S4:E2 • January 25, 2024 •
Digital Innovations in Insurance: Insights and Trends Beyond 2024 with Casey Averett

In the latest episode of the Digital Adoption Show, hosted by Shreya Shrivastava, Senior Customer Success Manager at Whatfix, the focus shifts to digital innovations in the insurance sector. Season 4 kicks off with an exploration of insights, trends, and innovations beyond 2024. The special guest for this episode is Casey Averett, the Director of Claim Strategy at The General, a part of American Family Insurance.


Exploring New Horizons in Digital Innovations

Season 4 promises to delve into uncharted territories, bringing to the forefront fresh perspectives and thought-provoking discussions. The focus of the latest episode is squarely on digital innovations within the insurance sector, aiming to uncover trends that will shape the landscape beyond 2024. This episode sets the tone for a season dedicated to exploring the cutting-edge advancements that are redefining industry standards.

Spotlight on Casey Everett: A Strategy Maestro

The highlight of this episode was the introduction of a very special guest, Casey Everett, the Director of Claim Strategy at The General, a part of American Family Insurance. With a rich history of over 20 years at American Family Insurance, Casey’s journey from a casualty claim desk adjuster to a strategic leader was shared. His role in driving significant profit growth and operational improvements through his innovative strategies in auto glass and rental services was emphasized, showcasing his pivotal contributions to the industry.

Introducing “The Digital Pulse”: Connecting Passion with Profession

“In this particular season, we’ve introduced a new segment called ‘Third Digital Pulse’. Before we dive into our discussions, let’s understand what this digital pulse is all about. This segment is where we try to connect the dots between passion and profession. I’m sure everyone has passions that correlate to their profession in some way. So let’s uncover how individual journeys shape visionary leadership. For instance, there’s something about customer success that keeps me engaged and motivated to do this podcast with you. Can you tell us a little bit about yourself and if there’s a passion or activity outside of work that’s particularly close to your heart?”

Guest Spotlight: Casey’s World Beyond Insurance

“Yeah. Clearly, as described, I’m a bit of an insurance geek, a self-proclaimed one from that perspective. I really sort of fortuitously fell into a career that has been so rewarding in many ways, working for the American Family Group, specifically for The General. It brings so much to my life and has been very rewarding for me, engaging on a number of levels. I work on the claim side specifically, which is a very dynamic environment. There’s always something new happening, new challenges, and new opportunities from that perspective. I’m so grateful for the opportunities that I have to work where I do and be a part of The General at this point in time.

On a personal note, I’ve got three amazing kids at home, a wonderful wife, and a French Bulldog that sort of rules the roost in our home. Unfortunately, we call him our ‘diva dog’. And we live on the foothills of the mountains in Utah, so I get the pleasure of looking out my window at the beautiful mountains every single day. In terms of personal passions outside of work, my wife would tell you I have way too many hobbies and interests. I’m a DIYer, I play guitar, I’m a photographer, but right now, when I’m not at work, you can generally find me up in the mountains. We’re in the middle of snow ski season, and my days off are spent sliding down the mountain, diving those ski slopes with my kids, and trying to keep up with them. So it’s a fun challenge and activity that keeps us busy when I’m not working.”

Introducing the “Triple Strike” Rapid Fire Round

“Okay, now that was just to understand a bit more about your passion. Next up, we have the rapid-fire section. We’ve revamped our rapid-fire round and we call it ‘Triple Strike’ where we ask our guests three quirky questions and expect fun answers to get a deeper glimpse into their minds. So, I hope you’re ready, Casey, to be ‘Triple Struck’.”

“I hope I don’t strike out, but let’s go. I’m ready. Let’s do it.”

First Strike: The Billboard Question

“Awesome. Okay, now I have one very interesting question for you. If you could have a giant billboard anywhere with anything on it, what would it say and why?”

“Yeah, interesting question. My mind goes immediately to one of my favorite television shows, ‘Ted Lasso’—a show about a football or soccer coach that’s transplanted into the world of professional soccer. He’s a very inspiring and positive leader who really brings out the best in those around him. One of the quotes he shares, which he credits to Walt Whitman, is, ‘Be curious, not judgmental.’ I think there’s so much power in that statement, applicable not just in our polarized society but also in leadership. Being curious rather than arrogant, asking impactful questions—this helps lead people and solve business challenges. That curiosity is a powerful force for innovation and improvement. So, the billboard would say, ‘Be curious, not judgmental.’”

“Very nicely articulated. And curiosity is the key to a lot of questions. I’ve always been curious to ask questions and have never hesitated. When you’re curious, you learn a lot from others—really great insights, Casey. And I think I’m going to apply this to my day-to-day life for sure.”

Second Strike: The Animated Car Collection

“I see there are a lot of cars behind you. So if your car collection came to life, ‘Toy Story’ style, which model do you think would be the leader and why?”

“It’s an interesting question. I have about 50 cars around me here in the office, including Lamborghinis and muscle cars, even a Monster school bus. But I’d say the first car I was given, a Samba-style Volkswagen bus, would be the leader. It’s confident in who it is, with a quiet subtlety that allows other more dominant personalities, like Lamborghinis, to shine. It’s emblematic of the kind of leader I want to be.”

“And I loved your thought. I thought you were going to pick some luxury car. So fascinating to learn about the story behind the car you chose.”

“That’s always been my favorite for personal and sentimental reasons.”

Third Strike: Dinner with a Historical or Fictional Figure

“Now another interesting question. If you had to invite a historical or fictional figure to a dinner party, who would you invite and what would you serve them?”

“This is a tough one, but I think I’d invite Steve Jobs. I admire his visionary leadership and his ability to see possibilities where others might not. He was noted for his vegan diet, so the food choice might be interesting as I’m on the very opposite end of that spectrum. But it would be great to engage with him in dialogue about innovation and leadership.”

“Interesting. And you said something that really resonates—that customers don’t know what they want until we introduce it to them. That’s a profound insight, Casey.”

“It’s a fun question for sure.”

Kickstarting the Discussion: Digital Innovations in Insurance

“Can you give us a broad overview of the top three digital innovations currently reshaping the insurance industry and impacting the sector? This one is really tricky.”

“It’s a good question. Technology is a pervasive element impacting many things across the broader economy, and my expertise certainly lies within insurance claims specifically. Therefore, my answers will likely skew in that direction.”

The Four Pillars of Claims Environment

“In our claims environment, which is very dynamic and constantly changing, we focus on what we call our ‘balanced accountabilities’ or our four pillars. Firstly, we consider our customer experience—how we are delivering value to our customers and what we are doing from a product and service standpoint to attract new customers and retain current ones. The other three pillars are accuracy, ensuring that we pay what is owed both to our policyholders and to those who may be affected by claims; efficiency, making sure that we handle claims as cost-effectively and expediently as possible; and lastly, our internal value proposition—investing in our employees, skilling them up to ensure they can deliver at their full capability.”

Impact of Technology on Claims Management

“When I think about technology in this space, it certainly touches all four areas of our accountability in a significant way. My mind immediately goes to a few technologies. First and foremost, telematics has had a profound impact on our world. Although primarily applied in underwriting to understand customers’ driving habits and behaviors, the interesting claims applications that might stem from this technology are numerous. For example, telematics could enable accident scene service options, such as dispatching a tow truck to the scene of an accident immediately, or allowing for immediate claim filing to expedite the recovery process. Additionally, it could enable better vehicle damage predictions based on the G-force of a collision.”

“Then there’s the world of machine learning and automation, which has really taken off in recent years. We’re just beginning to scratch the surface of what’s possible here, such as personalizing our service options more meaningfully for our customers and increasing the speed and accuracy of our responses to get them back on the road to recovery sooner. Many people fear that AI will take over jobs, but I see it differently, especially in claims. Our adjusters, who are immensely talented and empathetic, will work in parallel with this technology, amplifying their abilities to assist our customers through difficult times.”

“Yeah, that was very nicely articulated, Casey. You mentioned a fun thing, right, when you would be assisting your customers. It’s very important. There would be a lot of things going on with the customer, so to be able to assist and having that empathy along with it because AI can never replace that part which your claims adjusters are doing. And I have felt it, being closely involved with this particular sector. So good feel a lot of it, and also at times when we would have gone ahead and claimed for certain insurance. So yeah, nicely articulated.”

Transforming Insurance with Data

“How is the increasing availability of data transforming insurance practices, particularly in underwriting and claims processing? And can you also elaborate on specific ways you think digital innovations will enhance the customer experience in insurance within the next few years?”

“Big question, very broad question. Data really lies at the heart of everything we’re trying to accomplish, especially in terms of our understanding and analysis of the business. Insurance has always been a data-rich environment. Although ‘big data’ is a term not necessarily used anymore, insurance has always been part of that big data conversation because we have so much data at our fingertips. It starts from the point of policy inception, with how we price our products, and extends through how we understand our customers at a deeper level.”

Enhancing Customer Experience Through Data

“Our goal is ensuring that we are offering a product that meets our customers’ needs at the point of loss. How can we personalize those products and develop services that meet them at that critical moment? Data informs those decisions every day at The General. We lean heavily into the partnerships we have with our data science team to structure our data and draw out insights in a more meaningful way.

There are several pieces of the puzzle that we can put together, some disparate pieces of information that help predict certain outcomes and inform our decision-making. For example, predicting total losses earlier in the process could potentially reduce the resolution time from several days or weeks to an immediate decision. This allows us to move a vehicle in a specific direction and move the customer to remediation much quicker.”

Reacting to Market Trends with Agility

“On the other side, considering the volatility we’ve experienced in the market, particularly in the insurance space, how can we identify market trends quicker to maintain a more competitive stance? By using data more effectively, we can price our products competitively and adjust much quicker than historically possible, where we might have waited months or even years to identify a trend.”

“Got it, makes sense. And one thing you spoke of—being proactively able to identify—and I think identifying the problem itself in the first place, that could again be answered with some digital innovations. From a claim adjuster’s perspective, if there’s something that tells me what I need to do, it will obviously get into the muscle memory. And I know the next time I open, this is what I need to do, and I’ll be quicker. So, I think it also has a lot of links to the efficiency part of it, which is going to be somewhat related to the next question that I have for you.”

Addressing Digital Innovation Challenges in Insurance

“What are the top three challenges your insurance industry faces in adopting these digital innovations, and how can they overcome them? I think it’s a lot related to the change management part of it, but I would really like to know more insights from you.”

“Yeah, obviously, technology is advancing at a very rapid rate. When we think about technologies or tools like ChatGPT, even just a year ago, we were just starting to understand what ChatGPT was. To think that we’re now starting to look at implementation and how we can leverage that and lean into it—it’s a very exciting proposition. One of the things that we look at The General in terms of prioritization is that technology for technology’s sake is just a shiny new toy syndrome, right?

We’re really looking to prioritize technologies and solutions that truly match our customers’ needs and match our processes to the extent that we can provide the best possible outcome for our customer. As you mentioned, there are a number of headwinds that we face in terms of getting those into our business and introducing them.”

The Importance of Change Management

“First and foremost, and as you mentioned, it revolves around change management. There’s an internal learning curve that exists around anything that we introduce. Prioritizing and sequencing and making sure that we’re considering the bandwidth of the organization before introducing something becomes very critical.

We’ve focused very heavily on trying to avoid or move past the legacy mindset, ensuring that we’re embracing change. In this day and age, change is a constant. There was a leader I worked with not long ago who said, ‘The pace of change will never be as slow as it is today.’ I think that’s so insightful in terms of the world we’re living in and how we need to adopt and embrace some of these technologies. But it’s a very real consideration as we think about introducing these tools, the learning curve that comes along with that, and in some cases, the fear that people have, as we mentioned earlier in the conversation, about what these technologies can do or what it means to them.”

Overcoming Legacy Mindsets and Systems

“On the other side of that, there’s also a real consideration, which is the cost of integration and the time it takes to get those technologies implemented. There’s a planning process we consider much earlier to make sure that we’re considering the time needed to get those in place. In addition to getting past legacy mindsets, we’re trying to make sure we’re getting past legacy systems and that we’re staying on the leading edge, prioritizing tools that will deliver the greatest value for our customer. We’re constantly competing in that space to stay ahead of the curve.”

“So, yes, there are a number of headwinds, but I think those are a few that come to mind in terms of things that we actively consider and that become a part of our thought process.”

Embracing Efficiency and Innovation in the Insurance Industry

“In your view, what key strategies should insurance companies adopt to enhance efficiency today? Especially considering the importance of continuous improvement.”

“I don’t know if I have any specific examples, but I’m going to answer your question more philosophically than directly. Insurance is obviously a very mature industry, and I think the risk we often face is maintaining a status quo approach to things. We’ve really tried to actively avoid this, constantly looking at the horizon and asking, ‘What’s coming? What do we need to be thinking about? Where do we need to position ourselves to be an active participant in the industry and remain competitive?’ My dad always used to say growing up that we are always moving forward or moving backward, but we are never standing still.”

Continuous Improvement and Business Agility

“And I think there’s a business application to that as well—that we want to make sure we’re always moving forward, always advancing, improving, and progressing. When you talk about continuous improvement, that’s where my mind goes. Philosophically, I think about our need, and really, as an industry, the need to be open and agile in our approach. The same things that got us here today are not going to be the things that dictate our success in the next five years.”

Cultural Emphasis on Innovation and Experimentation

“So, culturally, we talk about failing fast and failing often. Failing is very different than failure. Trying new things is a very worthwhile exercise. At The General, we really are focused on embracing those opportunities to blaze new trails or experiment with new ways of doing our business. We embrace the opportunity to be the guinea pig in certain respects.”

“I mentioned Steve Jobs earlier in the conversation. One of the things he was also noted as saying is that he’s as proud of the projects he said no to as the ones he said yes to or that he’s given a green light to. And I think there’s power in that. On a good, better, best spectrum, we’re looking for those things, those tools, those technologies that are going to help us get the farthest, the fastest. So saying no to something doesn’t mean it doesn’t have value or isn’t worthwhile. It only means that we’re opting to look for something better for our business.”

“And that makes sense. And now, because I know a lot, I have worked as a customer success manager with you. And that’s one thing that I’ve seen very differently with The General is its openness to innovations, right? Like I share certain things—this is what we can implement, this is what we can do, maybe this is one of the ways where we can strategize better to help the key registers. And it’s always welcomed, right? So the part of adopting that technology and the willingness to adopt is, I think, the key that works for The General. And I have closely observed it.”

“That’s great. I’m glad you’ve seen that. Yeah, that’s a value that’s near and dear to our heart and something we’ve really tried to institute amongst the team, a cultural value.”

 Harnessing Digital Innovation in Insurance: A Case Study

“Can you share a case study where digital innovation impacted insurance practices? You spoke some of it in our previous conversations, but is there anything at this point in time that you consider an icebreaker or that just brought you to that success?”

“Good question. I think if the experience of COVID taught us anything, it was that we need to be willing to adapt and adjust very quickly. COVID required us to turn on a dime in terms of how we service our customers and interact with them, as well as in the courses of our processes, working virtually in a more extensive environment. We call that period one of forced innovation. I’ve said before that I think that period, the year between 2020 and 2021, as an industry, really propelled us forward probably three to five years further than we would have been otherwise.”

Implementing Self-Service Options

“When I think about what that means for The General and the entire AmFam group, one of the things we’ve been focused on, and getting to your question in terms of a case study, has been looking at self-service options for our customers who value that independence. We have a large segment of our customer base that values the option to self-service their own claim, to perhaps file their claim digitally through an app or a web solution. This enables them to select a body shop that they’d like to work with and schedule their own repair, and be in control of that process. Perhaps even looking to a rental car company to get something set up for themselves, no more waiting for an adjuster to be assigned or to contact them.”

“They’re in the driver’s seat. One of the tools in particular that I’m excited about that we’ve been able to leverage over the last few years, specifically around our photo appraisal, is where we look at damage on the vehicles. We’ve been able to harness various tools of artificial intelligence to scan and look at photos submitted by our customers within seconds, and start sizing up exactly how much damage we’re talking about. For some of those simpler claims in particular, we can start preparing an estimate of damage that, in other cases in a prior state, might have taken days or even weeks to prepare. Today, this technology gives us the opportunity to prepare that appraisal within seconds.”

“Right? So, at the point the customer submits those photos, we can have an initial version of an estimate turned back around to them within seconds or even minutes to get them back on the path to recovery that much faster. I just think about the potential or the experience that our customers are seeing through those processes just like that. It is so impactful to the potential and what the future holds as we expand on those capabilities even further.”

Reflecting on the Impact and Looking Forward

“Amazing. That’s interesting. I never knew about it. Like we have really moved forward in that aspect as well. And this is the best thing we can do for our customers being a customer and having insurance. This is one of the things I can vouch for, to be able to get quicker replies. And I think it is all related to how quickly we have the data, or how quickly the claim processes have that information. So this is a great thing. And I think that’s one of the things that you will be carrying into 2024.”

Exploring the Future of Insurance Beyond 2024

“Now looking even further beyond 2024, what are your top predictions for the insurance industry? Now that we are growing in every aspect, what do you think would be the key takeaway for 2024 and further?”

“So, if there’s anything I’ve learned over the last couple of years, it’s to expect the unexpected, right? To adapt, to adjust. And so, I don’t know that I’m ready to make predictions because undoubtedly, I will be wrong. I’ll probably be eating my words at a later point. But I think the future holds a number of interesting questions that have yet to be answered, right?”

Customer Expectations and Technological Integration

“And answering those questions, I think, becomes a very interesting proposition here. One thing we know for certain is that our customer expectations are changing daily. What they expect from us as their insurance provider, how they expect to interact with us, both at the point of sale and at the point of claim—what are those expectations, and how can we meet them? We’ve talked about a number of technologies in terms of offering a more omni-channel approach for our customers. If we have a customer that would rather engage with us through email, how can we do that most actively? If you have a customer that prefers the app or the web environment, how do we engage with them in the most meaningful way?”

“We have another customer segment, certainly, that loves that personal interaction and loves to converse over the phone and work directly with their adjuster. So, there are exciting questions yet to be answered in that space in terms of where we can meet our customer where it best meets their needs.”

Proactive Steps and Innovative Solutions

“But alternatively, when I think about the question, I think about changing climate patterns. I think about the increase in accident frequency and severity. As an insurance company, there are things that we can and should be thinking about in terms of how perhaps we can take more proactive steps to help our customers mitigate the impact of their losses or even perhaps avoid a loss altogether. There’s technology out there when you think about the Internet of Things or connected devices, where we can start thinking about proactive alerts or how we can lean into telematics or other information sharing to try and mitigate those losses or the impacts, or even avoid them altogether.”

“And that’s an exciting proposition for me. And then, maybe the last thing I think about is how we, given the scale of our business, as insurance companies can create value-added partnerships and maybe even digital handshakes throughout the marketplace to drive value to our customers in ways that we would have never thought or our customers would have never even thought possible, allowing them to tap into aspects of their claim or elements to help them be made whole again that we’ve never explored previously.”

“So again, I’m not making any predictions. There’s no crystal ball being pulled out here, but I do think there’s definitely some interesting questions yet to be answered in the industry and so much potential for us to explore new avenues for value to our customer.”

The Importance of Customer Experience

“Agreed, and like I always say, being a customer, we can always relate to those parts of it. I think it has a lot to do with the experience. I am always more inclined towards where we have a better experience. We get quicker replies. And that’s going to happen once, you know, all of the claim adjusters, processors, they know what they need to do and what they need to provide.”

“So faster, quicker, better.”

“Yeah, those are the four pillars I mentioned. So absolutely.”

Wrapping Up Today’s Insightful Journey

As we conclude today’s episode, a heartfelt thanks goes out to Casey for sharing his invaluable insights into the digital innovations shaping the insurance industry. It’s been an enlightening discussion that brought to light aspects we’ve not previously explored in depth on our show.

For those eager to dive deeper or connect with the ideas shared today, remember that you can find all our episodes on major platforms like Apple Podcasts, Spotify, and Google Podcasts. We encourage you to reach out and engage with the thoughts and strategies discussed, as each episode aims to equip you with knowledge to navigate the digital transformations impacting various industries.

Don’t forget to subscribe to the Digital Adoption Show to stay updated with our latest episodes. Each session is crafted to bring you valuable insights and strategies from industry leaders like Casey, ensuring you’re always a step ahead in understanding the complex world of digital adoption.

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