Farmers hopes that virtual reality can help it more effectively train claims adjusters.As other major insurers continue to invest in recent technologies, Farmers Insurance recently incorporated virtual reality (VR) technology into its training sessions for claims adjusters. Using Facebook’s Oculus Rift headsets, adjusters-in-training view a virtual home ravaged by water or fire to uncover the source and extent of the damage.
Chief Claims Officer Keith Daly told Fortune that Farmers expects to train roughly 50 adjusters with the help of VR by the end of this year. The insurer eventually intends to bring thousands of claims adjusters through the VR program. “We believe that virtual reality is going to be able to shorten the learning curve [for workers] because we will be able to provide so many more experiences,” Daly explained.
A House Tour
The Farmers program provides claims adjusters with an immersive simulation of their typical duties. In one VR module, for example, adjusters “tour” a house pocked by water leaks. As they scan the virtual surroundings, they spot damage that could have been caused by an overflowing toilet or busted dishwasher and note the problem in a VR iPad device.
The exercise, which takes about 15 minutes, enables Farmers to grade adjusters on their ability to discover damage as well as their efforts to start repairs on the home. Each VR course can be programmed with different scenarios with varying difficulty levels for each trainee. Instruction is completely interactive, with adjusters able to virtually move furniture, open cabinets, or perform other routine tasks.
Designed by VR production company Talespin, Farmers’s VR training program mimics first-person video games. Daly said the company will eventually add more simulations, such as a house hit by hailstorms, to its VR adjuster courses. It currently has stored some 500 replications of real-life scenarios for adjusters to study.
Since the program is so new, Daly said the company has yet to determine whether it actually increases an adjuster’s knowledge and capabilities, but those who have taken the course appear to be more confident. The early results have encouraged Farmers, which hopes that VR will help it train more capable adjusters in less time, Daly told Fortune.
To spread learning opportunities throughout the company, VR courses can be uploaded and viewed on the company’s Facebook for Work account. Farmers even offers an “instant replay” feature for trainees to record and review their sessions for extra learning or practice.
More Tech for the Insurance Industry
Farmers’ venture into virtual reality demonstrates the insurance industry’s increased willingness to embrace new technologies throughout a company’s operations. While insurtech startups like Lemonade grab headlines for their digital apps, traditional insurers are backing insurtech startups, as well. Allianz, for example, has launched a division for the purpose of developing insurtech programs, while Liberty Mutual and USAA have heavily invested in Snapsheet, a virtual auto claim service with $20 million in new financing.
Even independent insurance agents can integrate new tech tools that employ artificial intelligence (AI) into their daily workflow. Similar to Farmers’s VR training lessons, agents can set up virtual assistants to answer basic client questions through a chatbot. For quick auto claim resolution, policyholders can upload after-crash photos to an AI-powered program to analyze the damage.
These technologies are not just for major carriers, like Farmers. They can also be applied in independent insurance agencies at a relatively affordable cost. To optimize operations and capture today’s tech-savvy consumers, independent insurance agents must follow the lead of established insurers and insurtech startups and adopt technology in a deeper way.