From the August 2011 issue of Claims Magazine • Subscribe!

Physical Damage Auto Claims

Dealing With All of Their Moving Pieces

In today’s claims environment, a physical damage claim is not handled solely by the adjuster. Rather, it is passed along a lengthy line of multiple parties inside and outside the claims organization. Staff and third parties, including tow companies, rental agencies, salvors, parts suppliers, other insurers, and glass companies, make up this “extended enterprise,” which consists of all the individuals that need to collaborate at some point during the process of settling a claim. With so many handlers involved, how do managers promote efficiency throughout the varying stages of the claim?

When it comes to improving performance management, increased communication during the claims process is instrumental in raising efficiency levels. Because reductions in cycle time and loss adjustment expense (LAE) are dependent upon moving the claim quickly, a miscommunication that slows down the process may be costly. How does a claims manager prevent increased settlement time or reduced accuracy from a missed connection point with field staff or a third party? The answer resides within the underlying platform that supports an insurer’s physical damage workflow. With the right set of support tools, an insurer can easily share information across the extended enterprise, thereby accelerating the claims process significantly and ensuring that customers are delivered the best possible outcome, increasing satisfaction. 

Streamlining Communication

Many insurers already have some sort of integration with their primary partners in place, as partner communications are such a crucial part of the claims process. Why should an insurer invest in a single platform when multiple integration points with their preferred partners already exist? While loosely integrated systems provide some of the important information that partners and insurers need, these details may not be extensive enough to ensure maximum efficiency.

For example, in a claims scenario that requires that a car be towed, a loosely integrated system may leave detailed gaps that can be costly in terms of efficiency. With basic integration, the claims management system will provide the tow company static details such as policy number and vehicle information at first notice of loss (FNOL). However, when the tow truck arrives to pick-up a vehicle from storage, additional information may be necessary. If not properly notified, then a driver may arrive at the storage facility to find that the vehicle has not been released or was perhaps moved.

Another common occurrence is that the towing yard in possession of the vehicle does not have the correct delivery address. Lacking the proper event notifications—or the ability to transmit digitally signed vehicle release forms to the tow driver or yard during the towing process—can cause fees to add up quickly, slowing cycle time, and increasing the potential for duplicate tow charges.

Preventing Delays

Parts optimization is another area that has potential to benefit from improved communication across the extended enterprise. Some insurers have guidelines in place for parts utilization on estimates. At a first glance, a desk reviewer may reject an estimate for a 2001 Toyota Corolla that specifies an original equipment manufacturer (OEM) hood. But what if the only available aftermarket hood is on back order, or a recycled hood is not available from a nearby junkyard? By being able to collaborate with the desk reviewer up front electronically, the appraiser can make the right economic trade-off where appropriate. If the cycle time delay is more costly than the savings on the part, then the appraiser can then go with the new part and avoid a negative impact to their key performance indicators (KPIs) during desk review. On the back end, this prevents delay in the approval of the claim as well as unnecessary rework.

Getting on the Same Page

Appointment scheduling can also cause slowdowns in the claims process. It is very easy for a field appraiser to make an unnecessary trip in the event that a customer cancels an appointment at the last minute. Rework may also be required if the appraiser arrives at the shop to find that the vehicle has been moved elsewhere. When dealing with moving pieces, a single platform that provides consistent event notifications can prevent extraneous trips and reassignments. 

Even in a claims environment that has the availability of single sign-on between applications and integration, a static implementation does not work well because constituents are constantly moving around. A single platform is powerful because data is available across the entire extended enterprise. Moreover, this allows an insurer to reduce rework, increase claims accuracy and efficiency, and reduce expenses and cycle time. As a result, insurers can drive better outcomes because of the availability of cross-sectional information that moves through all applications.

Evaluating the System

When looking for a single vendor solution for your physical damage workflow, the following requirements can be used to assist in your assessment:

Seamless Communications

  • Does the system provide the ability to communicate and connect easily with third parties?
  • Are common messaging, collaboration, and alert capabilities used?
  • Can communication and traceability occur for any claim artifact?

Consistency 

  • Do all modules use a similar user interface and labels?
  • Is there one common method for deployment, delivery, and licensing?

Flexibility

  • Can a user access the most critical parts of the application even when in a disconnected state?
  • Are multiple workflow types accommodated?
  • Can an insurer make workflow changes without intervention from the platform vendor?
  • Does the system provide configurable user management?

Common Data Warehouse and Reporting

  • Does the system integrate enough parties and processes that the insurer can obtain a complete picture of claims performance?
  • Does the reporting capability allow for performance analysis across different third-party vendors?

By using the above criteria to evaluate a single vendor system, claims managers can realize the benefits of faster cycle times and smoother workflow that data sharing and seamless communications can provide.

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