Have you seen the movie Real Steel? In the storyline of this flick, automation has replaced human fighters with 2000-pound, 8-foot-tall steel robot boxers. The moral is "humans out, automation in" -- end of story, right? Not exactly. As it turns out, it’s the right combination of human and machine that proves necessary for the win. Sounds a lot like business process improvement to me.

How does this notion of human and machine translate to success in the business world? Legendary fighter and advisor to the movie Sugar Ray Leonard tells us that we are actually seeing a story about relationships in Real Steel. That is, the importance of the relationship between Hugh Jackman, the ex-boxer now “corner man” and Atom, his robot fighter. It is that enabling (some might say co-dependent) relationship that leads to their success. Herein lies the lesson learned for business -- while automation is required, it is not sufficient for success. I have seen that hold true in my world of business process solutions where adaptive case management and knowledge workers team up to drive productivity.

Customer Experience is the Competitive Battlefield

Industry leading companies, in insurance for example, are using the relationship between the knowledge worker and their case management systems to compete on the basis of the experience they provide to their customers. As a raving fan of adaptive case management (ACM), I have had the opportunity to see firsthand implementations that reflect the Real Steel lesson.

A critical first step is modernizing the legacy systems (yes, the automation) which drive most insurance companies in terms of core administration and where the sheer number of transactions handled and paper generated each day interferes with service to the customer. When taking on new business policies, ACM provides the all-important balance between automating out manual inefficiencies that lead to frustrating customer experiences and using technology to improve the service provided by humans, all the while assuring transparency and adherence to regulatory requirements.

By enhancing the legacy systems and providing information and content in context, ACM helps insurers effectively manage their complex enrollment and underwriting processes and the associated "paper" across multiple systems. For example, with commercial and life products, new business needs to be presented to the underwriter in a single view with multiple systems and third party data sources as well. Adaptive case management helps these insurers improve underwriter productivity and make more timely and informed decisions that in turn impact the customer experience for the better.

Case Study: A Tipping Point for Capturing New Business

One life insurance company whose implementation I reviewed provides a perfect success story for new business capture. The firm had reached a productivity tipping point in their processing of new applications. They faced a situation where they would have to hire four people for every 100 new applications received, in large part because staff had to physically move paper throughout the organization -- file it, track it and retrieve it when requested -- and the necessary information was not readily available to progress the application forward. With typical applications containing between 10 and 100 pages, depending on the complexity of the package, and the company receiving between 600 and 900 applications every week, they knew making a change was critical.

Today, with their new technology solution in place, the company is able to handle more applications and is growing the business with no increase in staff. Knowledge workers now have instantaneous access to the status of a file, the ability to view documents within the file, and can immediately review any of the reports related to the case, all in real time with the agent or broker. And, the company’s underwriters have increased their capacity by 20 percent.

The technology investment and improvement initiative have also enabled the company to engage an entire new sales channel by marketing term life policies through several large financial institutions and respond rapidly and efficiently to high volumes of new customers.

The Customer Moment of Truth Calls For High-Tech & High-Touch

Effectively capturing new business is critical to growth. Handling subsequent claims is the Insurer’s “moment of truth” for customer retention. Being there for customers in their hour of need and doing so efficiently demands a combination of high-tech and high-touch service. An insurance carrier’s reputation is built on the ability to effectively process customer claims, and reputation can make or break the business. Not only reputation is at stake, for insurance companies spend nearly 80 percent of their income on claims. Studies have confirmed that claim settlement times are directly correlated to both customer satisfaction and the severity of the claim, so efficient processes are a must.

With P&C claims for example, there is a great deal of third party data that is aggregated during the claim management process in order to determine the settlement amount and resolve the claim. This is exactly what led one worldwide insurer to unify their decentralized claim functions and improve their cycle times using business process and case management technology. In just one of their multi-site auto claims departments in a single country, they were handling 230,000 or so new claims per year. To further complicate the process, more than 10,000 documents a day relating to active claims, such as forms, letters and faxes, arrived in a variety of haphazard ways, from different sources, at different times and at different offices.

The solution the insurer implemented brings all the claim information together and routes it to the right knowledge worker desktop, automatically assigning claims, smoothly channeling incoming information, bundling documents and exhibits connected to the same claim and prioritizing the work. By leveraging the right technology, the company has been able to reduce paper-induced costs and request delays as well as the number of “missing in action” items. With improved claim decisioning, their customer claims experience in terms of turnaround time and consistency is now a competitive advantage for them instead of a burden.

Not only can ACM drive improved assessment and faster settlement times that decrease the severity of the claim, it can enable brokers and claimants to track progress of claims, provide self-service from first notice of loss (FNOL) to status inquiry and information provision, and support transparent decision making to minimize the risk of fraud or manipulation. In addition, adaptive case management is perfect for filling the “white space” in today’s claims systems to improve handling for fraud investigation and better support the process undertaken once a claim is identified as fraudulent.

Achieving Better Business Outcomes

For insurance and many other industries, changing the way a company does business with their customers means finding new ways of handling information to achieve the most effective business decision making environment. Adaptive case management does just that, enhancing the knowledge worker’s ability to perform their highly skilled, highly nuanced and often ad hoc and unstructured work activities. Thus, the result of combining humans and ACM technology is better business outcomes and a win in the battle to better serve the customer.

One review of Real Steel said the takeaway from the movie is “Do what you love and don’t ever stop.” With that in mind, watch for my next article in this ACM series -- The Truth About Agility -- about the value of continuous business process improvement and adaptive case management.

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