Matt Brady explains how a new approach to surge events can improve customer experience
With over 20 years of experience in the claims industry, I can confidently say there is rarely a more stressful time than the occurrence of surge events.
When a major surge strikes, the claims industry faces capacity handling challenges, shortage of quality accommodation and, of course, the financial fallout. At Claims Consortium it’s our mission to maintain an exceptional level of customer service, and surge is no exception. We excel in surge because our business model is adaptable, allowing us to remain agile to respond to the challenges and ultimately look after our customers.
Surge events are, by their nature, sudden. The fallout can often unpredictable, though we do use detailed weather forecasting data to make sure we have the best opportunities to spot their occurrence. Due to the increase in flooding in recent years, we have seen a huge rise in property claims through water damage; from the horrific flooding in June 2007 (when reportedly one loss adjuster asked a ferry company for support with accommodation for claimants) to the repeat flooding of Cumbria homes in 2005 and 2009, and again in 2015.
From our experience we have learnt that communication is integral to a successful response. We’ve invested tens of thousands in a software tool called Synergy that is our claims operating system. It’s accessible by the customer (the insurance policyholder) through a customised portal called TrackMyClaim, and by our insurance clients, suppliers and our own claims handlers too. The software is empowering for our staff, since they can engage with all parties in various ways in real time – seeing a complete picture of every insurance claim. They can easily communicate with customers, suppliers and other parties and react quickly to situations; they can even track a customer’s emotions.
During surge we see customers’ use of TrackMyClaim increase exponentially. Customers tell us that at a time of immense stress, being able to easily track the progress of their claim and speak to the relevant people makes things so much better.
Enriching the interaction between employee and customer is far more important than focusing on minimising the length of call to reach call capacity targets or other such KPIs. Each surge victim deserves the best customer service and we believe in enabling our claims handlers and suppliers to take responsibility and make decisions, so they’re able to fulfil this need.
When the Cumbria floods hit in 2015, Storm Desmond made almost 5,200 homes uninhabitable within 24 hours. Those affected were all desperate to start the claim process as quickly as possible. Learning from our previous experience of the floods in this area, we were ready to act swiftly. We gave affected customers free iPads so they could track their claim and benefit from access to the internet to make their lives easier.
But our solution wasn’t purely technology-focused. We employed local on-the-ground liaison staff to coordinate with suppliers and customers. They really understood the problems customers were facing because they had personally been affected by previous flooding themselves.
This human approach made a big difference. We were there to offer a shoulder to cry on, as well as assisting with the logistics of the claims process at such a difficult time. Additionally, we were able to work with suppliers to make flood resilient repairs in case flooding should occur again. And that’s a very real risk. Despite millions of pounds spent on large flood prevention schemes, the problem remains. We have seen rural communities successfully develop their own flood defence schemes which have fared better than those large flood prevention schemes.
This suggests there is an opportunity for the industry, the affected communities and the Environment Agency to work together on a more personal level. By taking into account the nuances of any geographical location, they can review the risks that are specific to those areas and look at suitable environmental steps for natural defence as well as serious engineering solutions.
Whether it is sitting down to draw up long-term preventive plans, or dealing with claims and flood victims in a more personal manner, improving communication with those affected communities will ensure a better prepared and united front.
Getting it right and going that extra mile to deliver exceptional customer service in any circumstance, whether it is a surge event or a disaster on a personal level, should not just be an ambition. It should be at the very core of our industry.
Matt Brady is the managing director at property claims handling company Claims Consortium Group.
To find out more about how the Claims Consortium Group handles surge, you can watch a video here showing the company’s approach to the Cumbria floods, including interviews with customers sharing their experiences of the claims process