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Innovating with technology to help deliver on our promise to customers

Felix Kuhlmann and Paul Horgan July 15, 2016

Software robotics offers the potential for improved accuracy, quality and speed for repetitive tasks. See how Zurich is implementing this technology to help improve the customer experience.

Head of North America Commercial Insurance

Paul Horgan is the Head of North America Commercial Insurance for Zurich North America and is... About this expert

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Imagine a marketplace where an insurance company uses cutting-edge technology to improve the customer experience, delivering better products, more quickly and accurately, and freeing up its people to provide enhanced service. This is happening right now at Zurich, through a new initiative with software robotics.


Unlike physical robots, which have long been used in manufacturing environments, software robotics are tools that operate separately from other applications and systems. These robots collect, integrate and use data provided by other systems to automate work within programmed parameters using logic. Software robots may be programmed to complete certain actions, or take no action, depending on the data they receive, and their activities can be amended whenever necessary to meet changing conditions or customer needs. Much as physical robots increase efficiency and precision on an assembly line, software robots can complete repetitive tasks much faster and with fewer errors than humans generally can.


What does this mean in an insurance context? Software robotics is enabling Zurich to accelerate and improve policy processing and issuance. Quality and accuracy are greatly improved through the use of such robotics. With the time saved, Zurich employees can focus more on responding to customers and their brokers. Zurich is piloting this capability in international casualty programs and is planning to expand the use of robotics into property and other lines.


The ultimate goal of any software robot application is to relieve human handlers of the need to focus on time-intensive, manual activities so that they can concentrate on higher-value tasks. Consider an international liability program, written in the United States or Europe, for which instructions must be generated for every country where coverage is to be issued. Once a Zurich employee checks and confirms that information for the program is complete and in compliance with local regulations, the software robots are activated. The robots, for example, check producer appointments, licensing and initiate policy invoicing – tedious activities that often consume significant amounts of time for people to perform. A Zurich employee then checks for accuracy to ensure that everything required for the program is in place. Quality control is enhanced by the combination of technology and professional experience.


Because the robots can operate 24 hours a day, not just during typical workdays in various time zones – which may or may not overlap -- processing of international programs is much faster. How much faster? Offshore teams without software robotics typically need three to five business days to complete these steps for an international liability program. With the robots, after pre-checks, the process time is reduced to about 24 hours. At the same time, program accuracy and timeliness are significantly improved.


A challenging aspect of international programs is their complexity, particularly in the allocation of premium. A multinational enterprise may need to allocate premium across multiple subsidiaries and geographies, which must be accounted for in setting instructions to issue coverage. Typically, allocation decisions are made by customers in consultation with their brokers, which can take a month or longer. Once instructions are provided, Zurich’s technology makes the next steps far more efficient. An important benefit of that increased efficiency is that Zurich’s teams are freed up to answer questions and solve problems that arise in serving customers.


Zurich’s use of robotics technology is part of a journey toward cognitive computing, to continue improving efficiency and the customer experience, and the effort is already bearing fruit. Policy processing isn’t the only opportunity for this leading-edge innovation, either. Zurich is currently using robotics to streamline smaller claims. For example, a liability claims handler might receive 75 to 100 pages of documentation, which takes time to absorb. Cognitive software is able to scan the information, create a summary and highlight relevant elements to save a significant amount of time. Reducing the amount of time needed to process a claim means that claims handlers can provide better and more responsive service, and increase customers’ confidence in their insurer.


In one example in the UK, Zurich is utilizing software robotics to conduct routine diary reviews for open claims that traditionally required attention by human operators. The robot monitors how much time may have passed since a file was last worked, such as when reserves were last updated, and other key factors. It will then decide, within parameters, whether the interval since the last action warrants a review by a handler. Based on the robot’s query, the file will be reviewed and perhaps updated or closed. If, however, the robot initially determines that the claim’s status remains within a reasonable timing window, it will close the diary and reset it for a review at the next appropriate point in time. 


A reality of the global insurance industry today is that it still relies heavily on paper-based processes. When information is shared electronically, it often takes the form of digitally scanned and compressed documents. Just as often, multiple versions of documents lead to confusion and errors. Process standardization and improved use of technology can help the insurance industry to spend less time on transmitting data and more time on structuring coverage. Doing so will deliver greater value to customers and provide better quality products that solve business challenges.

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