Paper and mailed communications between insurers and their clients are a big part of the customer experience. Insurance companies have a fiduciary responsibility to their policyholders. It is a relationship built on trust. Customers place trust in the permanence and accountability of paper documents and using the U.S. Postal Service to deliver mail to their insurer. They further trust that documents are processed quickly and directed to the right person or department.
Inbound Mail Accounting
By accounting for incoming mail as it arrives in the mail center, workers can route documents to the proper department. The complexities of compliance in the insurance industry present challenges. The complexity escalates as the industry adds new product and service offerings. Insurance companies must enhance and improve legacy methods with new automation tools. Accountability for when mail pieces arrive at the insurer’s mail center and when they are processed and delivered is necessary for customer service and compliance. Manual inbound sorting does not offer the required level of accountability.
When mail centers install full-featured inbound mail processing solutions, they may scan inbound documents and deliver them electronically to employees responsible for handling claims or policy renewals. With many employees working from home because of COVID-19 lockdowns, companies benefit by automatically scanning, sorting, and routing inbound envelopes and electronic images.
Inbound Mail Efficiency in the Insurance Industry
The insurance industry faces many of the same inbound mail processing challenges as every company. But the insurance business operates under additional controls and regulation. A well-managed inbound mail operation affects three areas: customer experience, compliance, and cost-cutting.
USPS delivery has slowed because of the pandemic and internal changes at the Post Office. There is no one a customer can call at the Postal Service to inquire about the status of a document they mailed. They call the insurer. Even an answer that the document has not arrived gives the client some satisfaction. At least they know. If a document has arrived and is directed to the proper department, the policyholder sees progress. The faster this happens, the better for everyone. With automation, customer claims are paid faster, and insurers provide excellent customer service. Prompt service can reduce complaints and increase renewal rates. Inbound mail sorting automation is the foundation for providing this level of success.
Customers who feel their claim or other transaction is processing and resolution is imminent are less likely to complain to customer service or the state insurance commissioner.
As insurance companies enhance the customer experience using automation for faster claims processing, they must consider the regulatory implications as well. According to Wolters Kluwer 2018 Top 10 Market Conduct Actions for Property and Casualty Insurers, one of the top compliance concerns include “failure to acknowledge, pay, investigate or deny claims within specified timeframes.”
Steven Meirink, Executive Vice President and General Manager for the Compliance Solutions for Wolters Kluwer said, “Our annual review results confirm the importance of implementing a sound compliance program management process.” As they say, time is of the essence. Once the mail arrives at the insurer’s loading dock, the accountability process starts immediately. Virtually every state has a law requiring insurance companies to pay claims in a “reasonable” length of time.
Manual inbound sorting for time-sensitive insurance claims is no longer a practical choice for insurers in competitive markets. If your mail center is labor-heavy and automation-light, it is time to reverse that trend. Not only will companies reduce hard labor costs by using automated inbound sorting technology, but they will also lower the frequency of errors and complaints. The insurance commissioner can penalize insurance companies, forcing them to pay claims and take other actions to resolve a policyholder’s complaint. Tying up loose ends and improving efficiencies in the mail center reduce the chances of a penalty.
Mail, Paper, and Trust
Why are insurance customers still using mail? An insurance document (a claim, for example) is a fiduciary instrument. First Class Mail comes with a set of security, safeguards, and federal protections. Most electronic communications have none of these.
Certified Mail takes protection to another level. It has no counterpart in the electronic communication domain. This is especially true for a document that is sent with a physical return receipt. The customer knows the insurance company has received their claim. The insurer must sort and process the inbound mail quickly. Organizations generally establish business rules for Certified Mail, such as priority delivery to the employee or department. Certified Mail can be handled on the automated inbound sort as a separate entity. The automated solution can treat it as an exception and flag the piece for immediate delivery, increasing the speed and efficiency of inbound document processing.