4 key steps to transform from claims process to claims experience

As the phrase ‘Customer-centricity’ shows no signs of slowing down, I recently caught up with Richard Poole, Head of AustralianSuper account at TAL Life to see what this means for the Claims industry. He explained:

“We’ve taken on a very customer-centric view across our entire business. The customer is at the forefront of everything we do; our processes, our policies and our products and most importantly in all of the personal interactions with our customers, or our service.”

The 4 key streams to focus on:

  1. Build relationships with your customers

Knowing our clients well means we can understand what products they actually want and need. We then also have a better understanding of how can we satisfy that need while still being efficient and cost effective. It’s about looking for the win-win.

  • Building a relationship is relatively straightforward when dealing with our direct customers, because we have a connection with them from day one. From the first contact we establish that relationship directly, and it stays all the way through the life of that customer. Hopefully, for their sake it won’t result in a claim, but if it does, they’ve got a consistent experience with us all the way through.
  • With Retail customers (adviser-driven), the relationship is generally owned by a financial adviser. So we may not get involved with these customers until the time when a claim needs to be made. Our role here is to manage the process as quickly and simply as possible, supporting the client’s relationship with the advisor.
  • It can be harder to build a relationship with our Group customers, because their insurance comes packaged with their superannuation. Similarly to Retail customers, our role generally comes into play when they need to make a claim on their policy. This is when we have the opportunity to build a relationship, by providing support through a difficult time.

Over the last 12 months, we’ve been working on those relationships to identify how we streamline that process and establish strong direct links to the customer.

Ideally, the customer will be able to make one phone call, or submit a claim through one channel, preferably with us, while we can keep all other interested parties informed in real-time.

  1. Clearer communications

The key issue around product is always going to come from the terms and conditions, and the wording of those products.

We’ve come a long way in the last few years to have more plain English in our products, with the days of fine print and ambiguous wording well gone. The key is to make it as easy as possible for the customer to understand exactly what they’re buying, and to help them understand under what circumstances they can make a claim on that policy. It’s also our responsibility to make sure the policy has very clear entry and eligibility rules, to ensure the validity of a claim is unambiguous for claims assessors.

Plain language cuts down on confusion and miscommunication between the customer and ourselves. Everybody knows exactly what’s expected of them, and there shouldn’t be any surprises.

  1. Provide a seamless experience

Wherever possible, our processes are agnostic to the channel. We try to build in as much automation into those processes as we can while retaining the flexibility to ensure we’re managing exceptions and preserving the customer experience.

Standardise as much as you can, keep your claims process system updated and keep refining it. We’re currently on Year One of a three-year project to build our new claims system into the business. It’s bringing in another level of automation, including being able to segment claims into the appropriate areas of complexity.

  1. Add value

The next step in modern claims processing is to begin to add value to the customer to assist their return to wellness. The way we’re doing that now is by really focusing on the customer and their needs very early on. It’s that move from reactive to proactive, and being there right from the start of the journey.

Beyond the Blog: Developing Your Online Presence as a Writer

The Daily Post

We recently highlighted ways that some of you integrate Tumblr into your online routine and use this platform to complement your work on WordPress.com, which is your online hub. Since the internet is a very big playground, let’s talk about other ways to develop your web presence and personal brand strategically, as well as use WordPress.com to promote your writing in a way that makes sense for you.

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The airport v airline debate: why it needs to end

To put it simply, airlines and airports share a common goal; operating as many flights as possible to increase revenue.

However, achieving common ground and good communication has continued to be a challenge since the enforcement of airline deregulation.

To get some insight into exactly where the disparities lie and start to look at how they can be fixed, I spoke to Kevin Gill, Chief Operating Officer at Townsville Airport. He’s in a unique position of having experience from both sides of the coin; he worked as General Manager for privately owned ‘Macair’ for 8 years before joining Queensland Airports Limited (QAL) in 2008.

Where do the potential opportunities lie for airlines and airports to be maximising their revenue streams – have you any examples of this?

The traditional airport has been a landlord. The more contemporary airport immerses itself in understanding the airlines that would fit their destination, because ultimately an airport is a conduit to the destination. If we look at the Gold Coast Airport for example, you’ll tend to focus on typically low cost carriers, which are the correct fit to deliver tourism.

If you’re an airport like Townsville, it’s broader based with strong business content. The first step is to understand the correct airlines that would suit operating to your airport. Be proactive, and look at the emerging trends in your destination that could drive new destination ideas that may be of interest to your targeted airlines.

We have an example of that here; QAL’s research department identified a direct Darwin to Townsville service as an opportunity, because to get to Darwin, often meant a journey through Cairns or Brisbane. It became apparent that there are synergies with Darwin that were growing, between the two cities, those synergies were generally the mining industry and its on-going growth.  Both destinations have strong Defence connections, and there’s also Darwin’s increasing relevance as a gateway into Asia, and Townsville’s lack of connections into Asia.

As a result, the airport started to pitch a direct service to the airlines. AirNorth recognised the opportunity existed and commenced the route which has been very successful and is growing rapidly.

It was a new thinking of airports saying – “we’re not a landlord – we know our destinations, we know the opportunities, and we know our target market, let’s see where we can take this one”.

How does Townsville Airport ensure good operating costs for airline rates – where’s the focus?

Airport charges increased markedly at the start of the century, but if you look at the contemporary airport now, airlines get a lot more than a runway.

Looking beyond that initial price spike, investment in Australian airports has been very strong since they were Federal government owned.  If you look at airport charges as a percentage of airfares, they are still modest.

Airports now work hand in hand with airline partners to ensure that the Airport experience is seamless.  This maximises operational efficiencies and thus an Airline’s OTP.

Can you talk us through some of the common causes for disparate objectives between an airport and airline?

I’ve spent most of my career in airlines, so have seen both sides of the story.

Larger Airports have enjoyed strong financial performance in Australia but people often don’t understand the high levels of capital that are required to maintain and develop these assets. The airline industry has a history of uniformly not making much money.

Airports take a long term view with infrastructure development with planning horizons often beyond 10 years.  For example an airport may wish to increase the footprint of their terminal to meet long term projections and invest accordingly and pass on an increase charge to the airline.

On the other hand, the airline will not reap the benefits of the expanded footprint immediately and accordingly could be reluctant to agree to the increase charges in the short term.

That often causes a disparity in terms of short term versus long term thinking.

Different airlines also have different needs as dictated by their customer base.  FIFO operators only require a minimal facility whereas Virgin for example may require lounge and meeting facilities.

Certain airlines potentially may consider that they end up benefitting more from new infrastructure than other airlines.

What’s the key to successful communication and collaboration? 

The first thing that goes through my mind is empathy.  Until you’ve worked at an airline –  you don’t get to understand the pressures that airlines are under.

A jet airplane costs up to $8,000 an hour to operate, so if you’re an airline operator and the airport encourages you to start a new route, the costs rack up really quickly.

When an airport comes to an airline and advises them of a major redevelopment there is often a cost increase that is added to the list of increasing costs that an airline faces. Ultimately, the passenger ends up paying for it. Therefore it is imperative to ensure that the airlines feel that they are getting are getting value for money.

Airlines are trying to reduce costs and create a margin. This is typically 5% of turnover.  Airports are thinking about the longer term to ensure the correct infrastructure is provided to meet long term demand growth. If the parties can understand each others perspective then they are much more likely to collaborate effectively and reach mutually acceptable outcomes.

There’s no doubt that airlines and airports have to be partners.  We are increasingly immersed together. An airport is reliant on airlines adding capacity to grow their business and enable them to reinvest. There are other ways that airports can assist airlines. QAL for example, provides ground handling support services and also aircraft maintenance services to airlines.  It’s about having a deeper relationship beyond being a landlord.

What do you envisage the airport of the future to look like – what will be the differentiation between those that succeed in becoming cash flow positive and those that don’t?

If the destination is strong, then the airport should prosper, the airport needs to be proactive, and support destination growth.

Work with what you’ve got.  If you know what your destination key trigger points are, then again, be proactive.  Look at new route opportunities and drive the agenda with airlines with constructive ideas. Know you’re the industry you’re operating in.  You’re in aviation; you can’t be a passive landlord.

Airports that are smart really look at all of those negative touch points in facilitation, and try to overcome them, whether it be front of house road transport congestion, or runway congestion.  Technology enabling smart solutions is also going to be very important.

 Join Kevin at Regional Airport Development 2014 where he will be delivering the presentation ‘Attracting Airlines and Strengthening Relationships’.

 Find out more by visiting www.regionalairports.com.au

Data and Analytics in healthcare… The revolution is coming.

Technology is sitting right at the heart of the healthcare efficiency drive and it’s easy to see why.

Data-sharing and analytics, collaboration and digital practices will be the driving force behind delivering healthcare services predictively.

Ahead of Australian Healthcare Week 2014, I took a look at some of the biggest emerging areas where technology is driving efficiency to find out what’s on the horizon.

There’s huge potential for information to help bridge the steps towards improving patient safety and quality of care.

To gain an insight on some of the key developments in Big Data and analytics, I caught up with two people on the forefront of driving the change Michael Draheim, Chief Information Officer at Metro Health South and Sarah Dods, Health Services Research Leader at CSIRO.

What are the key areas where data and analytics are impacting efficiency?

Sarah Dods: A lot of what we do in health at the moment is on paper. You can’t do analytics without data and we don’t have big data in health at the moment, in terms of the healthcare system and how it’s delivered, those data fits are only just starting to appear.

We see three efficiency gains that are likely to happen through this process; one is prevention, if you’ve got decision support, crosschecks based on data and information that’s already in the system, there’s the opportunity to prepare and prevent things from happening.

Secondly, using data and analytics operationally, in terms of people,  understanding how the business itself runs and gaining quality assurance,  we see patient flow as being a huge opportunity in that space and one that we’re very interested in.

Finally, digital health delivery, which is another way of talking about telehealth, it’s acknowledging the data that’s collected, telehealth is not videoconferencing. There’s so much possibility because when you do things online, you’re creating data, and you can create data about the information that was shared and use it later on.

Michael Draheim: Service efficiency, service planning, meeting KPIs, predictive analytics and data modelling are a few areas that stand out as opportunities to help us adjust our existing service models to support future health care service delivery.

The richness of the data that we have will help us to understand more about our patients and services which in turn will give clinicians the right information to support the prevention and prediction of disease and treatment options. The impact of this is significant benefits on both social and welfare outcomes along with opportunities for the vendor market to have tools that support this approach.

Where do you see the biggest barriers to growth?

Sarah Dods: A lot of the things that need to be changed to improve efficiency aren’t actually technology related,  but what big data in analytics can do is point you to the problem areas and demonstrate the improvements in flow on to the rest of the system if it was fixed, data is evidence for making change.

There are certainly some funding pressures in  both the primary and the acute healthcare systems, the fact that our primary care system is a straight fee for service regardless of outcome basis, I’m not sure it’s sustainable. But that is a very disruptive change to the way the Australian health system is run, if that ever happens.

Michael Draheim: Historically, we’ve got a whole range of systems that are very disparate, built on data structures that aren’t interoperable and often duplicate the data. It’s difficult to get data out of those old fields as they were mostly free text. You may have a font of knowledge but you can’t extract it without a significant amount of cleansing. We’re now looking at better relational databases and more structure. The big advantage of that is real time categorised information flow. The challenge is dealing with our legacy and the cost of replacing that. There’s also significant organisational change involved.

You also have balance the technology, you don’t want to overwhelm people with thousands of alerts which make their life really difficult. For preventative health, it’s adding those fail safes, but not making too much more work. It’s a fine balance.

Have you any examples of results where you’ve seen technology directly impact healthcare efficiency?

Sarah Dods: One is in terms of cancer reporting where the cancer information that’s currently reported across Australia is a manual process, it’s somewhere between two and five years out of date depending on where you look. When a cancer occurs, a piece of paper gets sent to the cancer authority, there’s about a three year backlog, and somebody then eventually manually enters it into a database. We’ve got some research that we’ve been doing working with a couple of the state cancer agencies about automating that processing of the reporting data, and it’s now getting to the point where the research certainly indicates that there’s potential to do that real-time.

That’s an example where people making policy decisions or looking for unexplained outbreaks of cancer, or carrying out research will have access to be able to make an up-to-date data, it’s a huge advantage. You can then start to look at forecasting.

The second example is around patient flow, we’ve been working with the Gold Coast Hospital for a few years now, and that started out working with their emergency department about predicting who was going to turn up, the question was, can you predict who is going to turn up in an emergency department? We found that using the hospital’s own historic data we can predict with about 90% accuracy in any four hour block who’s going to turn up, what the triage categories are going to be, what the specialist categories are going to be, and how many of those people are going to be admitted.

Michael Draheim: We see significant results where we’ve digitalised existing practices. There’s one example where we’ve saved (from a workforce point of view) about $5 million for a couple of hundred thousand dollar investment – over 18 months, by digitalising a process.

We’ve also put in voice recognition badge software which has allowed clinicians to have more time for patient care – there are direct things that have improved the overall experience.

You can’t measure everything but we’re building a benefit delivery framework into all our projects post go live. We make value estimations and then we measure against that to see how we’re tracking.

What’s next for big data, how do you see healthcare of the future?

Sarah Dods: I’m actually going to be releasing a report on the digital healthcare system of the future at the Healthcare Efficiency Through Technology conference.

I’ve been leading the work that we’re doing at CSIRO around the sustainability of the Australian Healthcare system, it’s about providing evidence for innovation, improving access to services, improving efficiency and improving the quality of care that patients get through using digital tools.

We’re going to be talking about patient flow and information flow and information sharing.

Michael Draheim: It’s about more improving access and the ability to collect, report, read and analyse data on the run. We’ll be taking real time data which will often predict what’s likely to happen and provide this information to clinicians at the point of care to support their decision making. The key is to support the human elements of the way our workforce deliver services with quality real time data –  the challenge in the future is that we’ll have more information, it’s important to make sure this is provided in a way that adds to the quality our services provided by our staff.

Healthcare Efficiency through Technology provides the ideal forum to hear from facilities who have implemented technologies to improve patient care and realise operational benefits. Don’t re-invent the wheel – network, benchmark, learn and succeed.

Is bitcoin really the future of payments?

There’s no doubt that virtual currencies have grown over the last few years, digital and mobile wallets are providing platforms to take new currencies mainstream.

Bitcoin has captured the attention and imagination of the tech community at large over the past few years and its momentum shows no sign of slowing. We’re seeing more and more stories hitting the headlines of big value purchases using Bitcoin. There’s no doubt it’s a currency gathering pace and beginning to catch the interest of financial institutions and payment providers.

Ahead of his presentation at the Future of Digital Mobile Payments, I caught up with Mat Holroyd, the founder of BitPiggy, a fixed rate exchange for Bitcoin. We spoke about how Bitcoin has the potential to tap into new markets and how virtual currencies are going to be central to the payments landscape in the future.

How’s the Bitcoin landscape been evolving? Where does BitPiggy come in?

The businesses surrounding Bitcoin were in the beginning largely trading and mining focused, with a trickle of retail merchants who accept Bitcoin showing up continuously over time. As merchants and interest has grown, businesses that copy what you see in the finance and money world have started to show up. For example, Bitcoin based businesses that perform similar roles to PayPal and banks. As interest has grown further, entrepreneurs are gravitating towards copying the big businesses that have been successful in the non-Bitcoin economy, such as Amazon and eBay.

BitPiggy is a simple fixed rate exchange for Bitcoin, mimicking the kind of service you get from little corner store currency exchange (except all online). From that it has morphed into services like Bitcoin-related consulting and general IT support (like email), which can be paid with currency or Bitcoin. A new area I’m getting involved with is offering publication services for developers in countries with strict capital controls. Developers can get paid in Bitcoin as opposed to expensive alternatives. I also tried to launch a Bitcoin-backed debit card, but was pushed back by the regulators.

How do you think Bitcoin can start to break out of its niche audience, where do the opportunities lie?

One of the key markets where decentralized virtual currencies could see huge wide adoptance is among the world’s unbanked people who nevertheless own a smart phone. Statistics vary but something like 50 to 70% of the world’s population does not have a bank account, and of those billions of people, large numbers of them (e.g. in Africa) have smart phones.

In addition, there are compelling reasons for people who have traditional bank accounts to use Bitcoin.

There’s fluctuating value with Bitcoin – do you think that puts businesses off?

Sure. Bitcoin is very new, and like any new technology (or even new money for that matter);there is risk in getting involved early. That said, there are services to reduce risk for retail merchants, as an example who are interested in accepting Bitcoin as payment but don’t want to hold onto Bitcoin.

Where can the benefits really be seen for using Bitcoin over other forms of currency?

Bitcoin has several aspects that make it compelling compared to national currencies. Probably the biggest one is that Bitcoin is decentralized, meaning that anyone can use it without having to get approval first and it is not possible for anyone to prevent anyone from doing what they want with their money. There are no forms to fill out like with a traditional bank account, there are no capital controls, there no age requirements, no country restrictions, no address requirements. Basically no requirements besides a computer or smart phone.

Another benefit of Bitcoin is the low inflationary nature of the money supply, which should cause price deflation over time, like gold.

What’s the future, where’s your focus from here to get the buy in of a pretty tech savvy Australia?

There are many exciting things happening in and around the Bitcoin world. For instance, there are many virtual currencies that are taking the Bitcoin idea and running with it. There are people trying to make Bitcoin more anonymous, and there are people who have taken the decentralized nature of Bitcoin and applying it to things like messaging.

I don’t have much of a focus on Australia per se, as I think there are bigger opportunities overseas. That said, the recent decision by the Reserve Bank of Australia to cut interest rates to historic lows, causing the AUD to drop -5% compared to USD highlights the benefits of a decentralized money like Bitcoin: no one can arbitrarily decide to devalue your money.

Regional Airports: The time for change has come…

It’s been nearly 20 years since the federal government distributed airports to local councils and local bodies to own and operate. In that time, the demand on regional airports has radically changed.

Just earlier this month Bundaberg Council released figures for 2013 showing a 17.4% increase in passenger numbers compared to 2012. The airport provides a gateway for tourism as well as providing hundreds of jobs and commercial opportunities for local residents.

So what’s the problem? Well, airports are ageing and starting to decay in some areas. If they are going to match demand for both services and tourism, some serious transformation is needed to turn airports into cash flow positive enterprises.

Airports are currently feeling the pressure from demands, operations, new regulations, safety, security and even changing aircraft types.

This has left many operators in search for knowledge, looking to uncover the real challenges facing the future operation of airports. It’s time start planning for the long term.

To gain some insight, I recently caught up with Bill Burke, CEO of Mildura Airports and  frequent sounding board for CEOs needing advice; he expressed the urgency for long term transformation planning:

Plan for the long term

“People often see airports as long-term assets that need little or no maintenance. All of a sudden, the day arrives when runways start to deteriorate and assets that had been considered indestructible suddenly start to fall apart. It then takes a lot of capital to fix them.

“It’s difficult to give specific time scales on when improvements are needed within the airport lifecycle. Just consider that every asset has a design life and once that benchmark is passed, the chances are some capital is going to be required for the repairs.”

Bill emphasised how it’s not just the runway that needs to be considered, terminals also decay and technology provides both new opportunities and new challenges:

“It’s about really understanding the needs of your airport as a whole and considering the wider vision beyond individual repairs and developments. Here at Mildura, we’ve recently completed the development of a new terminal building. When we presented it to the community, we received criticism over the size and direction the airport was taking. When we communicated the long term vision for the airport, exploring the logic of the layout, potential for expansion and how it fits the circulation of expected people, we managed to win the community round.”

“The terminal will allow the airport to operate for the next ten years, without any problems. Looking beyond that, I also built expansion opportunities into the plan, allowing the airport to evolve into the next phase. It will build on the facility that’s already here and be fairly simple and cost effective. The terminal will be able to double in size to accommodate growth.”

Be prepared to look for capital:

“Even with your long term plans in place, airports require large levels of capital to be sourced to adequately develop into an ‘airport of the future’. We can’t hide from that. I’m in the position currently where I need $20 million for a runway upgrade, without that capital the runway won’t be able to operate and provide the same level of service as it has before.”

Bill warns that too many people are just riding out the lifecycle and could land themselves in hot water:

“Too many airports – and I’ve seen too much of it in my career – have done little in the way of planning, they’ve never really looked far enough forward to think of where they might be right outside the square.”

Strive to achieve your potential

It’s not just asset management that will take regional airports to the next level, more has to be done to maximise existing revenue streams that could help secure larger capital and keep the day to day operations cash flow positive:

“Too few airports look at their operation in the bigger picture and put down a footprint and work to a blueprint that is expandable and can be developed in almost any direction to satisfy almost any requirement.”

“Regional airports need to look at everything they can. For some airports, there is opportunity for utilisation of the land resources – for industrial, commercial, maybe even sometimes retail activities”

“They need to also look at other commercial activities in terms of the facilities they have; in some cases they could lend themselves to aviation infrastructure uses.”

“You’ve got to identify what potential there is and what the market might be. There’s no point making a lot of noise and knocking on a lot of doors if you can’t deliver a product. I think every year an airport just has to evaluate its own potential.”

“Look at location and what’s happening in the wider community, try and work out where the airport fits in and where there’s potential to tap resources, do something bigger and better.”

“Airports that thrive in the future will be willing to embrace change, think long term and embrace knowledge.”

Bill will be joined by some of Australia’s leading airports during the 2014 Regional Airport Development Conference. The agenda has been designed to assist you on your journey of building and commercialising the airport of the future.