Why the human factor is crucial in catastrophe management

Why the human factor is crucial in catastrophe management | Insurance Business

Why the human factor is crucial in catastrophe management

In times of crisis, insurers need to be more than just providers of financial relief to their policyholders. Although the strength of the policy is fundamental to client satisfaction, being present and in place to listen to clients and have face-to-face conversations is also crucial in the aftermath of a CAT event.

Recounting the Fort McMurray wildfire last year in Alberta, RSA Canada Property Complex Claims Manager David Storey said that understanding the importance of the human touch was key to helping the company ease the stress of its clients.

The wildfire resulted in the largest evacuation in Alberta, with more than 88,000 people being forced to leave their homes. After lasting for almost three months and ravaging more than 2,400 homes, the wildfire was tagged as one of the costliest disasters in Canadian history.

RSA Canada was at the forefront of reaching out to the victims of the wildfire. Members of the company’s staff travelled to the region from all areas of the country as quickly as possible, and many remained stationed there long after the wildfire had burned out.

“We managed to reach out to 90% of our affected policy holders within 48 hours of the fire,” Storey said. “We wanted to assure them that we were there to help them in case they needed immediate help. To them, it was like the world had actually started paying attention. They had the sense that someone actually cared about what they are going through."

Storey recalls a particularly high stakes episode during the event. RSA made the decision to place a pregnant woman in safe accommodation during the wildfire in order to avoid undue stress to her and the baby. He stressed that, in such times, insurers have to look for opportunities and ways to do whatever they can for their policyholders.

"We’re not just in the insurance policy business; we are in a people business,” Storey said. “Every time we speak to somebody, we should understand what they are going through. When we speak to a client we're walking through the policy and how to maximise their coverage, looking for creative ways of utilizing every limit of the policy. It's a fundamental to the business, but not every insurer does it," Storey said.

Storey said insurers and brokers have to be proactive when managing the fallout of a catastrophic event.

"Don't be afraid to go meet with them. I think there's still this tendency to leave everything to a telephone call or to an email. I think you need to sit down and talk to your clients," Storey said. "Sitting in your office from afar and making decisions a couple days later doesn't help the situation, and it doesn't help the policyholders.”

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