One of the most common complaints of policyholders who have a negative claims experience is the lack of speed to indemnification, which ultimately equates to a slow claims process.
This bad experience can translate into lost business. According to a recent Accenture study, 83% of policyholders who have a poor claims experience plan to switch to a new provider or have already done so.
After a catastrophe, your clients experience a myriad of emotions: fear, uncertainty, grief, anger, confusion — the situation is inherently a negative one. You have the unique opportunity to be a beacon of hope during that time, but in order to provide that hope you must have certain procedures in place to expedite the claims process.
Before the storm
Educate your clients. No doubt your agency did a stellar job explaining the policy and what it covers when the customer purchased it.
But perhaps it has been a while since that initial purchase, or maybe your client’s coverage needs have changed and they haven’t thought to update their policy. Homeowners do not think about their insurance coverage when they install a detached shop or undertake a large restoration project.
Check in with your clients periodically to see whether their coverage is still appropriate and that they have a clear understanding of their policy as a whole. For example, many clients are surprised and upset when they learn the policy in force covers the roof at actual cash value instead of replacement cost value.
Take the time to provide an overview of your claims process. Many clients have no idea how the insurance claims process works until they must file a claim. During the aftermath of a catastrophe is not the time to educate them on your process for the first time. Before the storm, provide your customer base with information about the insurance claim’s workflow as well as how and why third parties are involved, and then make sure you give clients an opportunity to ask any questions they may have.
Provide contact information for local resources. Depending on the severity of the event, it can take days for emergency aid to access the affected area, which will ultimately delay the resolution for your client. Before a predicted event, send your clients contact information for local resources that can provide emergency repairs, shelter and other services they may need.
These local resources can respond more quickly after an event, which will not only ensure your clients’ safety but also can allow the claims process to begin even earlier.
Encourage your clients to gather important documents. Lienholder information, policy documentation and personal identifying documents should be uploaded securely to cloud-based storage. That way, if there is an emergency evacuation, your clients’ claims process won’t be delayed by trying to locate documents they may have had to leave behind.
Have updated contact information on file. Before a predicted event, send out communications asking your clients to confirm their current contact information and any emergency contacts they may want on file. After the event, you will be able to get in touch with your clients and start the claims process as soon as possible.
Encourage pre-loss documentation. Instruct your clients on how to document their property and contents properly. Photos, receipts and appraisal documents also can be uploaded to secure cloud-based storage. Having this documentation available will save an incredible amount of time during the claims process. Photos of the pre-loss condition of the client’s home and personal property can go a long way toward resolving any potential disputes before they happen.
After the storm
First notice of loss is critical. Having an accurate description of damages will help you prioritize what needs to happen with each individual client. Is the home livable? If not, then the priority should be securing safe shelter for them and their families and then focusing on their claim. If the home is livable, encourage the client to start documenting their loss. This will help expedite the claims process during those times when field adjusters are inundated with high claim volumes.
Start working on personal property. If their home is livable or safe to return to, have the client start working on their damaged personal property list. The client should list damaged items in an Excel spreadsheet, including details such as the year purchased and the original purchase price.
Having a list of damaged personal property that can be compared quickly with their pre-loss documentation will save the adjuster time and result in the most appropriate indemnification for the client at the claim’s onset.
Inform the client of their duties after the loss. Many clients have not read their policy, including their duties after the loss. Knowing they must make reasonable repairs to mitigate losses and provide supporting evidence for their claim is vital to ensuring a smooth claims process.
Advise the client on how to handle repairs and maintain invoice and payment documentation. The repair process is a part of post-event recovery. Informing the client on how to perform temporary repairs and maintain proper documentation of repairs will ensure the claim progresses quickly and smoothly.
Ensure your client knows that damage must be documented and preserved. For example, if a permanent repair is required before the adjuster’s inspection, take plenty of photos of the damaged area or items before making the needed repairs, and maintain invoices, estimates and receipts to present to the adjuster upon their inspection.
Vet and verify contractors. It’s sad, but there are those who will try to take advantage of loss victims, especially after a large-scale event. You can set your clients’ minds at ease by providing them with a list of contractors who have already been vetted by your company and meet the proper requirements, such as being insured and bonded. Instruct your clients to collect and maintain any documentation provided by the contractor, such as repair estimates and payment receipts. If the client is able to provide these directly to their adjuster, it can expedite the claims process.
A fast and efficient claims process is important for insurance companies that want to retain their customers and effectively manage their brand, but it is of paramount importance to policyholders. An efficient claims process will enable your clients to start to rebuild their lives as soon as possible after a devastating event. And you have the privilege of being a part of that.