According to Chathuri Munaweera, the Director of Operations at AIA Sri Lanka, the Company’s focus on delivering the best-in-class customer experience and service standards has been a priority. She believes that the best way to gain competitive advantage in the industry is by being easily accessible to customers for all their needs and being a convenient digital savvy partner with simple processes. Chathuri explained that the company had been on an accelerated digitisation journey and has transformed from mainly manual operational processes to a very high degree of automation in a short time. Chathuri explained that AIA looks at each part of the Buy, Serve and Claim journeys and seeks to improve customer ease and fast turn-around times. Digitisation allows for customer empowerment and self-service leading to better customer satisfaction. For instance, as Chathuri pointed out, “The introduction of contactless premium collections was intended to ensure the convenience and safety of our customers. We offer multiple premium payment options across different platforms including creating our very own payment app – Quick Pay, AIA’s website and the Customer Portal, and extended to online banking, mCash, eZ Cash and the Genie app so that customers can conveniently make payments from the safety and comfort of their homes.” 

Another example she explained was the introduction of AIA’s fully automated and integrated IVR (Interactive Voice Response) system to the Inbound Call Care Centre, an industry first in Sri Lanka, which enables consumers to easily obtain information about their policies thus simplifying customer experience and increasing customer convenience. “We are pleased to see more clients opting for self-service options due to the client’s convenience and ease of use.”

Given the sudden hit of the pandemic and the crippling of previous work methods, the preparedness and agility of the AIA team meant that customers continued to be served seamlessly.  According to Chathuri, long before the pandemic took over, AIA was ready to operate from home and had the infrastructure, online security and other systems which enabled them to adapt faster and better to the new normal.

“Over 700 employees worked from home within 24 hours of the lockdown. Over 2000 advisors were trained to use online platforms to reach customers and continue to help them with their insurance needs; Our branch and head office leadership team used digital dashboards and online conferencing platforms to manage our business remotely”, recounted Chathuri, giving a glimpse of the hard work that has helped AIA create the benchmark it is today. Giving a good ear to customer feedback, constantly learning and improving with a committed team and with world-class technology and infrastructure, AIA has managed to thrive and shine through the tough times. 

In her view, challenges are coupled with opportunities, especially during an era where people are wired to be more risk conscious. As much as people want to be insured, they may avoid routine hospital visits and other necessities that could potentially threaten their health. This calls for new ideas and upskilling innovations to deal with the emerging problems that the industry has never dealt with before, including adapting to new methods for policy underwriting to help AIA’s Ops team make timely and accurate decisions. Whilst keeping their customers satisfied, the new post pandemic processes must be looked over by the staff who are now operating remotely. The multiple details that need to be reviewed by a company before issuing an insurance policy are still being performed seamlessly but with added context of staff working remotely which presents a whole host of new challenges. According to Chathuri, it is essential to constantly engage and motivate your team and stay even more connected so that they can all operate most effectively in the new hybrid environment AIA has evolved to. 

As Chathuri states, “We are driving innovation to differentiate ourselves and create a niche for our products and services continuously. AIA Group started its journey to shape a digitally transformed organization, even before the pandemic.” It is clear that innovation plays a pivotal role in AIA’s continued growth and success, along with an operational strategy that prioritizes providing the ultimate customer experience at every point of the customer journey.  

According to her, being one of the first insurers to have the paperless submission process has made it possible to swiftly follow up with the policy issuing, straight-through processing, digital claims, submissions, and servicing capabilities. They partnered with Sri Lanka’s pioneer telemedicine provider oDoc to assist in telemedicine services, even before the pandemic made such services essential. The homegrown app AIA Quick Pay introduced in 2019 is now a widely used platform by AIA’s customers. Identifying these trends early and investing in implementing solutions such as RPA, data lake, process dashboards, and improving straight through processing has become standard for the operations team who are always looking to improve customer service and journey. “Innovation in the Operations area should be focused on technology and processes which can truly delight the customer with faster policy issuance, instant claims settlement and empowering the customer with self-service tools.” 

To make an operation better, it is vital to understand what the customer requires and cater to those needs. Technology plays a vital role in creating a superlative customer experience. Therefore, AIA makes it a point to invest in technology that provides the company and its operations with analytical solutions that help improve service processing. Technology is vital when it comes to continuous review and improvement of the customer journey as well as company standards. In Chathuri’s words, “Automation for us is a big differentiator in offering a seamless service to our customers in all interactions”. Automated dashboards are used to measure the growth and success of the business, overall. For example, AIA tracks the proportion of its business transactions that are performed without human intervention and turnaround times across every service request from the customer. For example, claims processing is a critical moment of truth and 75 percent of their claims are completed within hours of receiving claims documentation. 

Talking about the future, Chathuri expresses that the fundamental changes made during the pandemic will continue as we settle into the post pandemic world. According to her, customers have adapted and are starting to evolve around a fully digitalized system, and as a business, AIA must be ready to serve them in the way that they desire. In addition, she believes new and fresh interests as well as the importance given to life and health insurance will prevail, creating increased transactions, which may have to be handled through a hybrid or remote team of people. “Having sustained ways not just to handle additional volumes but also having a robust risk management framework is an integral part of our decision-making process”, she pointed out.

In conclusion, Chathuri notes that the ‘new normal’ work arrangements are here to stay, and digitalization will be part and parcel of delivering customer convenience.  “We are constantly focusing on our customers’ wellbeing. The key is to balance high-tech, high-touch, and high trust to create a more direct, faster, and enhanced customer experience as we navigate an increasingly hybrid landscape. To achieve this, we clearly establish expected outcomes, empower cross-functional teams and constantly review our progress to ensure customer satisfaction” she stated.