Canadian Underwriter

How to Be Ready for Make or Break Claim Moments

December 8, 2016   by Dara Banga, president, DSB Claims

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Last May, someone in remote Alberta started a wildfire that swept through Fort McMurray, took out the power grid, destroyed more than 2,000 homes, traveled 590,000 hectares to Saskatchewan, halted regional oil production, and raged for roughly three months before being brought under control. According to CBC News, the Fort McMurray fire was by far the costliest disaster in Canadian history. During its first month, it was projected to cost insurers $9 billion, and had already displaced 80 thousand people.

This tragic event serves as important reminder of the need for on-call adjusting expertise to extend your team. In the aftermath of such a disaster, claims volume swells rapidly, ballooning as if to burst. The onslaught is too much for in-house adjusters. When disaster strikes, you need a pool of on-call independent adjusters to manage the overflow.

Dara Banga, President & Chief Adjusting Officer, DSB Claims

Dara Banga, President & Chief Adjusting Officer, DSB Claims

That said, you can’t settle for just any independent adjusting firm. You need more than warm bodies to put your best foot forward. After all, this is a make or break moment for your company. Many policyholders have been paying their insurance premiums for years based on the blind faith that you’ll be there for them in moments such as this. This is no time for a mediocre performance. Now is the time to live up to the marketing promises.

Your on-call independent adjusting firm should prescreened, vetted, and used even in routine times so the process of working together is well-known before disaster strikes. What should you look for, other than claims adjusting experience?

Insist on the five essential qualities below to ensure you’re putting your best foot forward.

  1. Responsiveness

Your independent claims adjusting firm should be able to act within 24 hours’ notice or less. The firm should have an airtight method of receiving and responding to after-hours claims. Look for firms that use an answering service combined with a consistent on-call adjuster process. In addition, choose a firm with geographic spread across multiple cities. This ensures that a qualified adjuster is always within driving distance of the claim location.

Furthermore, the firm should make contact with the insured immediately using a variety of communication methods – from text messages, to email and phone calls. If possible, information about what to expect should be conveyed in advance of the adjuster’s arrival on site. This helps manage expectations and make the first on-site visit more productive.

  1. Empathy

Insurance adjusters-especially CAT adjusters-aren’t just number-crunchers. They interface with human beings who may have just experienced a traumatic, possibly heartbreaking event. While on paper the adjuster’s job is to investigate circumstances and damages, take statements, determine the amount of loss, negotiate settlements and prepare reports, their interpersonal duties are no less vital.

“As first responders, CAT adjusters witness emotional and physical disaster in a way few of us can imagine,” said Eric Gilkey at Claims Management. “They find insureds at their worst, pick them up, and then come back for more.”

Make sure your independent adjusting firm hires experienced individuals who have worked disasters in the past, and know how to interface with people in crisis. Look for adjusters who know how to relate to others, diffuse stressful situations and instill calm and hope in the face of chaos.

  1. Extraordinary Service

Forty-one percent of policyholders are likely to switch insurers within 12 months of filing a claim, according to Accenture, which surveyed 8,000 auto and home insurance customers across 14 countries. Interestingly, attrition happened even among customers who were satisfied with the way their claim was handled. Those who filed a claim were nearly twice as likely to switch insurers than those who didn’t.

This isn’t to say that policyholders will inevitably jump ship after a disaster, and there’s nothing you can do about it. Rather, it’s to inspire a higher level of customer care. To increase retention during a time of crisis, when the glue between insurer and insured has become more fragile than ever, it’s not enough to provide sufficient service. To maintain the relationship, service must be excellent.

Your claims adjusting firm should not only meet the bar for policyholder service, but raise it. Look for a firm that proactively measures customer satisfaction. Adjusters should know the vital role they play in customer retention and embrace the opportunity to represent you well.

  1. Communication

Claims must be handled as promptly as possible; that’s critical. Moreover, the policyholder must feel confident that they’re in capable hands, that their point of contact is trustworthy and proficient. Policyholder satisfaction cannot emerge without clear communication and a sense of partnership between insurer and insured, however.

With this goal in mind, your independent adjusting firm should be skilled at outlining and communicating next steps and following through judiciously. At any given time, policyholders must have the sense that things are moving forward. When claim recovery stagnates, policyholder satisfaction takes a nosedive. Ambiguity leads to unhappiness. Therefore, your independent adjusting firm should have a proactive method for keeping insureds informed at every step of the process.

  1. Transparency

Accenture also found that process transparency played an important role in shaping customer loyalty following a claim; in fact, 94 percent of those surveyed considered it “a key expectation.” An additional 90 percent said it was important as well to be able to contact their insurer at any time to check the status of their claim in real time.

Sixty-one percent said they preferred digital channels for that purpose. More than half (53 percent) said they would not recommend an insurer to friends and family if digital channels were not available. In fact, 44 percent said they would switch insurers themselves in the absence of a digital channel.

Clearly, electronic files are a necessity for any insurance adjusting firm doing business in the twenty-first century. You need to have real-time information from your claims adjusting firm, so you can provide up-to-the-minute information to your policyholders.

Understanding the Grave Importance of the Work to Be Done

What we’re really talking about here is performing when it matters most. We’re talking about rising to the occasion when disaster strikes, and being prepared even when we have no idea that we’re about to be needed. To achieve these goals, you need to be ready with more than a few extra adjusters – you need a highly professional independent adjusting firm with experienced adjusters who appreciate the grave importance of the work to be done. Start recruiting now before the next Fort McMurray.