Top Priorities For 2021 From 100+ Insurance Carrier Execs

Operational Efficiency or Customer Experience: How Ameritas Solves for Both


For years, the life insurance industry was focused on finding operational efficiencies, especially during the long period of interest rate depression that followed the 2008 collapse. Margins were tight. Cost cutting was the order of the day. For many, workflow optimization and business process automation became table stakes.

Today, enhancing digital CX and driving customer engagement have become the top business priorities for most insurers. However, for those who are charting their own unique (and extremely beneficial) path, CX has not replaced operational efficiency at the top of the agenda. Instead, the two objectives are seen as different aspects of one overarching strategy – two sides of the same coin.

In a recent Life Accelerated podcast, Richard Wiedenbeck, Chief Technology & Transformation Officer at Ameritas, responsible for leading the insurer’s digital transformation journey, explained his perspective on the intersection between customer experience and operational efficiency:

How do we improve the customer experience and the acquisition side? How do we become more operationally efficient and effective? I think it's not just an efficiency play. It's an effectiveness play.

Richard Wiedenbeck, CTTO Ameritas

The Ameritas strategy for digital transformation

For Ameritas, the point of their digital transformation was to turn the 150-year-old insurer into a truly digital and data-driven company. And, in the process, enhance digital experience and reduce complexity.

To accomplish this goal, the company doubled down on its investment in technological transformation in an effort to implement their plan within a five-year window. The thinking was, in five years, so much will have changed that if they haven’t evolved and implemented new capabilities, they could find themselves 10 years behind the rest of the market.

Listen to the podcast

The nuts and bolts of the Ameritas transformation

To execute on that strategy, Ameritas saw that it would be necessary to go beyond just adding front-end sales and service tools, like eApps and portals, that make transactions more efficient for customers. They recognized the importance of providing customers with the type of digital transactions they are looking for‒through websites and portals with great UX. But also, that those surface solutions would not be enough to close the CX loop.

As Richard said,

Those projects are about pushing into our back-end systems and making sure we can push that transaction into the back and bring it back up, so that we satisfy your transactional need as fast as possible.

Reducing unit cost is a key metric

And that approach had big implications for back-end operations. As part of their transformation, Ameritas has built what they call an Automation COE (Centre of Excellence). It looks at end-to-end processes and examines how they can be automated, which technologies can automate different steps, and how they integrate.

They seek to use technology solutions to improve the customer experience by streamlining the flow of customer facing process. At the same time, they are able to leverage those automations to also reduce the unit cost of back-end business processes like claims management, policy changes or billing and collection.

Process improvement improvements

In addition to identifying opportunities for process and CX improvement, Ameritas has also worked at becoming faster and more effective at onboarding new vendors and solutions that can make a difference. This improved technology onboarding has allowed them to more quickly and thoroughly leverage the benefits of new technologies like workflow solutions and low-code/no-code tools‒plugging them into their processes to significantly improve the unit cost of a transaction from end-to-end.

Automation improves CX‒ and pays for itself

As Ameritas implements these automations, they find that, not only are sales and service processes improved, but that the tech pays for itself through the ongoing unit cost reduction. The cost curve changes. And they get both efficiency and effectiveness gains.

How the Ameritas approach to digital transformation pays off

What the Ameritas example shows, is that dedication to finding efficiencies enables end-to-end improvements that create superior digital customer experiences and build engagement‒ while stripping out technologic and business process complexities.

Taking a strategic approach is critical to digital transformation. Rather than merely implementing digital sales and service tools on top of legacy processes and technology, the best approach is to define clear objectives and strategy, assign appropriate resources and investment, and find the right technologies and partners to help you deliver on your goals.

Utilizing this holistic way of planning and conducting digital transformation makes it more likely companies will be able to reduce cost per policy while increasing the speed of innovation and transactions. It will make every interaction better every time. For every customer.

Like Ameritas, has your organization doubled down on its digital transformation? Where will you be in five years? Accelerating growth and minimizing costs? Or left behind as the market moves on?

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