Bonnie, Charley, Frances, Ivan, and Jeanne are names thatproperty and casualty carriers will not soon forget. Uninvitedguests, these hurricanes pounded Florida and the Southeast thisseason, catching many personal line carriers off guard and illprepared for the ensuing onslaught of claims. Making matters worse,these natural catastrophes arrived with such force, and in suchclose succession, that many insurance carriers were tested in termsof fulfilling policyholders' customer service expectations.

The extent to which a cat adversely affects a carrier dependsupon a number of factors, including the number of policies in forcein the area that has been hit. Some factors, such as the severityof the storm or catastrophic event, are beyond the control of thecarrier. Others, however, such as the organization of the carrier'sclaim department and the claim-handling processes, can be managedto mitigate a disaster's impact, from both a customer service andclaim-handling cost standpoint.

Claim reporting plays, perhaps, the most vital role in thehandling of catastrophe claims. It is a chance for carriers notonly to reach out and help their policyholders in a time of greatneed, but to control the flow of claims to their adjusters. Wellorchestrated claim intake soothes customers, dampens the chaos, andspeeds the settlement of claims; thereby mitigating overall claimcosts. Additionally, superior service during these stressful timescan lead to higher customer satisfaction index ratings, whichcorrelate directly with the customer retention goals of allcarriers.

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