Four Ways Virtual Presence Is Transforming the Claims Process

The internet of things (IoT) is paving the way for newer and more efficient tools for communication and collaboration.

December 26, 2016 Photo

The internet of things (IoT) is paving the way for newer and more efficient tools for communication and collaboration. Organizations in all industries are adding IoT enablement initiatives to improve their service offerings. Virtual presence, although not a new idea, is seeing rapid growth across multiple industries. The term “virtual presence,” or mobile video collaboration, refers to bringing the eyes and ears of experts into the field virtually in order to rapidly respond to situations. 

This communication method is driving innovations in service and operations across industries, from manufacturing and energy to insurance. While there are multiple applications, the two most relevant to insurance are (1) empowering customers directly with video-based claims, and (2) assisting field teams with video access to experts. This technology is already delivering new ways of engaging with customers, field claims professionals, and contractors with the objective of improved claims processing.

Enabling Video Claims with Members

In the insurance industry, innovative providers such as USAA have already embraced virtual presence technology to enhance customer service within claims processing. In early 2015, USAA announced an integrated video claims capability within its mobile app for members. If a member’s damage qualifies it for a video claim and the member agrees, the remote claims representative initiates a live video session with the member through the USAA app on the member’s mobile device. Together, the member and the USAA service representative immediately share live video and images, talk, and draw onscreen to assess the damages. Questions can be asked by both parties while they are looking at the damages, and greater clarity is brought to the initial step of the claims process. In fact, in some cases, USAA can close the claim in that one call, which provides a highly responsive service to members and drives customer satisfaction. 

Enhanced Workflows 

The addition of video claims changes the traditional workflow that typically requires home visits by a claims professional to assess property damage prior to settling a claim. When employing the traditional process, this cycle starts with a members contacting their insurance companies to report a claim. Then they wait while an appointment is set up with the claims professional. Scheduling a mutually convenient time can be a challenge and takes time to complete. This process of evaluating the claim is inconvenient for members and often delays the start of repairs, decreasing customer satisfaction. 

However, with virtual presence, insurers and members can securely view and analyze damage over live video and via image-sharing to expedite the claims process and improve overall service. Instead of waiting for a claims professional to come to their homes, members can actively participate in claims using their smartphones or tablets. The result is faster claims closure, greater customer satisfaction, and significant operational cost savings.

When members call to report a claim, they stay on that phone call while participating in a video session. During the live video session, the customer service representative, or a remote claims professional, can control the camera remotely, including the ability to pause live video, take high-quality pictures, and adjust the camera zoom or lighting. 

Since the experience can be completely controlled by the remote claims professional, all that members have to do is point their smartphones or tablets at the damage while the claims professional captures the visuals he needs to analyze and close the claim. Both parties can communicate verbally and via on-screen telestration to efficiently capture necessary information. This approach to video claims makes the experience simple for members, and with the enhanced workflow, claims that used to take seven to 10 days can be closed in a 15-minute video session.

Mentoring Field Teams with Live Video

Virtual presence capability can be used to mentor field teams, too, which drives service cost savings and enhances training programs. Centralized appraisers can mentor and assist field claims professionals or contractors through live video collaboration. A knowledge base and audit trail of secure content also can help the analysis of future situations and the training of new appraisers. In addition to property claims, automotive insurance providers and repair shops are exploring virtual presence for their estimation processes, as well. 

The Boyd Group, the largest operator of nonfranchised collision repair centers in North America, began testing virtual presence technology several years ago. They trialed a centralized appraisal approach, which proved successful in completing faster, more accurate estimates. In this situation, an experienced estimator was able to remotely assess automotive damage and complete the estimate with the help of an on-site field service rep. Using live video, images, voice, and telestration, the team achieved positive results, including a seven percent increase in appraisal accuracy, a three-to-four percent increase in capture rates, and a 15-minute reduction in client wait times. 

Whether the damage involves property or automotive claims, live video mentoring via virtual presence overcomes a common issue many enterprises face—access to skilled claims professionals. By centralizing this capability, an enterprise can leverage expertise across multiple locations without anyone leaving their offices.

New Revenue Generation and IoT Initiatives 

One insurer of large equipment is evaluating virtual presence technology to conduct proactive maintenance and inspection of equipment. By using video technology to identify minor changes or part replacements in advance, the insurer avoids unnecessary equipment replacements, which translates into significant cost savings. By outfitting its large team of specialized engineers and technicians with virtual presence technology, this insurer also can generate revenue by expanding its services. Additionally, it can help other insurers offer inspection and preventative maintenance by sourcing out its own specialized teams virtually. 

The ability to virtually inspect by bringing the eyes and ears of experts to problems immediately is sparking conversations around other IoT initiatives for insurers. Adding sensors to equipment helps insurers monitor the health and functionality of it continuously. If sensors report something unusual, insurers can connect remote experts visually to the inspection point. Additionally, having a historical benchmark of data allows insurers to assess accurately the life span of equipment.

Other IoT initiatives include connecting previously unconnected test instruments, such as borescopes, thereby enabling field techs to share more visuals with remote experts. Using a simple hub device, field techs attach the test instrument and share live visuals with remote engineers for a more in-depth inspection. All of these techniques also come with the added benefit of recording and retaining the knowledge from these sessions to build a knowledge base for future use. 

Overcoming Real-World Challenges

This new virtual presence capability comes with a few challenges, including bandwidth-limited locations, security, and workflow adjustments. For example, it can be difficult to accurately assess things in field locations with limited bandwidth. If the damage is too far away from the customer’s wireless hub within the home or if the cellular network coverage is poor, then it can make live video difficult. With advances occurring in wireless technology and cellular coverage, network access is becoming less of an issue. However, it is still important for the virtual-presence tool to perform within low bandwidth conditions and provide a live experience that gives remote experts accurate visuals and good-quality voice communication. 

Security of content also is critical. Insurers must make sure that the video and images they share and capture are streamed and stored securely. Unlike consumer video chat tools, enterprise-grade virtual-presence technology provides this kind of security and also allows control over privacy settings. 

Deploying video within the claims process often involves workflow modifications. Ideally, these modifications embed seamlessly into the existing workflow and tools. This embedded approach gives member service representatives a streamlined way to initiate video-based claims with members. The most successful organizations find ways to train, measure, and encourage this change in workflow. Often, it is important to engage these frontline people in follow-up feedback sessions and reflect their input quickly. 

With the advent of virtual-presence technologies as part of IoT initiatives, securely extending the power of collaboration between clients and insurers is now a reality, allowing clients to repair and rebuild more quickly and increasing satisfaction results. At the same time, it lowers expenses for insurers, including costs associated with one or multiple customer site visits. Now, engaging in a full video-collaboration session has become as simple as making a phone call.

About The Authors
Charlie Neagoy

Charlie Neagoy is vice president for Librestream Technologies Inc. He has been a CLM Fellow since 2016 and can be reached at

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