Insurers Battle Through Content Chaos
Michael P. Voelker | April 23, 2014
Content is everywhere.
“One challenge that that we grapple with here, as most companies do, is the proliferation of content. Technology is making content available more often, in more places, and on more devices, but the ability of companies to effectively manage it is lagging behind,” says Daniel Antion, vice president of information services at American Nuclear Insurers (ANI).
The problem is compounded as the structured data from insurance production systems and third- party information providers has collided with a wealth of unstructured content not housed in traditional databases.
“There is a tremendous amount of consumption and production of content, and that amount has continued to accelerate in recent years,” says Kelley Buchanan, managing director in PwC’s insurance practice. “The term ‘big data’ may be the trendy term today, but the truth is that the big data wave—the sheer volume of information, its veracity, the velocity at which it is received and which continues to increase, and its relative value—are all things carriers struggle with.”
For insurers, the struggle lies not just in how to manage all that content from a technical perspective, but how to drive value from it.
“The lines are getting really blurry between content management and analytics,” says Ellen Carney. “There is a convergence between the two technologies as insurers struggle to turn all their content into something the business can use.”
One insurer where that convergence is taking place is Security First Insurance Company. The company is applying advanced analytics to customer communications, starting with the claims process.
Claims handling is not a simple process, but for most of the history of insurance, managing communications in claims was simplified by the limited number of options customers could work through—primarily mail, phone, and fax. Today, however, communication can come through social media, text, mobile, and other channels that seem to grow and change constantly.
When losses occur, customers expect to be able to use the channel of their choice to file a claim. Security First Insurance recognized the need to not just contend with channel diversity in claims, but also manage the big data that results from it.
“We had been systematically looking at ways customers enter our system—email, phone, mobile—and buttoning them up technologically so we could respond better,” says Werner E. Kruck, chief operating officer at Security First Insurance Company.
“As we began to consider the methods people would want to use to report a claim to us, we identified more and more channels,” said Kruck. “We also realized that channels had quirks and limitations.”
For instance, Facebook provides notification when posts are made to the Security First page, but those notifications can only be sent to a single email address. If a catastrophe struck, it wouldn’t take a very large number of claims to come through Facebook to overwhelm a single person assigned to monitor the channel.
Security First Insurance worked with business partner Integritie to co-develop a platform to integrate and streamline multi-channel communication management. Built on IBM Content Analytics and the IBM FileNet Content Management system, the resulting solution was named SMC4, which stands for Social Media Capture, Control, Communication, and Compliance.
Deployed in 2013, SMC4 analyzes, prioritizes, categorizes and routes messages from customers to the appropriate company representative, regardless of where the content originates. The system currently supports Facebook, Twitter, Google+, and email channels.
“The system doesn’t care where the message comes from, and it also doesn’t care if they use an ‘incorrect’ channel or email address, such as a sales email to file a claim,” Kruck says, adding that this feature is particularly important post-catastrophe.
“Think about it. After a hurricane people aren’t in their houses. They’re not going to be able to get their insurance policy from their filing cabinet. But they will have their wallet and a cell phone. They’ll Google us, and who knows where they will land—a Facebook page, our website, or somewhere else. Whatever they find, they will click to send a message. Our goal is to let our customers know we have received their message and we have started the claim process for them,” he explains.
SMC4 uses IBM Content Analytics to determine where a message should be routed, and the system funnels those messages into a single interface that can be accessed and managed by multiple employees.
Content analytics also determine when and to what extent a customer communication should be escalated.
“At a basic level, the system is able to determine if an email or other message is related to a claim, underwriting [question] or a different issue. However, we also have it set to detect urgency, so not only will high-priority claims be routed to someone in claims to handle, but SMC4 will also send an email to notify the director of claims that a customer has sent a high-priority message,” says Kruck.
Keywords such as “help,” “hurt,” or “destroyed” are given high priority, as are phrases that indicate annoyance or anger. The analytic technology also considers the context of priority keywords. For instance, one keyword the system flags is “emergency.” However, in analyzing the phrases “I have an emergency and I need someone to call me” and “I’d like someone to call me, but it’s not an emergency,” only the first will generate a high-priority alert.
IBM’s analytic technology includes prebuilt dictionaries and frameworks for insurance that can be configured with terms unique to a particular company. Security First Insurance has continued to fine-tune the SMC4 system to produce accurate analyses of text based on its own parameters.
Responses are made to customers using the channel in which the content originated, with some exceptions.
“Each channel has its idiosyncrasies. For instance, if someone complains on Facebook, we will make a post to let the public know that we responded, and then we will use Facebook’s direct message feature to provide the customer with more personal information pertaining to their specific policy, with the goal of directing them to our traditional business channel,” Kruck explains.
SMC4 also reviews employee responses to customer messages before they are sent to be sure the language being used is appropriate. Responses with “stop words” are sent to a manager for approval. All content, incoming and outgoing, is tracked, stored, and managed for compliance in FileNet, even if messages are subsequently deleted.
Fortunately, Security First Insurance has not experienced a catastrophic event since the system was deployed. The company is handling over 400 communications a month through SMC4.
“The system allows us to work smarter,” Kruck says. “We can distribute the task of responding among many employees, manage communication 24 hours a day, and monitor the timing of our response. We can easily assign additional people to the response team if the need arises.”
Security First Insurance is in the process of adding text-messaging to the SMC4 system. The company’s goal is to support any and all ways customer content can originate.
“We are building an infrastructure so that we are here for our customers, no matter when, no matter what type of device, and no matter how they want to communicate with us. Our goal is to be here when customers need us and not force them to choose how they interact with us.”
Mobile Drives ECM Adoption
At the same time insurers have to contend with a growing amount and diversity of content coming from customers, they need to support new channels by which customers and employees want to consume content, such as through mobile devices. Gartner recently predicted that by 2015, 60 percent of information workers will be accessing content applications via mobile devices.
“The more mobile we get, the more content challenges we get,” Carney says. “For insurers, the question is how to integrate that mobile channel to what is happening within their walls.”
ANI is a joint underwriting association that writes policies, performs loss control services, and administers claims for member companies that provide insurance capacity. Writing nuclear liability insurance for nuclear facilities in the United States, ANI often needs to communicate with technical staff at its power-plant customers around key areas such as loss control.
The company’s traditional way of providing loss control guidelines and information was through PDFs. However, as more users tried to access that content via mobile, it became apparent that this content format was not purposed well for mobile display.
“We were creating giant PDFs that were indexed with a table of contents. Although it was convenient for customers, it just wasn’t an easy way to access content on mobile devices,” says Antion.
Additionally, it was difficult to keep content up to date. “The problem we experienced with the PDF format is that those PDFs would hang around forever. People would copy and re-copy them and store them on different devices. Customers might not have the latest one. We wanted to move to a web-based solution so that people would always have access to the most recent version of content,” Antion says.
ANI addressed larger, enterprise-level content management objectives before tackling the mobile-access issue. The company’s enterprise content management (ECM) strategy is based on leveraging and expanding its use of SharePoint. Although the system has been in place for several years, the company faced a challenge in getting users to incorporate SharePoint into their content-related routine.
Solving that challenge meant moving away from technical instruction on the SharePoint system in favor of stressing the benefit to employees. “We began doing training in generic ECM—why are we doing it, what content defines us, what’s unique, who uses it, how it’s used in each department, and ways it will bring value to the company,” Antion says. “When you start talking business value, you get people’s attention.”
ANI also made it easier for internal staff to use SharePoint by adding software from harmon.ie to provide integration with Outlook. With harmon.ie, users are able to preview documents directly from SharePoint and to drag-and-drop files into emails without needing to download documents from the server.
“The connection between email and SharePoint was missing, so people were having to search for and download content. Today, some people work out of harmon.ie and forget that SharePoint is behind the scenes,” Antion says.
On the development side, add-on workflow capabilities from SharePoint allowed ANI to solve what Antion describes as one of ANI’s most vexing problems. “We wanted the ability to move a document from a library in our engineering site to a library on our Internet-facing SharePoint server. That may sound easy, but we couldn’t do it automatically,” he says.
When ANI engineers write an inspection report, SharePoint workflows move those reports through reviews, update metadata associated with those reports, and store a copy in the engineering library. Creating a copy for customer access had been a manual process, but today the SharePoint extension allows that to be done automatically.
“SharePoint allows us to easily and quickly configure workflows to build processes like that around content management,” Antion says.
ANI has continued to demonstrate to staff the effectiveness of content management automation, such as around the inspection report creation and approval process.
“Keeping track of inspection reports is important, and we now have a process that controls it from start to finish. From scheduling an inspection to writing the report to getting final correspondence back from the customer, that process is now managed and all that content is stored in one place,” Antion says.
“Automating the review process also means that, instead of engineers emailing copies to their manager, waiting for emails to be returned, and having multiple copies of reports, everyone is working in SharePoint,” he adds.
However, for external customers, ANI is actually moving away from using SharePoint in favor of Citrix ShareFile. That decision is based on how customers use content differently than employees do.
“Internal staff needs the ability to search and sort a wide variety of content at a very granular level,” Antion explains. “However, customers are generally interested in only a handful of different documents and only need to search a few different ways. So for them, the folder structure of ShareFile works better. SharePoint was a bit of overkill for customers because they didn’t need or want all the workflow-driven processes, metadata, and other features it includes.”
To address employees’ desire for mobile access to content, ANI is in the process of developing an app that will integrate with SharePoint to ensure that content delivered is both up to date and optimally displayed for mobile devices.
“We need to move away from the current requirement to have a VPN connection for employees to access content,” Antion says. “The app we are developing will either deliver that content directly to a mobile device or provide mobile links to content so that all people need to do is click without creating a VPN.”
For ANI, solving the people-and-process issues around content management has been more difficult than overcoming technical challenges.
“Content management is a lot of work. It requires education and training for people at various levels. The biggest obstacle we had to face was demonstrating why we wanted to do what we were asking them to do,” Antion says.
“People grow comfortable with where and how they’ve stored their content and their own processes they’ve developed for using it. The changes we’ve put in place have been somewhat of an educational challenge, but people are starting to see the benefits of improved workflows,” he adds.
Those benefits can be seen even in something as common as paying an invoice.
“Demonstrating that we can get an invoice routed and signed electronically by having it in a central place, not tied up on somebody’s desk or waiting for someone to return to the office, was an eye-opener,” Antion says. “There are a lot of little benefits like that in routine processes that we have been able to point to.”
Keeping the E in ECM
Both Security First and ANI illustrate the growing recognition on the part of carriers that it’s important to keep the “enterprise” in ECM.
“I don’t want to deliver 10 flavors of something—we don’t want to end up with an engineering solution and a human resources solution, and a claims solution. We’ve worked to create an infrastructure that allows us content management consistency across the organization,” says Antion.
“Leading carriers have been looking at content as an enterprise asset, not just a departmental asset, for some time. What has been changing is a gradual awareness of that on the part of other carriers,” says Buchanan.
“In the past, if you were in marketing and wanted to gather data to support direct marketing or consumer activities, that would be self-contained in marketing. Underwriting would get its own information that would also be self-contained,” she explains. “More and more, insurers are realizing that departmentalized process is highly inefficient and ineffective, causing them to miss opportunities that they would realize by bringing the richest data forward as an enterprise asset.”
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