Remote Loss Adjusting Vs. Boots on the Ground: Why Both Are Crucial for Top-Notch Claims Performance

By: | February 7, 2021

Ian M. Thompson has more than 25 years’ experience in numerous senior insurance leadership roles. His career to date has spanned risk engineering, operational risk management, strategy development, strategic innovation, transformation and operational delivery. Ian was appointed Zurich’s Group Chief Claims Officer in October 2018, based in Zurich, Switzerland. He can be reached at [email protected].

Multiple catastrophes, rising claims settlement costs, social unrest, a pandemic and lockdowns — 2020 was certainly one hell of a year!

Quite rightly, risk managers expect agility, responsiveness and insight from insurers’ claims teams whatever the circumstances.

Technology is playing an ever-increasing role in delivering on that expectation, but the last 12 months have also demonstrated the importance for customers to have access to well-trained claims professionals and the value of a positive relationship between the insurer, broker and customer.

Intelligent Automation — Important, but Not a Panacea

The nature and landscape of claims management has evolved.

The interaction between claims teams, brokers and risk managers is no longer based on the exchange of basic loss information. Automation is increasingly becoming a key component in the claims management process, streamlining handling and reducing time to settle.

Automation is well-suited for less complex losses.

During the pandemic in Europe, for instance, some of our teams have increased remote loss adjusting for property and auto claims by over 70%. These types of claims readily lend themselves to automation, providing fast-track coverage confirmation, loss adjustment and payment straight into the customer’s bank account.

But even with less complex claims, we are never going to remove the need for expertise and problem solving when it’s required.

Insurers need to focus on continuous training, investing in sustaining core technical skills not only in the traditional property/casualty lines, but also with an eye towards emerging risks such as cyber.

It is a need that Zurich is further addressing with its newly launched Global Claims Academy, which aims to support claims professionals across the world in maintaining their core technical capabilities and building new skills in response to product and exposure developments.

Building Critical Relationships

There is a balance to maintain when aiming to improve efficiency without sacrificing personal service.

While automation can bring improvements, a risk manager doesn’t want to deal exclusively with a chatbot and rely on systems to handle everything. They want to speak with someone they know and trust who is knowledgeable about their business.

Zurich’s position is that the claims team should be perceived by customers as an extension of their risk management team.

Working with an experienced broker can be critical, helping to ensure not only that coverage is right for the customer but that carriers that have the capabilities and reach to best support their business are also engaged.

This relationship is particularly valuable for risk managers who face the tricky task of managing the expectations of their internal stakeholders.

When a loss occurs, others in the organization are eager for information around coverage, costs and timescales. Risk managers need an engaged broker and proactive claims team contact who can help them collate this information to swiftly provide it to others in the company.

Relationships are critical to ensuring that risk managers receive consistent service wherever and whenever a claim occurs. Zurich has established a network of relationship managers who work with customers to implement the claims handling protocol at policy inception and are experts customers can count on to be available during the life of any claim.

Companies operating in multiple jurisdictions need a claims service that is responsive wherever they do business, making the capabilities of these claim partners, and the expert network they can draw on, an invaluable part of any risk management program.

All insurers experience turnover in their claims operations, and risk managers can become frustrated if it’s frequent.

Putting time into establishing a relationship only to see it abruptly end is understandably exasperating. Insurers such as Zurich that invest heavily in training, developing and supporting employees find that their people feel more valued and are far more likely to stay with the company. That pays off for the insurer, broker and customer.

The ‘New Gold’

As well as underpinning automation, claims data and insight have become increasingly important to customers.

It’s no longer enough to provide the traditional metrics that risk managers once looked for regarding claims activity. They need much more than just details on the claim amount and a projection of when it will be settled.

The rise of risk management information systems has made it possible to analyze large amounts of data that help assess risks and provide insight into how losses can be prevented.

Claims data is therefore valuable as another feed into risk management systems, enabling informed decisions to be made on where best to invest in prevention and mitigation. Such data can increasingly be shared directly between insurers and customers through APIs, speeding up reporting and avoiding the need for information to be laboriously reshaped in the transition from one system to another.

Pandemic Complicates Response

Responsiveness is particularly critical during a crisis, and the COVID-19 pandemic put claims teams to the test.

Insurers with the proper infrastructure and technology in place were able to make the transition to remote working quickly. In Zurich’s case it took as little as 48 hours from the time of the decision to ask staff to work remotely until claims teams across the globe were functioning as smoothly from home as they could from the office.

Technology is in place that allows us to carry out remote loss adjustment when it is impossible to send people to a given location.

Even with such capabilities, there are instances where claims professionals must be on the ground to properly adjust a claim. In those cases, insurers must make sure their people are properly equipped and protected.

The safety of our teams is paramount, and treating them as a priority means they can treat our customers in the same way.

Catastrophes are nothing new for claims people, and 2020 was one of the busiest years on record. But it’s important, even in the grip of a pandemic, to get the right expertise involved in the right way to ensure our customers receive the support they need, whenever and wherever they need it. &

 The article represents the author’s personal views and does not necessarily reflect the view of Zurich Insurance Group.

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