A hurricane has ravaged a coastal community and there is widespread structural damage to houses across the area. Roofs are missing their shingles, with leaks causing significant damage to structures and personal belongings. While people all across the region are picking up the pieces and trying to get their lives back on track, the local weather forecasts call for heavy rains over the next two days. Houses need temporary repairs to prevent further water damage. People are feverishly checking the yellow pages and the Internet for roofing contractors. Time is of the essence.
While some insurers have made improvements in recent years with their response to hurricanes, tornadoes and other catastrophes (CATs), many are still not meeting the basic expectations their customers have during these tragic events. With their lives in disarray, people want honest, consistent communication from their insurance provider and fair settlements paid as quickly as possible. A lack of understanding the claims process or delays in receiving money can impact their ability to hire contractors or other resources that can prevent additional damage to their property and ensure they have a safe home to occupy.
The challenge that insurance companies face in meeting these customer expectations can be directly linked to data. During a CAT, information is coming into an insurer at a furious rate. Customers are calling to file new claims or to check on an existing claim status, reports are coming in from adjusters in the field, and news and weather reports are being monitored for storm status. The vast majority of this information is being captured in free-form text fields such as adjuster notes or email in the form of scanned appraisals and other documents.
Insurance companies that have planned ahead and implemented a process to analyze their full universe of data in real-time will provide better service to customers and help keep them and their property safe. By identifying critical information in their data such as the moment an appraisal or damage report is received, coupled with key phrases such as "coverage confirmed" and "ok to pay," CAT teams can instantly be alerted that a claim is ready for payment.
Unfortunately, this information can be easily overlooked by claims teams or even buried within thousands of new adjuster notes or scanned appraisals during the chaos of a CAT event. Insurers with the ability to automate the identification of this information in real-time, even if it is misspelled or written in vernacular, will be able to make faster and better decisions for their customers.
With this information in hand, the insurer can quickly make contact with its customers impacted by a CAT and process the claims payments. The customers, confident that they are being treated fairly, can call a reputable contractor and confirm payment has been made -- allowing work on temporary repairs to begin. This is their first step towards getting back to normal.
People need to take action and make quick decisions when faced with adverse conditions during CATs. It is imperative that insurance companies provide them with the resources to make the right choices and ensure the safety of their family and property. All of the pre-CAT planning can only take an insurer so far, as without the ability to access, analyze and make proper use of all information available to them, they will come up short when needed the most.
Michael Chochrek is Insurance Solutions Principal Consultant at Harte-Hanks Trillium Software.