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Climate Change? Resource Constraints? Great Uncertainty? Welcome to Catastrophe (CAT) Claims Management!

By David S. Williams, VP Claims at Texas Windstorm Insurance

David S. Williams, VP Claims at Texas Windstorm Insurance

I never imagined more than 35 years ago when I started as a naïve field adjuster I would end up leading a team of claims professionals responsible for responding to potential hurricane events where claim volume from one storm could easily exceed 100,000 claims with loss costs in the billions of dollars.

Having worked, managed, or led through some of the worst storms in history, including the “four in ‘04” (Charley, Frances, Ivan, Jeanne), Katrina, Wilma, Ike, and most recently Harvey, I’ve learned many things that just might be worth passing along. Don’t get me wrong, I’ve made plenty of mistakes in my time, and in some cases had to learn the hard way, so my thoughts here come from the wisdom experience brings.

First, it comes down to People. I know it’s a cliché, but hiring the right people is the key. Find ways to help them learn and grow. When a storm happens to get out of their way, let them do what they were hired to do, and know how to do best. Having previously worked for a micro-manager, I’ve seen how this does and does not work. It has been an amazing and humbling experience watching so many smart, dedicated, and hardworking claims professionals serve policyholders under such extreme circumstances over the years.

Next, it comes down to Constant, never-ending preparation. What does this look like? Everything you do in a CAT Claims operation must involve asking how will this work for a CAT event? How would we do it differently after a major storm? Why, and is there a better way? What have we learned from prior storms? Yes, there’s a lot of second guessing, but that’s the point. Think “better beats perfect” and continuously improve before, during, and after each storm. Seems simple, but many people and claims operations strive to maintain the status quo. If you have not studied the continuity of operations and business continuity planning, find out how they help improve CAT claims response efforts. Research and set up a Corrective Action Program if you want to really improve.

Lastly, leverage automation, technology, and data where it makes sense. Use location intelligence/geospatial solutions combined with customer and weather data to understand before, during, and after any storm what to expect and where to deploy resources as soon as possible.

We know paperless claims systems make a difference. Automating claim acknowledgment and document management, claim triage, desk assignment, fieldwork dispatch, integration with estimating, financial, and fraud mitigation solutions are all common these days, but what are you doing to create deep customer connections before, during, and after a storm?

For many, understanding the claims experience each unique customer expects is a challenging problem yet to be solved. How does the customer want to communicate? Voice, e-mail, text? How do they want to correspond, send, and receive information about their claim? Regular mail, e-mail, or text? When do they want to hear from you before, during, and after a storm? What do they want to know? How do you help them prepare and recover? What ability do they have to change their preferences, or do they desire multiple preferences? The key is making sure customer expectations are being met for ease in reporting claims, understanding the claim process, how long to resolve the claim, and a clear picture of what is paid, not paid, and why.

I could go on and on here but was asked to write a short article on a long article subject. Here’s hoping we all see fewer storms in 2019!

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