Highlights from ACE Leadership Forum & Expo 2019

Jeff Young on July 17, 2019

Las Vegas’ Red Rock Casino Resort & Spa hosted the newly-rebranded ACE (ACE) Leadership Forum & Expo this year, from June 24th to 26th. The annual gathering featured professionals from over 150 companies involved in leading, managing and innovating the claims process and customer experience. Darin Reffitt, our VP of Marketing, and I represented SPLICE Software this year, and had the opportunity to participate in the various industry sessions as both speakers and attendees. I noticed several themes in the discussions I had, and within the sessions I attended throughout the conference; here are my takeaways:

Policyholders’ customer service expectations have been heavily influenced by their experiences with other industries, including retail. Often, the first contact one has with an insurance carrier is in the event of a claim. A panel of industry experts discussed how they balance claims efficiency with customer experience. Tower Hill Insurance’s Chief Claims Officer, Catherine Reese-Woodard, spoke about the importance ensuring the insured feels the carrier is “on their side,” and fostering this sentiment by providing proactive communication during instances like catastrophic events. For example, where warning notifications could be sent out, following up with post-event messaging on how affected customers could expedite a claim. The panel shared experiences on how piloting solutions internally or with a sample customer base prior to full implementation had helped refine processes and increase the likelihood of success.

In a session on “The Drivers of Change Within Claims,” the panel discussed how claims are changing within the auto, property and casualty, and workers’ compensation sectors. They spoke of disruptors like fraud detection technology, home assistant devices, and instant access to data that previously wasn’t available. When recruiting future insurance leaders, several of the experts commented on their organization’s shifts to explaining the “why” of the company instead of a long list of job function duties (i.e., the “how”); they agreed the best young talent will figure out the “how” in ways previous generations hadn’t considered, once they understand and embrace the “why.”

Following this session, I co-chaired a roundtable discussion on best-in-class customer experience. Attendees discussed how they have assigned focus groups to help determine, measure, and refine new initiatives. In terms of A.I., the group agreed there are some tremendous upsides to streamlining processes, so long as the experience isn’t awkward. This led to a discussion of which touchpoints during the claims process require a personalized touch, rather than a simple exchange of information. The consensus was that while different demographics may generally prefer a specific channel—such as texts for Millennials and live representatives for Boomers—the best solution is to give insureds options, and then track with which channel the individual customer would like to be communicated at various stages of their customer journey. In order to effectively quantify best-in-class customer experience, measuring the satisfaction policyholders experience during the claims process or other interactions with the carrier is paramount. Several of the executives attending mentioned that their company had NPS® programs in place and understood that it wasn’t just a matter of receiving high scores, but that the feedback being collected was valuable in helping them take action to improve the customer experience going forward.

In the session on “Strategies for Change Management,” the panel discussed the difference between change management at the individual, organizational, or enterprise level. Shireen Punja of Liberty Mutual Insurance and Helmsman Management Services highlighted that change management starts with building relationships and closely listening to those who would be affected by change. The speakers highlighted that teams need to be equipped with the resources they need to facilitate change, which includes contingency planning for when things go wrong.

The conference also featured a dynamic duo from The Second City Works; the same organization that brought us SCTV and the likes of Eugene Levy, Mike Myers, Tina Fey, Stephen Colbert, and—my personal favorite—John Candy. This interactive session introduced us to skills that improvisers use to be effective communicators and collaborators. Improvisation helps teams navigate difficult conversations, be more agile, build rapport, and problem solve. We were asked to roleplay what our most outrageous birthday party would look like if there were no restrictions on time or money. We rotated around a group of three explaining our crazy ideas. In the first round, others were asked to respond with “No, because…” followed by a reason the idea wouldn’t work. The second round was countered with “Yes, but…” with factors to consider, and the third time around members responded with “Yes, and…” with an explanation of an additional idea to enhance the party. While not all the “Yes, and…” answers were realistic, the permission to dream and be creative resulted in the most innovative ideas. This is further expanded on in The Second City book, “Yes, And: How Improvisation Reverses ‘No, But’ Thinking and Improves Creativity and Collaboration,” by Kelly Leonard and Tom Yorton.

During the “Navigating and Avoiding the Elements of Bad Faith Claims” and “Avoiding Litigation with Mediation” sessions, the panels highlighted the importance of timely, empathetic communication, and the need to fully understand the laws of the local jurisdiction in which the claim or dispute occurred.

David North, President and CEO of Sedgwick, offered insights into how to lead with confidence and authenticity within claims. He expanded on the importance of demonstrating compassion and empathy to the customer and went on to explain that Sedgwick has embraced this to the point of having “Caring Counts” as their motto. When asked what the biggest insurance disruptor is today, North replied, “Technology, but in a good way.” He said there is a greater need to respond to the customer quicker, with relevant information—and that technology is helping facilitate this.

Perhaps it’s because I’m in the Insurtech space, where we strive daily to deliver solutions for carriers and brokers using technology, but the line that resonated most from the conference was when David North stated, “If you’re going to advance in the insurance industry, you need to embrace technology without fear.” Through the numerous engaging conversations, solutions-based exhibits, and insights from North America’s top claims executives, I believe that the ACE Leadership Forum & Expo did indeed help attendees move one or two steps closer to embracing change—with more confidence than they had coming into the three-day event.

Download the Whitepaper