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InsurTech Ohio Spotlight with Stephanie Behnke

Stephanie Behnke is the Director of Solutions Consulting at Hi Marley, a communication and collaboration platform powered by SMS that simplifies the claims process by enabling adjustors, policyholders and the entire ecosystem to communicate via text. Stephanie was interviewed by Andrew Daniels, Founder and Managing Director at InsurTech Ohio.

Stephanie, keeping up with innovation in the industry requires change. What can a company put in place to effectively navigate this change?

“I highly recommend a formal change-management program for any size organization. We knew pre-pandemic that employees were starting to feel some change fatigue, but in a post-pandemic life, 54% of HR personnel say that their employees are overwhelmed by change. 71% percent of employees say they're overwhelmed by change, and 83% of employees in the US are now saying that they don't believe their employer gave them the right tools or resources to see them adapt to change. In our industry, we're seeing a constant stream of opportunities to improve what we do, which can be beneficial to business, but that means our folks are living in a constant state of change.

The best thing you can do as an organization is help your employees become change-resilient, and a change-management program can help you do that. It doesn't matter what methodology you choose, they all work beautifully. The key is to be consistent. What tends to happen is a company rolls out change, is met with resistance and then backtracks that change. This makes it harder for those employees to adapt to something new in the future because they don’t know if the change is going to be permanent.

Companies need to be consistent with change and make sure that the employees know how to navigate it. The way that one person learns is very different from the way another person learns. I always recommend making sure that you're hitting different learning styles anytime you’re training. Establishing office hours where folks can jump in and ask questions helps teams feel comfortable with a new process or tool. It’s critical to create a culture where it's okay to push back and ask questions.

Lastly, ensure supervisors and managers are as well trained as everybody else on your team. One of the things I see from time to time is, particularly if it's technology, we expect underwriters or adjusters to jump in and understand that new tool. Sometimes the supervisors and managers are on the periphery of it, but the best person for any employee to go to whenever they have a question should be their direct supervisor.”

What can a carrier do to alleviate issues with the adoption of new technologies?

“The first introduction of a new methodology tool process should be with the best of the best in your organization. Take your top performers and make it so that being a part of a pilot team is an honor and rewarded. The other thing you can do is launch an innovation lab or innovation team. Take one of your existing teams that's change-resistant and turn them into an innovation lab. It's really important that it be an existing team because you want to be able to show the metrics. Have them test the software, so when you start sharing it with the team, you create a goal that says, ‘We're going to deploy this new technology with you. We want you to find all of the things that we're going to need to know about it to prepare your peers as we do this broader rollout.’

Now, you start seeing their metrics change. They start reducing cycle time, get fewer phone calls and start outperforming other teams. When that happens in an organization, you'll see other supervisors and managers coming in and saying, ‘I want what team A has.’ Of course team A has a shorter cycle time because they have all of the new cool stuff. What's happening is the organization is gaining enthusiasm and momentum and people want to migrate.”

Internally, how important is it to understand how to address stakeholders, and how do you prepare an organization for change like this from top to bottom?

“This varies depending on the organization. A couple of carriers that I was with competed for innovation dollars and IT resources. I competed with my peers across the organization. Because I knew their votes were going to count when we got to budget season, I tried to bring in different teams (legal, risk control, audit department, etc.) early. These are people you're going to be competing with, but they're also voices at the table that you want to have. In a couple of months, I'm going to be sitting across from this person asking them to vote on my project, not their own.

The other thing that I started doing was inviting folks who might be concerned with the new technology into the process early. I remember implementing a digital payment solution at a carrier. Even though we were using a methodology that didn't change our accounting or the backend processes very much, I wanted stakeholders to have a seat at the table. I invited the treasury department to every vendor meeting following my first introduction to the product, and it helped them to be supportive from the beginning; they wanted to see that project succeed.”

How important is measuring Return on Investment (ROI) on technology deployments, and what are some of the best practices for measuring it?

“Measuring ROI matters for a lot of reasons. Let's say you win the budget, and you get your dollars associated with your project. People are going to hold you accountable and want to see that the investment was worth it. You need to prove that particular investment, but you also want to build up goodwill and credibility in this space. You want to be in a position where every time you go before the board for budget purposes, they remember the last three implementations and what those ROI dollars were, so you're not starting from scratch every time you have a budget conversation.”

Looking to the future, what kinds of technology are changing the game for customer experience? Will something like ChatGPT (Generative Pre-trained Transformer) do the same thing?

“We're all excited about ChatGPT. I'll walk you through what that looks like. At Hi Marley, we have run a few Artificial Intelligence (AI) models on every conversation. We want to understand when our customers are getting frustrated. Are they threatening litigation? Are they experiencing delays on their claim?

We're listening to conversations, and we have models that alert the adjuster. When we start digging into those alerts, we find a consistent problem in our industry: customers don’t know what the next steps on their claim are, or they have asked a question and didn't get an answer.

Maybe it's Friday afternoon, and I realized my car isn't available for pickup, but my rental car is supposed to expire today. I need a car this weekend. I am going to ask my adjuster what to do. If I don't have an answer to that, I get frustrated. I text, email or call. I may do all three if it's getting late on a Thursday, and I have to return that rental car. That starts to lead to anxiety, which leads to frustration. When we analyze that, we see we need an AI model that says a customer asked a question, it's been 30 minutes and they haven’t received an answer yet.

Now, let's talk about where ChatGPT and the advancement in AI comes from. What if I want to use my existing conversational data to identify the most common questions from customers? How can I answer a question before the customer even knows they have a question? Let's take that same rental car example. It's Friday afternoon. I just learned from the body shop that my car isn't ready, but that's okay because on Thursday night I got a text that said, ‘You're supposed to pick up your car tomorrow. If the repairs take longer than anticipated, don't worry. We'll extend your rental car.’ There's no action for you to take. Now, I don't even have the question. I don't have anxiety. That's where ChatGPT and other tools can come in to do that prediction. As we get better and AI matures, we'll be surprised by how much we can get in front of those concerns.”

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