Back in November 2016, a devastating fire ravaged the small town of Gatlinburg, Tennessee.
It began as kids played with matches in the Great Smoky Mountains that surround the town, and it ended with 14 deaths; 17,000 acres burned; and 2,500 structures damaged. In the aftermath, almost 4,000 insurance claims were filed and the combined residential and commercial property loss was just shy of $850 million.
Gatlinburg highlighted the complexity these events represent for claims professionals, but it was infinitely harder for the people who had lost their homes and possessions. Working together with policyholders to ensure they can rebuild their lives takes patience and compassion. Since many lacked a full contents inventory, a real depth of expertise was required to capture the full story of their belongings and arrive at accurate valuations.
The claims process is traditionally hard, complex and tedious. Contents claims innovation is all about designing processes that relieve the burden for policyholders and adjusters, helping them to get their lives back on track as quickly as possible in their most vulnerable time of need.
And it’s not only high profile catastrophes that breed innovation in the claims process either. The nation got a glimpse of the devastation in Gatlinburg due to the extensive media coverage it garnered. For every Gatlinburg-type catastrophe, there are literally hundreds of thousands more individual homeowner losses that occur each year. The affected policyholders in these scenarios may not make the national news, but feel the same level of devastation with their individual catastrophes as those seen in bigger catastrophe (CAT) events; and they require the same level of support, compassion and expertise to get their lives back in order post-catastrophe.
Here are four examples of innovation designed to deliver exceptional service in the face of catastrophe:
Having a national team of trained experts who are ready for deployment at a moment’s notice can ease the confusion. (Photo: Shutterstock)
1. Boots on the ground
Sending everyday adjusters who aren’t necessarily well-versed in CAT events can make a bad situation worse. A high level of turmoil can take an emotional toll on all parties. Keeping a level head can be a challenge. As the Navy SEALs author Rorke Denver says, “calm is contagious.”
Having a national team of trained experts who are ready for deployment at a moment’s notice can ease the confusion. It’s important to build relationships with policyholders to gain their trust. A compassionate approach combined with sincere patience is the best way to get through a catastrophe and start the process of community healing one policyholder at a time.
Providing an online portal for contents inventory meets that expectation and allows all policyholders to get involved and push things forward in a way that’s convenient for them. (Photo: Shutterstock)
2. Policyholder self-service
In the aftermath of a disaster, policyholders are struggling to rebuild their lives. Stress levels are high and it can be difficult for them to recall all their lost possessions. By providing an online portal for contents inventory, they have 24/7 access, so if they suddenly remember a lost possession they can log on and record it. This can make the process easier for policyholders and helps to ensure inventories are complete. Not only does this empower the policyholder and speed up the process, it also lightens the load for adjusters.
For millennials who already do their banking online via apps, there’s an expectation that they can deal with insurance in the same way. Providing an online portal for contents inventory meets that expectation and allows all policyholders to get involved and push things forward in a way that’s convenient for them.
If they don’t have to hold anything, it’s easier for adjusters to navigate dangerous environments safely. (Photo: Shutterstock)
3. Real-time transcription
Adjusters traditionally have to walk around burned out or post-flood homes, recording what inventory they can using pen and paper. The investigation must be thorough and it requires a keen eye. Real-time transcription via a remote contents specialist enables adjusters on the ground to work hands-free. If they don’t have to hold anything, it’s easier for them to navigate dangerous environments safely.
In CAT situations like Gatlinburg, this offers a prime example where service-level innovation can make a big difference. Remote transcription reduces the time it takes to complete the inventory process post-loss, and that cuts down the time they need to spend on the scene.
A transcription service can also work directly with policyholders calling in to describe their lost belongings to empathetic claims professionals on the receiving end, who can ask for the key value factors that will expedite item valuation. The goal is to ensure the process is completed as quickly and painlessly as possible.
The right experts can coax out the full story and provenance behind each item to arrive at the right valuation and ensure that policyholders get the compensation they need. (Photo: Shutterstock)
4. Specialty expertise
Artwork or rare and antique items and commercial contents require specialized hands before they can be accurately evaluated. It makes sense to build a team of high-level experts who can be called in to provide timely valuations on expensive jewelry, original art, antique furniture or other specialty items.
These kinds of items often hold great sentimental value, or, in the case of commercial contents, may be vital to the future of the business. The right experts can coax out the full story and provenance behind each item to arrive at the right valuation and ensure that policyholders get the compensation they need.
The driving force behind these innovations is catastrophe both on large and small scales, and the need to provide expert and compassionate service to the affected policyholders. It’s vital to provide emotional support to guide them through the difficult times. A compassionate approach, combining patience, efficiency and expertise, allows people to get on with their lives and back on their feet as soon as possible.
Joel Makhluf is a vice president at Enservio and the director of the Property Innovation Summit, the insurance industry’s premier thought leadership conference. Enservio is a leading provider of contents claim management software, inventory and valuation services and payments solutions for property insurers. Contact Joel at firstname.lastname@example.org.