When an employee leaves a company, it triggers a long list of administrative duties for both the employee leaving and the company. Many of these duties are related to managing what happens to that employee’s financial benefits such as pensions, trusts, and other financial assets. And it generally involves a third-party financial services or pensions organization that has responsibility for investing and managing all the assets on behalf of that company and its employees.
In particular, when an employee leaves, they need to “make a claim” to direct what happens to their assets. This is a cumbersome and time-intensive process – not just for the employee and employer, but for the financial services firm overseeing the assets in question.
Irish Life Assurance plc, a $1 billion life assurance and pensions company based in Dublin, realized that its customers – Irish businesses, both large and small, that utilized its investment services – were not getting the excellent customer service it aspired to give them when processing what it called these “pre-claim” requests.
Ushur came to the rescue. Its Intelligent Document Automation (IDA) solutions are being used to reduce the time it takes for Irish Life to complete an employee benefits “claim” from several weeks to just a few days. Even better, errors and miscommunications that cause delays are expected to be dramatically reduced, and Irish Life customers will get notified of the status of claims every step of the way. Previously, all communications fell into a black hole from the time a claim was filed until it was resolved.
"Approx 50 percent of retirement claims submissions are missing requirements,” says Ken Lynch, director of IT for corporate business, at Irish Life. “This leads to increased cycle times and poor customer experiences.”
Hands-on, manual work all the way
Until last year, Irish Life did everything connected with departing employee benefits manually.
If the employee’s claim is complete and all documents and data are in order, a claim can be paid within five working days. At that point, a confirmation letter is issued and money is released.. But if the claim is missing anything, many back-and-forth emails are required to get things in order, and days of manual processing can result in a lapse of three weeks or even more.
Everything from processing the initial email from a customer that an employee was leaving to actually dispersing or transferring money, was done with hands-on dedication by a group of experienced benefits knowledge workers at Irish Life. But they knew they weren’t providing the stellar customer experience that they aspired to.
Irish Life identified the numerous things that were wrong with its existing way of processing benefits claims:
- Too many contacts: Because of all the people required to process claims – HR and finance professions from the customer and their financial brokers and advisers as well as Irish Life benefits claims professionals – there were missed connections, poor handoffs of tasks, and no ownership over the end-to-end process.
- Too many documents: Document requirements for processing claims were heavy, and most of the documents needed didn’t (yet) exist in digital formats. Forms for employees to fill out were confusing.
- Too slow: It took three to five weeks to process a claim. Only a small percentage were completed with the first notification of employee leaving the company. A significant amount of time was spent chasing information – and, often, trustees and independent financial advisors – to get the required authorizations.
- No visibility into claims status: Because the process was a “black box,” no one knew at any point the status of a particular claim. There was no case summary to look up quickly, and no automated alerts to tell the customers if more documents or information were needed, or where in the process lifecycle a particular claim happened to be.
The benefits of a brand-new automated world
Today, with Ushur’s IDA in pilot, the new way of working looks very promising indeed. Emails are automatically routed to the right person the first time, and if any required information or documents are missing, Ushur automatically generates an email containing a personalized form to be filled in by the customer. This is eliminating the problem of too many emails and too much back and forth, and has driven:
- Improved customer experience: Because the new digital forms made it easy for employees to understand their role in the process, and because those forms were automatically sent to the right customer service expert within Irish Life, Irish Life representatives could provide speedy responses, and close the loop on missing requirements much easier – thus delivering the excellent customer experience they had always desired to provide.
- Reduced cycle times: Claims were processed much more swiftly due to the automated process. Now instead of weeks, employees get their assets within days of submitting a claim.
- Fewer follow-up requests: Because everything about the claims process is now transparent, employees and employers both know the status of claims at any time, eliminating the back-and-forth emails requesting updates.
Although one of Irish Life’s goal is to reduce the headcount needed to process claims through every stage in the lifecycle, it has no intention of letting any of its valuable workers go. Instead, they will be deployed to higher-value work, and to help the company manage its projected business growth in the coming months and years.
Irish Life is somewhat unique in that it hadn’t employed lower-level workers dedicated to doing the manual “grunt work” of processing claims. The employees who work on claims are valued knowledge workers with a tremendous amount of accrued knowledge and experience assessing claims. They are rotated out of the various roles so no one is stuck doing the repetitive, boring tasks all the time. With the Ushur solution, the low-level manual jobs are eliminated, so the workers are much more satisfied, and turnover is reduced.
“Irish Life has deployed Ushur’s Intelligent Document Automation to free up highly skilled employees, who were focused on data transformation, to higher-value work,” says Lynch. “We’re also transforming customer experience, moving to one-and-done interactions which reduce customer workload and allow us to serve them faster.”
A long and productive relationship
Irish Life started its journey with Ushur in 2018 with SmartMail, and continued to add Ushur solutions to its various business units over the years, including Invisible App, Invisible Portal, IPA, and Data Extraction, all deployed to improve the firm’s customer experience. This latest initiative looks as though it will deliver the same stellar results.
“The pilot has surpassed our expectations regarding the member engagement rates, says Sean Johnston, senior business analyst at Irish Life. “The vast majority of customers have uploaded documents and have done so within a few hours, thus reducing the cycle time, and ensuring only valid claims are presented to the claim agent for assessment.”
Irish Life Assurance plc, commonly known as Irish Life, is an Irish life assurance and pensions
Company that has been part of the Great-West Lifeco group of companies since 2013. Irish Life provides group retirement and risk products to employer and affinity groups. Corporate Business is the biggest provider of employee benefit solutions in Ireland. CB alone has approximately 672,000 customers (both public and private sector), spread over 6,780 group arrangements, for whom they administer pensions, life assurance and income protection. Irish Life has annual revenue of more than $1 billion.