Insurance Billing—How to Invest with Intelligence
Published on August 22, 2017
“You no longer have to spend years and millions of dollars on software and services to create a better customer experience. Anyone who tells you otherwise is probably trying to sell you millions of dollars in software and services.”
If you read my previous article, Insurance Billing That Surpasses Expectations, you hopefully gained some insight – or maybe a different perspective – on the importance of the billing process. We discussed how this subject is often marginalized rather than brought into focus as a significant part of an insurance transaction.
The insurance industry is going through a renaissance at this time. Carriers and MGAs with older technology are becoming painfully aware of the limitations in their software platforms. Such limitations prevent insurers from providing the 21st century customer with the access and communication that the customer demands...and which their competitors are providing at an accelerated rate.
Many carriers and MGAs need these tech-enabled service improvements and they need them rather quickly. However, putting these important enhancements in place is no small effort; the decision needs to be analyzed. Time, money and a successful implementation are all at stake. Here are a few thoughts on how to approach the solution.
Updating an existing billing solution involves many important decisions. It also can involve the expenditure of many valuable dollars and a significant time investment. Intelligent decision making is critical to the success of this process. However, creating a billing solution where there is none can be daunting. Do you revamp your entire insurance software solution with a suite of products? Or can a separate but integrated billing option deliver the needed result?
If your entire technology platform needs replacement and you are prepared to make a significant capital expenditure, then a suite that includes a billing component might be a logical choice. This path typically involves large expenditures of cash and an implementation time of a year or longer. There are many software vendors that offer these systems and many consultants that work with those vendors to assist clients through the implementation process.
If, however, you need to implement a billing solution where none exists, or you need to update your billing offer while maintaining other components of your system (policy issuance/management, claims, etc.), there are options that can be put into place much more quickly and with a smaller outlay of cash.
Software-Only solutions are readily available and don’t require purchasing an expensive software suite. The key to this solution is the software integration component. Exchanging data between systems has never been easier – this is true even with legacy systems. A properly designed integration will allow incredible flexibility in how you improve your billing options. New policy data can be transmitted to the billing component in real-time or in batch mode. Data can be returned from the billing system through real-time web service calls and can be read back through automated telephony systems, displayed on-screen to assist customer service personnel with phone calls, or applied to other service requests. If the design and integration is done properly, your customer service team and your customers will not even realize that a different software product is providing the billing information.
Software + Managed Services is an option that can provide a lot of value. With this option, the billing can be handled by a different (but fully integrated) software application and the electronic notice delivery, customer and agent portals, payment processing and brokerage commissions can all be packaged into one managed service offering. Managed service offerings can also include a call center feature which measures KPIs for customer contact (Key Performance Indicators such as hold times, abandon rates, talk times, etc.), and can measurably improve customer support via the telephone. In many cases, the cost of the solution (software and services) can be paid for entirely out of the billing fees paid by the policyholders. Yes, you read that correctly – a comprehensive billing solution with virtually zero net cost.
Bottom line – replacing or adding a billing option is an important decision. It can make or break your relationship with your customers. Don’t be constrained by thinking that your legacy system can't be rejuvenated by a great integrated billing solution within a reasonable budget. Don't settle for an average solution that is the path of least resistance just because it's part of a suite of products. Sometimes all components of a suite are best for your business...sometimes they are not. With modern day software architecture, you can assemble a total offering using best-in-class products for each aspect of your business, which respond to the specific needs of your organization. Do your research, ask a lot of questions and be sure to implement the best billing solution for your time and money. Demand the right combination of technology and service and be certain that your customers will substantially benefit from your new billing system.