No insurance policyholder deserves further hardships from the claims process following a loss, and Zurich Life & Investments retail claims head Sheriff Hamza (pictured) knows how important it is to ensure a smooth experience for customers. A speaker at the upcoming Tech Fest event in Sydney, the Zurich Financial Services Australia leader believes the industry needs to continue to build trust.
“We’re always looking to improve the way we offer service to clients,” Hamza told Insurance Business. “I think the one thing that we are trying to do is engage more with our customers through any event. We want to be sure that not only is technology there to support them, but we are making it as simple for them as possible.”
Some examples cited by the claims head are the ability to lodge a claim over the phone, the use of automated email correspondence instead of having customers wait for post, and electronic funds transfer.
Hamza asserted: “We want the customer experience to be the best it possibly can be, because these are unfortunate circumstances, unfortunate events. We want to ensure that the claims process itself is relatively seamless.”
For instance, if there’s any unfortunate death as a result of events such as floods or bushfires, he said it’s critical that they are able to provide support as quickly as they can, using what technology Zurich has available to it.
Among the crucial roles technology has played when it comes to claims is ensuring that, to begin with, the insurer is capable of operating even amid extraordinary environments such as the coronavirus crisis.
“The way that we’ve been able to mobilise workforces, particularly through a pandemic, has been significant,” noted Hamza. “The biggest concern early on in relation to COVID was, ‘Will I continue to be paid’. And it was comforting and reassuring, from our perspective, that we were able to say, ‘Yes, we have mobilised our workforce; we’re still able to continue to function as we normally would, albeit remotely’.
“Absolutely, that’s a tremendous positive – being able to continue to service our clients and also to change things. With the government rollout of telehealth, for instance, accepting telehealth consultations is something that we’ve been able to do.”
According to Zurich, it transitioned 95% of its workforce into work-from-home arrangements within a matter of weeks in March 2020. This ensured that customer-facing staff were accessible and continued to service clients with empathy as part of the insurer’s COVID-19 response.
Additionally, the company has technology in place that allows policyholders to track the status of their insurance claims throughout the process via a customer portal. Meanwhile, Hamza is of the view that claims handling becoming a financial service is an “excellent” development.
“It’s about lifting the standards of claims,” he told Insurance Business, “and that’s not to say that we didn’t have good standards before. Ensuring that everyone in the industry has a consistent level of skills and competencies is a really important thing. Fundamentally, from my perspective, I think assessors are always striving to do a good job, but I think what this does is really just provide that level of competency standard that we expect from claims staff.
“As an industry, we’ve got to look at how do we continue to gain and build trust with the community again. Generally, people have a low assumption or expectation that claims will be paid, but the reality is we pay the majority of the claims that come in – over 90%. I think we need to be better at getting that message out there that, as an insurer, we do pay claims.”
Hamza is among the speakers for the claimstech stream at this year’s Insurance Business Tech Fest taking place on May 13. Register now.