat, send e-mails and share information. For instance, while having an instant messaging conversation, one can easily initiate an e-mail or phone call from the chat session. The user has the ability to decide what means of communication to use—but all through a single interface.

Why not take advantage of this same methodology when it comes to the claims process? With a variety of ways to communicate and share information, there is an increased need for a single place to manage those interactions as well as a way to integrate with claims administration systems. Assuming the claims department is typically the first to encourage the push for new technology and the first to embrace solutions, it should be the perfect fit.

Let’s take a basic personal auto claim process for example. In the case of an accident, insureds call an 800 number that gets them to a customer service line where they may provide the same information multiple times to a variety of people. Their personal information and coverage details are confirmed, and the claim is described and ultimately assigned to an adjuster. An investigation is done, appointments are made to take statements and collect photos, and estimates are provided. Various pieces of the claim are collected and reviewed, and in the end they need to be consolidated into a single case file.
Within this process, various interactions exist: phone calls to the carrier and communications between the adjuster, the insured, body shops, towing companies and rental car agencies. Of course, depending on the company and the type and severity of the claim, the overall process can differ across the board.

Countless communications between multiple parties create a variety of resources for information and content. With all of this, the back and forth of the claims process can be cumbersome. Insureds and claimants are left feeling uninformed of the status and many times feel that they relay the same information to the carrier multiple times, with little information from the carrier in return. With the variety of documents, content, detailed processes and continuous interactions between internal staff, third parties and insureds, it is imperative that organizations continue to look to technology to help streamline the claims process. In the end, every one of these processes has been driven by a form of communication, making it even clearer that it is the central point of the claims process.

Don’t Count the Telephone Out
In essence, technology has encouraged us to limit traditional forms of communication, such as face-to-face conversations or even phone calls. For many, the traditional phone call is a thing of the past; a text message or e-mail can communicate the same information in a quicker and more efficient fashion. Many organizations are recognizing this push and are offering a variety of ways to relay information. At the heart of these interactions, though, it may be the power of IP telephony that will undergird the new interface.

IP telephony allows organizations to track, assign and manage phone conversations. In addition, many insurance organizations are beginning to take full advantage of their phone systems to automate a variety of claims processes. Claims are assigned based on adjuster territory, availability, skill level and workload. Following the initial report of the claim, the phone call is recorded, where it serves as a documented statement, and is then filed automatically into the corresponding claim file in a content management application. The adjuster is next reminded to make contact with the claimant through a diary in the administration system. Through integration between the telephony solution and the claims administration system, the call is automatically initiated to the claimant and enables the adjuster to provide the claim status or collect additional information.

From there, advanced voice recordings and prompts, screen captures, and supervisory features allow for a more standardized claims process. For instance, voice prompts guide the claimant to the appropriate person. In other situations, no human interaction is necessary, and the phone provides an automated response to the insured with claim status updates or adjuster information.
Supervisory features, such as listening in and “coaching” an adjuster’s call, allow the supervisor to be involved in the conversation without intervening on the caller’s end. In addition, with advanced emotion detection, voice inflection changes can automatically initiate supervisory influence on the call. With screen capture and recording capabilities, the user’s actions may be recorded and saved to the corresponding claim file for documentation of the process.

The ease of communication between the insured and the carrier is also increased through instant messaging, fax and e-mail. In addition, integration between all of these allows for the automatic storage and retrieval of all associated content to the claim file.

Many large companies have taken advantage of this technology. However, as unified communications and the integration possibilities become more mainstream, companies of all sizes will have the opportunity to take advantage of the latest telephony technology. The return on investment will prove to be almost immediate, with a solution that not only creates efficiency internally, but offers a more competitive and welcoming customer-facing brand.
Jennifer L. Wilson is the insurance solutions marketing manager for Interactive Intelligence, a global provider of unified business communications solutions for contact center automation, enterprise IP telephony, and enterprise messaging.


Jennifer L. Wilson is the insurance solutions marketing manager for Interactive Intelligence, a global provider of unified business communications solutions for contact center automation, enterprise IP telephony, and enterprise messaging.

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