A day inside a claims office
12 February 2020
03 March 2020
What happens on the other end of the phone when a claim is made?
(pictured L-R: Household Manager Gill Humphreys Dip CII (Claims) BDMA Ins Tech; Team Leader Shirine McDonald Dip CII (Claims) BDMA Ins; Head of Motor Claims Jacqueline Harvey BA(Hons) FCII, FIMI Chartered Insurer Tech; Operations Director Ann Golder MBA FCII Chartered Insurer)
From the perspective of a customer, the process of making a claim is where the value of their insurer will be judged. To understand more about what exactly is involved in handling a claim, I spent the day with Broker Direct Plc at their office in Bolton. Broker Direct are a Chartered personal lines claims team achieving Chartered Insurer Status in 2016.
The claims handling teams were split across Motor and Property lines, each processing claims as they were coming through. Speaking to a Team Leader I was told that an average day begins with a daily task audit. This can comprise of checking the progress of outstanding tasks from the previous day, processing any new claims that have come in from the 'out-of-hours emergency' team and assigning them to relevant team members.
That first call, when a customer wants to make a claim, is crucial in establishing a positive customer-insurer relationship. This is why making a good first impression matters. Customers can be just as distraught at the theft of their mobile phone as those whose house has just burnt down. This is why excellent customer service skills are needed to be able to listen to the customer, what their needs are and what information is required to take things forward. Being able to listen as well as demonstrating empathy are essential. Each claims handler gets regular feedback on their calls from mentors who listen to check that, as well as providing a good customer service, all regulatory requirements are also met (eg confirming data while maintaining good GDPR).
Speaking to Broker Direct’s Claims Management team, I was told that customers still tend to telephone when starting a claim. This is normally the opportunity for customers to let their insurer know what has happened and learn what to do next. Some may be making their first ever claim while others may be looking for some reassurance. It tends to be the follow ups and progress status that customers tend to prefer different methods of contact, for example emails, text alerts or updates via an app.
Some customers also have specific needs or require extra assistance. Recognising if a customer has vulnerable characteristics should be noted so that any information shared, or services provided, are done in a way that meets any particular needs. No two claims are alike and neither are customers. This is why it’s important to listen and understand the circumstances of the situation, as well as how to provide information on a resolution, so that the best service is provided consistently.
An immediate repair or replacement isn’t always possible, according to the Home Claims Manager. But by listening to the customer, appropriate temporary measures can be arranged. Examples I heard ranged from installing a portable kitchen or bathroom in properties that didn’t require a full evacuation. Another customer was even temporarily homed in a mobile home on the same site as their property so that their children would not be too disrupted. Relocating customers temporarily may not always be the best solution, especially if it causes more distress.
With multiple suppliers involved in a single claim, I learned that it is also the job of a good claims handler to keep everything under control. It can be very confusing and disruptive for a customer if there are several different suppliers focusing on different parts of a claim. Therefore, claims handlers need to make sure they’re keeping the customer up to date with what is happening and when. They should only make promises they can keep. It is also equally important to make sure suppliers are kept up to date and have access to sites, especially if the claimant can’t be physically present. This extends to being able to raise question with suppliers if alternative solutions can be suggested.
Surge events, such as a storm or flood, can provide the real efficiency test of a claims team. To be able to respond to a sudden increase in claims, a robust contingency plan should already be in place. I learned from Broker Direct that they prepare themselves for an emergency by providing relevant cross-training for staff across multiple divisions so that they can provide extra support when needed. This means that during a surge event, staffing levels and any planned absences can be reviewed to better support the division that requires extra assistance.
Extra services provided during a surge event also include identifying customers in affected areas and contacting them to find out how they are. When evacuating a house during an emergency, or if a vehicle is inaccessible, it’s not likely a customer will have their insurance documents on them. By making contact before a claim is reported, Broker Direct showed me that they don’t just wait for the phone to ring but recognise how to act in the customers’ best interest by being proactive.
Looking after staff is also a priority at Broker Direct. Processing multiple claims of a distressing nature can understandably affect the wellbeing of employees, especially when they need to be calm for their customer. This is why it’s important to create a positive working environment that not only rewards staff with incentives but also maintains a healthy social calendar. Qualifications are important to Broker Direct, particularly for handlers who need to be multi-skilled. This is why they encourage becoming qualified and keeping up to date with exams to assist with career development.
By spending time speaking to the different teams at Broker Direct, I was able to get an insight to some of the different things in place that help customers on their claims journey. Whether it’s making sure there are enough staff to handle the volume of calls, or identifying outstanding issues in an audit meeting, there are numerous means of support to ensure that when the phone rings it can be handled as efficiently as possible. With obtaining the best customer outcome as the objective.
This document is believed to be accurate but is not intended as a basis of knowledge upon which advice can be given. Neither the author (personal or corporate), Society of Claims Professionals or Chartered Insurance Institute, or any of the officers or employees of those organisations accept any responsibility for any loss occasioned to any person acting or refraining from action as a result of the data or opinions included in this material. Opinions expressed are those of the author or authors and not necessarily those of the Society or Chartered Insurance Institute.