Failing to Prepare, Preparing to Fail
Insurance Experts' Forum, July 18, 2013
Catastrophes are now a part of the New Normal. As New Jersey Governor Chris Christie said late last year "I'm never gonna use the phrase hundred-year storm again because we've had three of those, three hundred-year storms, in the past three years."
NOAA has already predicted that "for the six-month hurricane season, which begins June 1, NOAA’s Atlantic Hurricane Season Outlook says there is a 70 percent likelihood of 13 to 20 named storms (winds of 39 mph or higher), of which 7 to 11 could become hurricanes (winds of 74 mph or higher), including 3 to 6 major hurricanes (Category 3, 4 or 5; winds of 111 mph or higher)."
And that doesn't account for such "unpredictable" disasters such as hail, tornados, or wildfires.
While there's nothing we can do to change the weather or other natural disasters, but there are steps insurers can take to prepare themselves and their customers for what may come. During a recent Customer Advisory Board meeting, catastrophic events and preparedness was an important topic of discussion and insurers presented their insights on how they prepare themselves and their customers.
First, it is essential that all of your staff is prepared on how to handle a major influx of claims. In times of crisis, it's all hands on deck and even those who may never have fielded a customer call may be needed to serve customers. Having a system that is easy to use, can quickly be configured for a specific cat event and can handle the volume is critical to servicing insureds and maintaining your position as a carrier that cares. The same holds true for helping your agent force as they work with clients to process claims.
In some cases, carriers gear up when a major catastrophe is on the horizon and there is ample time to prepare such as for a hurricane or "super-storm" situation. Some bring in temporary staff to assist in first notice of loss data collection calls. Again, a system that has high availability and is user friendly is eases that on-boarding process.
A second area that was important, according to the group, was communication. Your ability to keep customers informed, help them prepare, and even provide them with easy access to you and any required information both before and after the event makes the overall claims process easier and comforting for them and for you. In some cases, pre-opening a claim and providing them the number will give them comfort you are proactively preparing and protecting them. This helps them understand what information they need to provide in the unfortunate event that their home or car is damaged in a disaster and made it easily available. Get in touch with them following the event as well to be by their side in the event of an emergency. Being proactive once again makes you the carrier that cares.
Finally, find strategic partners that will support you in your time of need. Yes, catastrophes do hit insurance companies too.
Perhaps you can't handle the full call volume yourself. Maybe your company is in the line of fire and you are closed down by the storm. If you lose electricity, phones, or access to your facilities, you need a partner ready to step in, take the calls and support your customers. This support can be with call center staff for first notice of loss, managed independent adjuster networks to provide enough “boots on the ground” to provide effective and quality adjusting, access to managed repair networks for auto and property to ensure repairs are handled quickly, cost effectively and with top level service and finally access to a supply chain to provide the resources from rental cars to repair parts and more that could be ins short supply for your customers. While logically, customers may understand that you have problems too but in a crisis. But they are in crisis and want to be taken care of … and that's your role.
Some of our customers have looked to us for just that kind of support. Through software deployment options and business process services capabilities, insurers come to Innovation Group to assist with claims, because we know claims.
We don't know what the next big disaster will be or when it may happen. We have started our hurricane season early this year with three names hurricanes already while wildfires burn all over the Western states and parts of the Northeast are facing more flash flood alerts.
As Ben Franklin said, "by failing to prepare, you are preparing to fail" and none of us want to fail.
Denise Garth is the executive vice president of strategic marketing and industry relations, and global head of market strategy for Innovation Group North America. She can be reached for further comment or information via email at firstname.lastname@example.org
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