How can insurers speed claims processing during floods?

"This is not acceptable" says claims tech expert

How can insurers speed claims processing during floods?

Insurance News

By Daniel Wood

After more days of heavy rain and flooding from Queensland to Tasmania, insurance companies are receiving many hundreds of claims, and this, as they’re already dealing with tens of thousands from earlier flooding.

Yannick Giguère (pictured), general manager of Stelvio Australia, argues that this country’s unique susceptibility to natural disasters like floods makes it even more important that insurance companies here improve the efficiency of often painfully slow claims processes.

“When you read the news and when we talk to people in the industry about how long it can take for someone to be contacted during or after a flood, just contacted, this is not acceptable,” he said. “There’s a lot of room for improvement.”

Stelvio has provided insurtech products to the local insurance and repairer management markets for more than two decades. “We hear horror stories where it takes months before damages are repaired,” said Giguère.

He described a very uneven situation concerning claims technology uptake across the Australian insurance industry.

“Our clients and other insurance companies we’ve spoken to, they’re all looking at making the claims process faster by using the right software within the process to automate certain steps - but they’re not all at the same stage,” he said.

Giguère said the claims process has lots of steps where efficiencies can be improved. That process, he said, gets even more complicated during a natural disaster. For example, when a house is damaged during a flood.

“You have insurers who don’t have access to their customers’ properties,” he said. “On top of that you have large numbers of claims happening at the same time which slows down the whole machine even more, that’s terrible for insureds.”

Giguère said it’s important to capture “as much information as possible, as fast as possible, without actually being on site.” He said that’s where there can be major improvements in claims processing times.

The first stage of the claims process where improvements can be made is FNOL (first notice of loss).

“It’s when the property owner is right in the middle of the crisis, for example, when water is coming into the house,” said Giguère.

The traditional claims process could have the insured fill out a form and email it to the insurer. Giguère said a live streaming session with an insurance company representative can immediately indicate what’s happening and expedite the claims process and repairs. Virtual inspection technology, like his firm’s Estimage suite of software, can facilitate this.

“For example, if it’s a case of water leaking into the house, the insurance company can know this is happening via the live session and send a specialist to stop the water, protect the house and reduce the damage bill,” said Giguère.

When that initial crisis is over, virtual inspection technology can also capture the details of the damage. This allows the claims process to go forward, he said, even if the insurance company can’t actually send someone to inspect the damaged property.

“The owner can film, take photos and record audio descriptions of the damage to the house without having someone from the insurer on site,” said Giguère. The assessor can call the owner and ask to review the damage facilitated by this live, virtual inspection.

“So it’s exactly like the assessor was on site,” he said.

Technology can also help with supplier DLA (delegated level of authority) challenges.

“When the builder or service supplier sends a quote for the repair work the standard process is for someone at the insurance company to review the quote and authorize the repairs,” said Giguère.

However, during an event like a flood, he said, there are not enough staff to deal with the number of quotes coming in and bottlenecks develop.

“One way to make this process more efficient is to define a DLA for the supplier,” said Giguère. “So if I’m a builder the software can automatically authorize quotes within a certain limit and based on certain criteria without the need for someone from the insurer to review it.”

This can reduce wait times by many weeks, he said, and repair work can start more quickly.

In a recent interview with Insurance Business, Neil Luddington, Hobart based account manager with Roberts Insurance Providers, also said authority issues are delaying claims processing for his customers in Tasmania.

Tasmania-based staff for the big insurers can lack the authority to approve claims. Instead, final claims approval comes from offices based on the mainland.

“We don’t have authority here,” he said. “In terms of getting claims process done and payments to our clients, it’s slightly frustrating.”

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