June 15, 2020 by Adam Malik
Auto insurance customers should enjoy a shorter claims journey if pandemic-related changes stick around, insurance pros told Canadian Underwriter recently.
Social distancing rules related to the COVID-19 pandemic have forced the insurance industry, along with its customers, to adopt technology for insurance-related services. Once existing on the fringes, a fully digital claims environment is now one step closer to fruition. One benefit, which is often touted by insurers as a differentiator between them and their competitors, is that the claims process has sped up.
Take digital appraisals as an example. Even though it was available to customers before the COVID-19 pandemic, the current climate has pushed the technology to become commonplace.
“The pandemic environment only advanced the introduction of this application more quickly,” said John Lockwood, vice president of insurance relations at CSN Collision Centres. Photo-based appraisals “are certainly here to stay, and we are likely to see its utilization expanded and perfected over time.”
Intac told Canadian Underwriter that its digital tools include allowing clients to make a claim online, initiate digital appraisals through its app, provide photos and follow their claims journey as it happens.
“These digital tools ensure that we get all the required information from the customer, which can also be verified through various channels, including our Rely Network,” a company spokesperson said, referring to its certified repair network. “These digital tools existed before the pandemic, and we will continue to reinforce their benefit to customers.”
Collisions are down as people travel less amid the pandemic. Claims teams and repair shops aren’t as busy as they used to be and claims are moving along faster than before. But if using this type of technology sticks around post-pandemic, Lockwood told Canadian Underwriter that the opportunity is still there to shorten the cycle.
Meanwhile, the relationship between insurer and repair facility has changed in a physically distancing world. Adjusters aren’t visiting repair shops to inspect damage anymore. “In a very small number of circumstances, a vehicle may require personal inspection,” Lockwood said. “In these scenarios, insurer approaches may differ slightly. However, they are consistent in the sense that they reduce personal interaction between the appraiser and collision centre personnel.”
That also means more distanced communication, and more often than before, he noted.
“During COVID-19, the frequency of our communication with our insurer partners certainly increased,” Lockwood said. “Operational capacity was of primary concern. However, we also used this opportunity to provide our insurer partners with additional awareness of relevant market developments in the pandemic environment. In essence, there is a mutual recognition that we’re in an unprecedented environment. And agility in our decision-making, combined with an enhanced level of cooperation and understanding, is our only path to success.”
Like many other businesses, claims teams and repair shops are meeting via video conference or over the phone. “We do look forward to the future where we can responsibly re-connect with our partners and colleagues,” he added.
There can be some limitations, though. Assessments are based on what is seen in a picture. So the repair facility and insurer have to exchange more information after the fact. “There are likely to be more supplemental appraisals in a photo-based appraisal environment,” Lockwood said.
Intact said photos are sent electronically for about 60% of auto claims, giving them the opportunity to create estimates and pre-order parts for repair. “Adjustment to theses estimates can later be made when cars are being repaired.”
Both sides are putting their best foot forward during these unusual times, Lockwood said. “I would characterize the relationship as collaborative as insurers and collision centres work together to provide the best customer experience.”
Feature image by iStock.com/GregorBister