It doesn’t do any good to write new business unless you can service it well, and managing claims is one of today’s most complex challenges. Consumers expect full transparency and personalized service, and they want it right now. Meanwhile, claims executives have to deal with new claims exposures, variable volumes, and increased pressure from regulators, legislators and plaintiffs’ lawyers. Smaller companies can’t spend fortunes on technology the way industry behemoths can. But being smaller and nimbler has advantages, and the Web can level the playing field. Strategic use of the Web lets smaller insurers innovate despite smaller budgets.
Getting rid of manual processes is essential to becoming more efficient. Linking claims systems via the Web with external information providers is relatively inexpensive and reduces the manual steps needed to process claims. Web-based systems also can automate internal communication of claims data.
Giving the customer online tools creates an opportunity for individual customization and on-demand information. Letting customers report claims online and view their status is a good start, but insurers can go beyond that and let customers truly self-service their claim and gain the control they desire.
Consider the parties engaged in any claim involving damage to a motor vehicle or other property: the insured, the insurer, the damage appraiser or field adjuster (who may be a company employee or an independent contractor), and the contractor who repairs the property, whether it’s a dented auto or a damaged house. Coordinating communication among these parties gets complicated, and when messages aren’t sent promptly or get misconstrued, foul-ups, higher costs and customer dissatisfaction occur.
A Web portal can be an ideal mechanism for enabling communication among all parties involved in resolving a claim. It increases business agility and IT flexibility, while enabling customers to access up-to-date information. If the portal is fully Web 2.0-enabled, it will facilitate information-sharing and collaboration as well cut costs.
The insurer can give customers with claims access to repair providers. This takes sophisticated Web technology as well as an understanding of how to use data as a driving force in creating connections and networks.
TAKING IT TO A NEW LEVEL
An insurer can build its own system or use an industry service that’s accessed via a browser and thus avoid creating or buying any technology. For example, when the insured calls to report an auto or property damage claim, the adjuster asks if he or she would be willing to choose from a list of available contractors on the Web portal. If the customer says yes, the adjuster easily transmits and uploads the loss information. The service immediately assigns an appraiser who will inspect the damage, take pictures, write the estimate and submit the estimate and photos of the damaged vehicle or property to the site.
Depending on the type of claim, the site automatically notifies participating local autobody shops, fire-restoration services or builders via email about the availability of the potential job. These providers can view the appraisal online and submit “proposals” to the vehicle or property owner via the Web. The contractor indicates how soon it can begin the job and how long it will take to complete it. The customer reviews the proposals and reads reviews of the repair providers written by past customers, along with information on the provider’s training, certifications and warranty. Customers can then make an informed decision on a service provider.
Once the repair is completed, the insured fills out a brief survey and rates the provider’s performance. This also is posted on the site. It’s a key element because people trust information from online peers. Word-of-mouth is still the strongest influencer in consumer decision-making. It also gives repair providers an incentive to communicate with customers and provide good service or risk getting bad reviews.
Letting insureds select their provider cuts down on the claims department’s workload by effectively outsourcing the bulk of the work to repair vendors and customers, who get more control over the process—and they like that control.
By taking advantage of flexible Web-based technology, nimble regional and niche insurers can take claims service to a new level.
Ian Cunningham is CEO of Scene Genesis Inc., Pittsford, N.Y.
(c) 2008 Insurance Networking News and SourceMedia, Inc. All Rights Reserved.
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