In the insurance industry, we have a unique opportunity to sell more than just a tangible product—we provide an intangible service, a promisestating that our business will be there to support policyholders in their time of need. This devotion to take care of insureds when they face a covered injury or illness and file a claim is vital—especially in times like those we have all been facing in the wake of COVID-19.

The smartest companies are the ones thatcan marry a commitment to innovation with a customer-centric heart, molding their plans for the future around what the customers want and need. These companies innovate with purpose.

Policyholders expect their claims experience to have three key characteristics: speed, ease of use,and accuracy. But there are hundreds of ways to innovate within those categories, and insurers with a purpose-first mindset can take the timeto discern which new features and technologies customers needthe most. Thoseinsights,gainedthrough intentional, targeted consumer surveyingare immeasurably important in helping insurers connect with consumers in the modern insurance landscape.

Embrace Efficiency

When someone has to file a claim, especially one for a significant illness or injury, it can quickly snowball intoa financial strain. And because 39% of American workers say they could not survive for a month without their paycheck,1 it is critical that insurers help provide fast financial relief for insureds in a time of crisis.That is why speed and efficiency are essential. Policyholdersneed payment from a claim as soon as possible, especially to get help with the expenses that health insurance doesn’t cover. For insurers focused on purpose, it is motivational enough to get insureds what they need as soon as possiblebut, it must be done without sacrificing accuracy or compliance.

Much of claims technology is dedicated to making processes more efficient. But we cannot lose sight of the customer, who may prioritize a simpler interface or the ability to easily check a claim’s status over new tools

Today, innovation in the area of speed, likely includes using artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning (ML) to minimize the amount of human interaction required to process routine claims, helping ensuredocuments are processed quickly while reducing the risk of error. In doing so, employees’ skillscan be reserved for tasks that robots just can’t replicate, such asthose requiring relationship building and empathy over more manual tasks like data input.

If you dream a little, the possibilities might include things likeusing geolocation or monitoring to alert policyholders to a potential claim scenario. The lines must be drawn carefully so as to not encroach upon peoples’ privacy, which is why customer feedback must be central in developing such plans. But,what if in the future, insurance providers could go above helping customers after they file a claim and proactively help them? Now that would be fast.

Seek Simplicity

Much of claims technology is dedicated to making processes more efficient. But we cannot lose sight of the customer, who may prioritize a simpler interface or the ability to easily check a claim’s status over new tools.

Submitting an insurance claim is stressful for 68% of Gen Z and 61% of millennial Americans. Insurerscan use this as an opportunity to practice innovation with the purpose to seekcreative solutions on how to reduce that number. And there’s a simple way to find out exactly what your customers want and expect from their insurance: ask them.

We often survey Aflac customers and consider their feedback in making the claims process easier. In one recent example, policyholders highlighted the ease of filing as one of the top drivers of their satisfaction with us, so we prioritized evolving our online claims portal to enhancethe filing and tracking system even more.This is one innovation opportunity the insurance industry shouldn’t ignore:creating or enhancing technology in response to customers’ communicated desires, making it easier forinsurersto keep their promise when it matters most.

Avoid Shortcuts

Technology experts be warned: innovating simply for innovation’s sake can put customer trust at risk. One survey found that 80% of insurance executives agree automated systems create new risks, including fake data, data manipulation, and inherent bias.In the insurance industry, these issues are magnified even more. Consider the havoc a wrongly programmed algorithm could wreak on high-stakes claims decisions. For all the benefits of faster claims processing and increased accessibility, none of it will matter much if claims are not filed or paid properly—with the customer’s best interests in mind.

To combat this, wise insurance companies can double down on vetting the digital side of their business. Innovation with purpose means programming enhanced tech with the substance of business rules and mapping AI responses to the language of the industry—but, still leaving key decisions needing a human touch to their best people. This not only helps make processes more efficient, but it helps avoid timely and costly mistakesin order to help ensure customers get the benefits they need while also maintaining regulatory requirements.

Doing Good is the only way to do Business

It is imperative for insurance companies to serve their customers by guaranteeing a fair and fast claims process. After all, it is central to the promise to be there when illness or injury strikes. Best of all, the ideal solution may be simpler than expected, and in many cases,customers cantell you what they want most if you reach out. Doing well through innovation is not only the right thing to do; it is the only way to do business.That is why it is paramount to commit to innovate with purpose andhelp insureds focus on what matters most: getting well.