Among the many lessons insurance companies have learned over the past decade of dealing with catastrophe claims, perhaps the most significant is that these kinds of claims are not seasonal. Disaster can strike at any time. While hurricane season may be particularly dangerous, communities can experience blizzards in October, and earthquakes, fires andfloods can occur at any point on the calendar. Carriers have channeled this hard-earned knowledge into productive investments in interactive call centers, tracking and scheduling systems, mobility, modeling tools, geographic intelligence, flexible staffing models, social media and other technology solutions that have made claims processing more efficient and accurate.
It all appears to have come together in 2011, the worst year on record for catastrophe claims losses. For all the news about unusual, untimely events, one familiar theme from past disasters did not emerge — widespread criticism of insurers' claims practices. No doubt there are (possibly legitimately) unhappy policyholders who suffered losses and who are dissatisfied with the ways their insurers handled their claims. But the lack of a global chorus of complaint — from policyholders, politicians and regulators — suggests that there are vastly more customers who were reasonably happy with their claims experiences. That represents a quiet revolution of sorts.
[For an inside look at what goes into the decision to revamp a claims system, check out our exclusive Q&A with Auto-Owners SVP Bob Buchanan.]
It's not that claims transaction proficiency has become less important; rather, now it is coupled with an intense focus on the claims experience, and this progression is the subject of Insurance & Technology's April digital issue. If anything, capabilities — such as analytics, channel integration and geographic intelligence — that are helping insurance companies provide a more customized, informative and interactive claims experience are simultaneously helping make claims adjustment more speedy and accurate while reducing fraud.
Despite the freakishly mild winter most of us in the Northeast and Midwest have experienced, it's inevitable that insurers' next-generation claims prowess will be tested in 2012 — the recent spate of severe thunderstorm and tornado outbreaks represent higher-than-normal activity, according to CAT modeling firm AIR Worldwide. Let's hope the quiet revolution continues to grow in power.
Katherine Burger is Editorial Director of Bank Systems & Technology and Insurance & Technology, members of UBM TechWeb's InformationWeek Financial Services. She assumed leadership of Bank Systems & Technology in 2003 and of Insurance & Technology in 1991. In addition to ... View Full Bio