Modern billing systems present the opportunity to simplify systems integration, standardize billing and provide a platform for updating customer service capabilities.
Insurance Networking News, June 1, 2012
Billing systems are crucial to any business, as they provide the platform for the most frequent and sensitive customer interactions and also must interface with many of the other business critical applications companies rely on.
But as more customers acclimate to self service applications via the Web and phone, property/casualty insurers need to keep improving billing systems, otherwise they risk alienating clients who are becoming accustomed to highly efficient billing processes.
Consumers "are dealing with customer service operations in other industries that have more advanced servicing technologies, and are expecting this same level of automation in their dealings with insurers," says Mike Fitzgerald, senior analyst at Celent, a research and consulting firm.
One example is the ability for systems to share data so that the customer only has to provide it once, or not at all, Fitzgerald says. "In many customer interactions, a caller only has to enter their customer number or policy number and the call center employee's screen pops with all the information that is needed about that customer," he says. "If insurers do not have this level of support in their billing customer service areas, they run the risk of alienating their clients."
So it shouldn't be surprising that many companies are launching new billing system projects in an effort to take advantage of the latest technologies and features that make billing processes go more smoothly for customers, agents and anyone else involved.
"Insurers need their billing systems to meet customer service needs in an effective and high-quality manner," Fitzgerald says. "Many are operating with legacy environments that are inflexible and difficult to change," Fitzgerald says. "This places them at a disadvantage as they attempt to respond to the higher levels of customer service demanded by consumers. Additionally, insurers must reduce operating expenses, maintain equity, manage cash flow, and report on their results."
Newer billing systems can deliver potential benefits such as reduced time to market for billing plan and program changes, increased ability to interface with other corporate systems, both upstream and downstream, and greater flexibility, Fitzgerald says.
"Billing systems interface with front-end sales systems and customer relationship management [CRM] systems, providing account-level information such as what the customer's bill plan is, what the current payment status is, etc.," Fitzgerald says. "These systems pass information downstream to other administration systems so that billing details can be recorded on the customer's account."
Safety Insurance Group, a property/casualty insurer based in Boston, is in the early stages of moving to a more modern billing platform. The company has been using Exceed Classic from Computer Sciences Corporation (CSC) since 2007, and is now migrating all its billing for services, other than auto insurance, to CSC's Exceed Java, according to Jim Berry, VP of insurance operations at Safety Insurance.
The insurer has upgraded its billing systems a number of times since it was founded in 1980. Initially the company developed an in-house system before moving to a second platform in 1997, when it launched its homeowners and other commercial products.
In 2007 Safety Insurance opted to move all of its billing to Exceed Classic, because the previous system didn't deliver the flexibility or scalability the company needed to keep up with what others in its markets were doing.
"The old system didn't have the necessary base functionality to support additional billing plans, payment terms, finance charges, number of installments," Berry says. "It wasn't easily adaptable to provide both our agents and our insureds with Web inquiry capabilities."
There are two primary benefits to moving to the Java system, Berry says. First, it is less expensive to run function-rich billing applications in a Java environment on servers than on a mainframe in a Cobol environment, he says. The second is demographic. The number of skilled Java programmers is growing while the number of Cobol programmers continues to shrink.
"We've been very happy with Exceed Classic. We especially like CSC's continuous delivery releases, which allow our company to enjoy the benefits of the innovation of the entire Exceed billing customer community," Berry says. But once CSC committed its future initiatives to the Java platform, it became clear that the way forward lay with that platform, he adds.
The Exceed system has allowed the company to make continuous incremental improvements in its technology and billing capabilities-everything from bug fixes to revamped user screens to new payment methods-which are important to delivering a high level of customer service and keeping clients satisfied, Berry says.
For more information on related topics, visit the following channels:
Add Your Comments...
If you have already registered to Insurance Networking News, please use the form below to login. When completed you will immeditely be directed to post a comment.
You must be registered to post a comment. Click here to register.