Kate Dodson is the Claims Operations Leader at Ohio Mutual Insurance Group, which partners with more than 500 independent agencies to distribute quality property and casualty insurance products. Kate was interviewed by Andrew Daniels, Co-Founder and President at CrashBay and Founder and Managing Director at InsurTech Ohio.
Kate, how has your journey through claims roles shaped the way that you look at the industry?
“I feel fortunate to have started my career as an auto claim rep. I wish everyone within the insurance industry could begin their career in claims because you learn so much about the product we’re selling. In my career, I have handled claims for many midwest and eastern states. In handling claims for multiple states, I have learned a lot about compliance, laws and regulations. That experience helped me transition into a communications and training role, where it was my responsibility to inform claims reps of any product or technology changes and make sure they were prepared to handle them.
Ultimately, my experience as a claim rep, trainer and communicator established the framework for what I'm currently doing in my career. I know what it's like to talk to customers and what their experience is like as well as what it's like for the claim rep to use multiple technology solutions. When you're in a role where you're introducing new technology, it can be easy to get excited and want to try everything, but that can quickly complicate the process for the claim rep. My prior experiences shape the way that I see all of the possibilities within claims and the industry as a whole and informs my understanding of when and how to make changes.”
How important is training in the claims industry, and what’s a unique way that you have approached it?
“Training is crucial, especially in claims. There's so much to learn when you're handling claims, and there are so many intricacies to the process. I have to acknowledge that training is very complicated, but it makes all the difference when it comes to retaining the talent that you bring in because claims are so fast-paced. With it being customer-facing, if somebody isn't properly trained, it really is going to take their confidence level down and lead to poor outcomes.
For new system training, we’ve had the best success when we are able to dedicate associates from each line of business within claims to our project team in order to help us identify what’s going to be different and what’s important for associates to know or focus on in their role. These team members also helped us walk through the steps of creating job aids and short videos for our associates who are more visual learners. The videos took them through, click-by-click, on how to use the new system. Utilizing the videos and job aides was really effective.
The team also came up with scenarios for associates to walk through in a sandbox environment. All claims associates were able to go through business-specific scenarios as they were learning how to use the system. All of this was paired with regular communications that had sneak peeks of the system, showing what to expect. We would highlight things that were going to be positive changes in addition to things that might not be so positive. With all of this training, people have been very prepared to go use the new system, and it was a pretty seamless transition.”
How do you uncover new trends, and what are some of the sources you look for?
“While I like to review industry publications that outline what other carriers are doing, I prefer to pay attention to the experiences that I have with other organizations outside of insurance. For example, years ago I remember looking at my pizza order and thinking if they can tell me exactly where my pizza is in this process, why can't we tell people exactly where their claim is throughout the process? We could do the same thing that these pizza companies are doing but with claim status instead.
I also pay attention to what my friends and family are saying when they talk about interacting with a company. When buying or building a house, I have heard about signing papers electronically. That makes me think if they can do this for mortgages, then we should be able to do the same thing with claim documents. That prompts me to want to create this new experience for our customers. We’ll then look at what it will take to implement it and whether we need a partner to make it happen.
It's really all about looking at what people in society are gravitating toward as a whole and being open to changing our processes to match that. The experience we provide in claims is going to be compared with the experiences they have with other organizations every day. As an industry, we have gotten better with evolving our processes over time, but the pace is so fast now that it can be challenging to keep up.”
What are some of the successes that you have seen while working with startups?
“We love working with insurtech organizations, and we've had several successes. We've also had a couple of things that have not gone well, and we consider those successes too because we've learned a lot from them. Overall, we've created great relationships with our vendor partners and have been able to create several new processes with them.
Currently, we're working on sentence data analytics with one of our partners. As we know, there's a wealth of information in the claim notes that you'll never be able to get onto a report because the data points are not located within a field in the system. Looking at sentence data allows us to not just look at keywords within a file note or field but the entire sentence and its context. The tool can analyze our notes, pull relevant data and organize it in a report for our managers to use when coaching their claim reps. The resulting reports give us information we would not have access to without hours of manual work. We are also partnering with another organization to provide rideshare opportunities in addition to traditional rental vehicles. Instead of only offering a rental car or maybe a loss-of-use payment, we have the option to send somebody credits to a rideshare organization of their choice.
The big thing for us when it comes to working with insurtech organizations is we truly are their partner, and we can help to enhance their product. We like to work directly with them to come up with exciting new ideas. It's been mutually beneficial for us when we're both open to doing that. As a smaller carrier, we don't always get that level of excitement from our partners, but when we're working with insurtechs, they typically care about what we have to say and are looking forward to creating something new. It's been really fun to work with them to try to improve processes overall.”
What still needs to be fixed in the claims space?
“There's so much room for improvement within claims because the pace of evolution when it comes to customer expectations is so fast. It feels like every week there's something new, so it’s difficult to stay up-to-date because what works today is not going to work tomorrow. That creates a challenge for our claim reps as we keep introducing new technology or new processes to keep up with the pace of change. Every time you introduce something new, even if it makes the process easier for our customers, it creates a learning curve for the reps and potentially complicates their process a little bit more.
For a while, it seemed like we needed to focus all of our attention on updating our processes and technology. Now, our focus is starting to shift a little bit to finding technology solutions that can help remove some of the more simple processing tasks that associates have to go through in order to free them up to focus on coverage and liability investigations.”